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Press Gallery: Preserving memories changing with technology

Jan. 15, 2011 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 14, 2011 at 7:15 p.m.

Jessica Rodrigo

"Babe, you never answer the phone." was the start of one of my most cherished messages I had saved in my voicemail. Whether I would miss a call out of pure laziness and spare a few minutes to chat, or because I was truly preoccupied with some other aspect of my life - be it work, cooking, reading, or sleeping - that little icon of the cartoon head with "sound waves" coming out of his mouth was always a sign of the dreaded task laid out ahead of me.

I don't know about every one else, but I tend to keep things that have sentimental value - regardless of what it is, who gave it to me, when I received it, or where I got it from. Nowadays, with the advancement of technology, an increasing number of those things rely on our laptops, hard drives, jump drives, etc., to retain their integrity: e-mails, digital photos and voicemail.

This economy has consumers constantly looking to save a buck, and so, when my contract with Verizon was finished in December, I jumped at the opportunity to save a few greenbacks and join the rest of my family on my brother's employee account with Sprint. With the excitement of buying a new gadget to add to my small repertoire of electronics - I don't even have a television - I had forgotten about the little things.

To make the transition as painless as possible, I wanted to keep the same telephone number I've had for the past decade or longer.

If only it had ended so painlessly.

I remembered to save all the photos and transfer my memos and notes to the almost miniscule SD card that now comes pretty much standard with all smart phones, but what was I to do with the voicemail messages floating around in cyberspace?

It may sound ridiculous, but I had messages that spanned back as far as a year-and-a-half ago. This would explain why I dreaded getting voice mails. Before the mechanical voice would prompt me to play my new message, I would have to listen to the old ones and make a decision about whether to delete them. Of course, I knew the messages almost by heart and before even playing them, I would hastily dial 9 to save the message. Afterward, the mechanical voice would inform me that the message would be saved "for 40 days" or some other shorter length of time depending on when the message was left or last listened to.

Unbeknownst to me, my brother, as helpful as he was trying to be, decided to port my old cell number to my new phone while I was at work. In the middle of two different conversations, on my two different phones, I was cut off for about three hours from any contact with my friends and family. Little did I know that while the tech guys at Sprint were at work playing telephone number juggle, the messages in my voice mail were being deleted.

"Hi! It's mama! I got your package." "Ahem. Happy Birthday to you, Happy." "Hey Wasabi. Today's the day. I just." "Hey beanie! It's me." "Hello madam. It's Anita."

All of them gone.

Thinking about all the messages I lost in a move that would save me nearly $40 a month on my phone bill, is depressing. Maybe depressing isn't the right word, but the loss brought to mind my parent's anniversary several years ago.

My dad was in the military and my mom was a first-grade teacher in the Philippines in the '70s. During that time, my dad spent time in Japan, Korea, Thailand, the United States, and all over Asia. And while he was away, they wrote letters back and forth - with pens, stationary and stamps, oh my! Some were casual letters about the goings on at the base or in the classroom, and some were romantic declarations of endearment and how much they missed each other. Nonetheless, they were physical manifestations of their devotion to the relationship they entered.

My sister and I found a bag tucked in the bottom of a closet that had a collection of letters that my mom had written my dad while he was abroad. It was a few weeks before their wedding anniversary, so we decided it would be a sweet gesture to wrap the collection up in a box they could open together and reminisce in the memories saved on paper.

The point of this is that despite the advancement of technology, there are things far more important than the gadgets and doodads that everyone is so impressed by these days. I can't go back and get those messages from the past. I can't save those messages for my children to hear about how I met their dad 10 years from now, or about the heartbreaks, and jokes my best friends played on me. How do you share those moments with others in a society where norms have become so skewed that Facebook and e-mails have replaced the traditional pen and paper?

The Press Gallery is an occasional column in which Advocate staffers personalize the news. Jessica Rodrigo is a page designer/copy editor at the Victoria Advocate. She's a hopeless romantic and always looking for an adventure. She can be reached at jrodrigo@vicad.com.

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