This one, written in the normally abrupt syntax of Western Union, is from a daughter concerning her mother. In Dorothy’s message, the first seven words cradle her worry and distress. “MOTHER DID NOT ARRIVE WHERE IS SHE,” typed in caps, without punctuation nor sentiment, by a Western Union operator and hand delivered by a messenger.
Her mother was traveling from Red Bank, NJ to San Antonio, TX. It was 1940 so her trip must have been by rail, probably a two day one night journey, certainly enough time to notify Dorothy if there were any changes in her mothers schedule. The telegram’s date stamp adds poignancy to Dorothy’s situation: Dec 25 AM 11:28.
This wasn’t the joyful Christmas reunion Dorothy was anticipating. You can feel her desperation, especially in three words, “WHERE IS SHE,” where she seems to be begging for an answer. I suspect that all the outward trappings of the holiday; the carols, the lights, the tinsel, even the good cheer, became a distracting blur to her. Dorothy’s focus was finding her mother.
I don’t know if the day ended happily, with the two united in warm embrace, or bitterly, with Dorothy at home, staring at her mom’s unopened gifts. But after reading this telegram I have a more robust appreciation for todays technology, particularly communication technology.
I wonder, even though she was forced to wait hours for an answer, do you think Dorothy had a similar appreciation for the technology of her day? I think she may have.
Although the telephone was in common use, getting a ‘open line’ long distance – especially during a holiday like Christmas – was sometimes impossible. The most unfailing and fastest communication over long distances was still the telegraph. Dorothy knew this and I’m sure was grateful to have it. Dorothy may not have had the advantages our technology offers, but she had something else.
Dorothy had patience and self reliance. She was capable of making decisions without texting, Skyping, or Tweeting. She was capable of evaluating a situation and taking the necessary steps needed for its resolution. She was capable of thinking for herself. She wasn’t paralyzed by ‘her’ technology, frozen in inaction because of not being on-line. Dorothy functioned without the need of a wireless umbilical cord. We have technology that in Dorothy’s day was only available to Flash Gordon and Dick Tracy, but it has come at a price. Over-dependancy. The ability to think for one’s self, to evaluate a situation, formulate an appropriate action and then carry out the action has been stymied by this dependancy.