Friday, July 16, 1999
In this season after Old Home Day, when people are more than usually aware of what makes Carlisle such a special place, it seems appropriate to say thanks and goodbye to some people who have added so much to this town.
Natalie Ives has worked at Town Hall for 11 years and worn many hats, including working for the town clerk, the assessor's clerk, the historical commission and planning board. Throughout her tenure, as the Town Hall grew and the staff there expanded, her warm smile and calm demeanor was like an oasis to anyone who dealt with her. It's hard to think of going to town offices and not seeing her.
Nancy Iosue retired this month from the police department after 23 years. For many of us, she epitomized the Carlisle Police Departmenta responsible presence that cares. One of the many things that I always appreciated about Nancy was how, whenever she drove past in the patrol car, she would wave. A small thing perhaps, but it made me feel like a recognized member of the community. With her departure, Carlisle no longer has a town resident on its police force. And so an era passes.
We are fortunate that both Natalie and Nancy will continue to be a part of our town as residents. Joan and John Dalton, however, will be pulling up stakes and moving to Toronto this summer, leaving a gaping hole in the fabric of Carlisle. They have served on countless committees, both for the town and for the First Religious Society. They have coached our children in sports, hosted our library potlucks, and even served as keepers of the town flag. Such selfless giving will not be an easy loss to the town. To say they will be missed is an understatement.
I heard a song on the radio this morning, about a man yearning for a vacation in the woods, " with plenty of telephone jacks, for my cell phone, my pager, my e-mail, my fax." He must have been from Carlisle. I see drivers tooling along the road with hand clapped to head and an expression of distant distraction, as if they were busy clearing out ear wax. I even ran across two cars blocking the exit to the grocery store lot, drivers smiling at one another and chatting amiably — windows up, air conditioning at full blast — on their cell phones. Too hot to get out, I suppose.
Out here, sandwiched between highways 128 and 495, we have no choice but to love our technology and the Information Age. It's how most of us earn our money. Our town has a web site, and volunteer commissions and boards distribute agendas and minutes by e-mail. You can even submit an article to the Mosquito without printing a single piece of paper. We save trees as we soak up electricity.
Last week PBS aired a history of the telephone. One scene showed a residential street a century ago, with quiet houses, stately elms and a line of huge telephone poles marching through the manicured lawns. They were enormous structures, with at least ten crossbars to carry heavy wires for the technology of the day. Did anyone complain about those poles? For that matter, did anyone look up from polishing the Model T to complain about roads and gas stations? What about railroads tearing across the heart of the wilderness and through the centers of cities? Or power plants and dams for all that new-fangled electricity? Today we call technology's burden "infrastructure." There's more than we see these days; we bury cables, telephone wires, and gas lines, and the town telephone switching apparatus masquerades as a fake New England hovel down by the Town Hall. Some of the infrastructure goes into the ether — invisible carrier waves for cell phones and international calls.
As much as we adore our cell phones, our pagers, our e-mail and fax, we hold a great postmodern distaste for the truly ugly carriers of our ethereal chats: the cell phone towers. Not in my back yard, please! Let the towers go to Billerica or Chelmsford — anywhere but here. It's kind of like affordable housing. No one objects to the idea, but not here, not now. We'll think about it in another couple of decades. In the meantime, we'll keep driving down the road with phones to our ears, denying our role in making those towers a necessity.
Maybe those early telephone wires that draped the landscape from city to prairie were a tangible link from phone to phone; calls passed through real operators and real wires. It was harder to deny the need for poles in plain sight of every house. Now we fling calls from tiny phones into the thin air. It's harder to imagine a physical link to the other end of the nonexistent "line." We don't want a tower to remind us that it's not all just magic.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito