The telephone.

Did you ever think it would become such a big deal? An extra appendage? A must-have like breathing and other life-sustaining sources?

And yet here we are. Gone are the days of party lines or being unable to venture farther than the twisty cord would allow. Gone are long distance calls, “dialing” a number, the satisfaction of hanging up on someone loudly to make a point and pay phones on the nearest corner.

Now we are all unplugged. Phone books are way thinner and many folks don’t even have a land line.

Future generations hearing the oldies lyrics, “If I should call you up, invest a dime,” will be scratching their head for hours about what in the world that could possibly mean.

But we know, don’t we?

We now live in a culture where it is no longer a status symbol to have a cellphone in our hands everywhere we go. If we do not brandish a device, we appear odd. And if you’re still nurturing that flip phone, prepare for some teasing.

How many times have you gathered all your belongings, gotten about halfway to your destination and realized you forgot your phone? It’s rare, I know, and when it does happen, the emotions that rise within us border on sheer panic.

Our phones have everything on them we need, right at our literal fingertips — our contacts, the weather, music, navigational systems and links to the whole free world, or in the line from the “Toy Story” movies, to infinity and beyond.

Far be it from me to interfere with anybody’s relationship with said phone, except I must. There comes a point in everyone’s life when we must not multi-task. Specifically in our cars.

I know, I know, vehicles are our virtual home away from home. And yes, it can be boring at times to “just drive.”

It used to be that one would get into his car and there were enough peddles in the floor to keep both feet occupied and — gasp! — both hands actually stayed on the wheel. At 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, to be exact.

Not any more. Between satellite radio and other music or information sources to any number of things we can check off our list while driving down the road, it feels like we’re putting time to good use.

Except we’re not. As long as there are no sudden changes or anything requiring our immediate attention and quick reflexes, we’re OK. But the split second you take your eyes off the road or even think about glancing down to read or write a text, you are literally taking your life — and everyone else’s in your path — in your hands.

My brother-in-law was a driver’s ed teacher and shared about a student who was approaching a stop sign and did not appear to be slowing down. When he commented, she said, “Oh, I forgot I was driving.”

And that was without the distraction of a cellphone.

I get it. I can get easily bored or tired and am attracted to keeping up with everything going on via my phone.

But let’s say for argument’s sake we want to live to a ripe old age. Might I suggest that paying attention to everything going on around you, rather than on the screen near you, will be more beneficial in the long run. No multi-tasking. One task. When you start up your car, you have one job.

Put down the phone. You’re driving.