Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Call me!

“Mom,” says my almost middle school-aged daughter, “not that I want one, but when can I get a cell phone?”

I cringed and gave her the old, “We just have to wait and see,” response. But her question sent my mind racing: Oh, how I would have loved to have had a cell phone when I was her age and older.

Instead, we had one rotary dial phone, a yellow one to match the kitchen. I remember it vividly because my parents just packed it up and mailed it back to the phone company. It seems they’ve been paying rent on it for 30 years.

“I told your dad back then that we could buy it, but he didn’t want to listen to me,” said Mom.

Now that Dad’s paying the phone bill (due to Mom’s health issues), he decided he no longer wanted to pay $10 per month rent to Ma Bell or whoever owns her these days. He called the phone company, and they sent him a box and told him to pack it up and mail it back to them, despite the fact that my parents have paid thousands of dollars for it over the years. And to add insult to injury, he was required to pay the postage!

Of course, when he called the phone company, he had a little trouble pressing #1. It just doesn’t work that way on the rotary dial. He was able to get in touch with an operator, who finally told him that he needed to just come down there in person!

So, now there’s a bare spot on the wall with a few wires sticking out where my beloved phone once was. I can remember stretching the cord to its max to get out of earshot of my family. I’d always try to answer the phone before my little sister, too. Otherwise, she would yell things like, “Leigh, phoonnee…it’s a boy!” I had one friend whose voice changed very early, and, to my sister’s defense, it WAS deep. He called, and she yelled, “Leigh, phooonee…it sounds like a MAN!”

To make matters worse, if I didn’t respond fast enough, she would say things like, “I’m sorry. My sister’s in the bathroom. She should call you back soon because she’s been in there a looong time!”

Another tricky part of having a rotary dial phone is the dialing itself, especially with the larger numbers. Much technique was involved, and if you lifted your finger too early in the rotation, you’d have to start all over from the beginning. In other words, speed dialing was not an option.

I remember it being hard to hang up on people with the rotary dial. Yes, as sweet as I am, I’ve hung up on my fair share of people. I’d slam the receiver down, then lift the lever to dial my girlfriend to tell her what my boyfriend just said to make me hang up on him, when guess what? He’s still on the line. That’s when I would say, “Hang up!” And he would say, “You hang up!” and I would say, “I already hung up on you!”

It was very frustrating.

Another disadvantage was we did not have answering machines, so during dinner or on Sunday afternoons when my dad would take a nap, he’d take the phone off the hook. Remember that awful buzzing noise, followed by, “Please hang up your telephone.” I hated that sound because that meant if my boyfriend called, he would get a busy signal, then he would dial another number, and some other girl somewhere would have the pleasure of hanging up on him.

Not many teens these days have seen a rotary dial phone. My parents had a recent young visitor ask to use their phone. She came back five minutes later and asked, “How do you work this thing?”

Kids these days…Good thing they have cell phones, facebook, twitter, IM, e-mail and texting…They couldn’t handle a rotary dial.

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