You know what I miss? Telephones. No, not the little computers that we take into the bathroom instead of the TV Guide. Obviously, I’m talking about these beauties:
If you ask me, the last person to look cool with a cell phone was Zack Morris. It’s so uncool, in fact, to talk on a cell phone that we have basically given up on it as a society. On the other hand, there was (and is) something so satisfyingly tactile about holding a push-button – or, even better, rotary – phone, twirling the cord through your fingers while you discuss your favorite New Kid on the Block.
My romance with telephones goes back to my childhood. My family and I once went to dinner at the Four Seasons in New York City, and my grandfather requested a phone be brought to the table so that we could call my other grandparents back in Grand Forks. The waiter carried it out on a silver tray. We said exactly three sentences to my grandparents, and it remains one of the most glamorous things that has ever happened to me in my life.
Back before social media and text messages, the only way to find out what was going on with someone was to speak to them. So, at night, my mother would post up in the kitchen, feet on a dining chair, spinning her Rolodex back and forth while she called her friends to check on their lives. Sundays were reserved for calls with my grandparents, and we had to wait in the living room for our turn to speak because it was a long-distance call and running off to go play meant wasting precious minutes.
(Speaking of minutes, in the late 80’s my dad got my mom a car phone for emergencies. It was a little box connected to the passenger side of the front-seat console, and the push buttons were on the phone instead of below it – which was a novelty unto itself, nevermind the fact that it was a PHONE in the CAR. Phone calls cost $1 a minute; which, in the 1980’s, apparently roughly translated to a million dollars today because my mother absolutely refused to use that phone under any circumstance. Anyways, one night, my mom got a flat tire when we were out driving in the country, and she sat there for a good five-count working out if it was a true “emergency” before calling my dad. Their conversation went like this:
Mom: I have a flat tire we’re on Highway 2 about two miles out come get us. Bye.)
For my 15th birthday, I was gifted a see-through corded phone that lit up when it rang and looked like this:
CLEARLY, this was and still is the coolest piece of technology ever created. Along with this phone, I was gifted my own phone number, which made the raddest phone even radder. Back in the olden days (and maybe still now), parents could get their kids their own number as an off-shoot from their main phone line – so my awesome friends could call me directly on my awesome phone without it ringing to the whole house. The downside, of course, was that if someone was talking on the main line, the party lines were also busy; but that was a problem that could be rectified (10% of the time) by shouting, “MOOOOOOOOOOOM, I’M WAITING FOR A CALLLLLLL.”
I spent hours upon hours lying on my side on my bed, the phone resting on my face (hands free!) talking to my best friend after spending the entire day with her. My friends and I also used that phone to call BOYS, and also the radio station in order to request songs. I can’t say we had any meaningful conversations with the any boys, but I do remember calling one of them so that we could both listen to the same requested song on the radio at our own respective houses.
(Speaking of party lines, Kyle grew up in a rural town of 200 people. His family’s phone number was four digits; when his dad was a kit, it was only two. His grandma and grandpa lived just outside of town and were on a party line with several other houses, and when the boys went to visit their grandparents they liked to pick up the phone and listen to whomever was on it.)
When I left for college, my first three purchases were a TV/VCR combo, a cordless phone, and a calling card. I needed the calling card so that I could speak to my boyfriend back at home – which I did in five-minute increments so as to not use up the card too quickly. Like my see-through phone and TV/VCR combo, calling cards were also rockin’ technology because they could be used in payphones, too – so no need to tote around a five-pound bag of change in your backpack.
I got a cell phone in my final year of college. When I met Kyle a few years later, he would text me on my cell phone to let me know he was going to call, and then he’d ring my landline. We kept the landline until my father-in-law traded in his bag phone (when his truck started on fire, he went back for that phone) for a cell phone, and then packed up the cordless in a box marked “Stuff we may need.”
Despite the fact that Kyle has always wanted a rotary wall phone, it turns out we haven’t needed that landline for over fifteen years. Even if we still had it, the days of phone etiquette (“Hello?” “Hello, this is Amanda Silverman. Who is this?”) are over. A few years ago, we took our kids to a hotel and asked our five-year-old to call down to the front desk. He held the receiver about six inches away from his face for the entire conversation – because he had only ever seen us talk on speaker phone and didn’t realize he should have put the phone up to his year.
Today, we are so connected to one another that the excitement of a phone call is long gone, so much so that people – specifically, me – don’t even notice when the phone is ringing. Someday we’ll be long beyond text messages and video chats and only communicate by ESP (and my family will still have to message Kyle to get me to answer). Until then, I’ll still have my TV/VCR combo.
The picture at the top of the page is of me.
This week’s news has 16 Alaskan Huskies (driven by a teenager), an 11-year-old with a championship breast stroke, and Somebody Somewhere. Read on.
Sending best – and warm – wishes to Cavalier’s Eva Robinson, who is training in Alaska in anticipation of the Junior Iditarod. (KXNet)
Hillsboro’s Treyvion Johnson is only 11 years old, and already winning national titles in swimming. (Hillsboro Banner)
Grand Forks’ Katie Edwards set up a Wish List for area teachers to request classroom items that they would normally pay for out of pocket or go without, and the community has started making them happen. (Grand Forks Herald)
In “this is really cute” news, Bismarck’s Susan Wefald and Nancy Willis are trying to find the community’s biggest trees. (KFYR TV)
And in North Dakota-adjacent news, East Grand Forks’ Paul Thureen is a writer for the HBO Max show “Somebody Somewhere” and everyone I know that has seen it says it’s a great example of real life in the Midwest. (PS, Kyle and I are going to watch it after we finish binging “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “The Righteous Gemstones.”) (Yahoo! News)
Bismarck’s Laurie Kunz was surprised with a car(!) by her coworkers and a local dealership after her own vehicle broke down and she didn’t have the money for repairs. (KX Net)
Mandan’s Mary Stark Elementary is one of four schools in the country to receive a grant for heart-friendly equipment. (KX Net)
2 thoughts on “Fun to Phone | January 19, 2022”
What a great story and picture! I have my father’s old “hotline” a red rotary phone he kept in his bedroom. Good memories.
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I love it. Thanks for sharing!
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