Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Telephone times - they are a changing

Telephone times - they are a changing
6 May 2014

I was chatting to my friends the other day, and we were commenting on how things have changed, in so many, many ways.  Especially for our kids.  With simple things even, like the approach and use of a telephone.

I know, I know – we sound like our parents did when we were little – “When I was your age, blah-blah-blah”, or “Back in the day, yada-yada-yada”.

But here’s the thing – it’s actually true.

When I was little, the ring of the telephone, heralded great excitement.  And by the time, my brother, sister and I were all teenagers, a ringing telephone was one of the few things capable of propelling us to speed.  Everyone racing to answer it.  Convinced and hopeful that it was a friend phoning, or a boyfriend/girlfriend.  Someone inviting you out somewhere, suggesting a get-together, or just a plain good old fashioned looooong telephone conversation with a best friend.  They were awesome!

We had a very long cord on our phone, and so we’d stretch it out to its limits, and walk with it into the little pantry, for a spot of privacy.  Sometimes while chatting on the phone, you’d scratch in the pantry to find something to peck on.  Maybe there were some seeds or nuts.  At worst some icing sugar you could dip your finger into.  Or you’d lie on the floor with your bum touching the wall, legs stretched out vertically all the way up against the wall.  Twiddling the cord round and round your finger.  Or doodling on a scrap piece of paper while you’re chatting.  On occasion, conspiratorially whispering, and at other times, laughing out loud.

Though, every so often you’d luck out.  The call would not be for you.  It would be for one of your super annoying siblings.  Possibly a friend of your folks, wanting to speak to them.  A grandparent, or other family member.  Sometimes even a work colleague or work related call for the parentals.  Y-a-a-a-w-n!

But I still remember those phone calls.  I’d chat to friends for ages.  And ages.  And ages.  The benefit of the long cord, was that nobody could really see you, if you were in the pantry.  And so, unless someone happened to walk past and noticed the phone was off the hook, and they followed the cord trail, you could go undetected for really long periods of time.  Though there were certain rules – you always had to ask before using the phone.  And we were usually urged, to not chat too long.  Especially if those annoying parents were expecting a phone call from another adult.  Jeez!  Sooo demanding and controlling!  One would swear they paid for it…

Still, we did manage to sneak long conversations past them.  Mostly when the parents got distracted.  Every so often, one would walk past, follow the cord, stick their head in the pantry and say, “Get off the phone!”.  Now there were definitely ways and means around this.  Firstly you could listen and get off the phone.  But that would be boring, right?  Secondly, you could listen and pretend to get off the phone, but actually just go deeper into the pantry.  Even go to extra secretive lengths and put the lights off in the pantry.  Thirdly, you could tell your friend on the other side of the line how annoying your parents were being.  And after a lengthy period of commiserating between you and your friend, your friend could phone you back.  Thereby you had a fairly legitimate excuse for still being on the phone.  Or fourthly, you could just lie to your folks and tell them your friend had phoned…

Anyway!  The sad thing though, is that those days are gone.  Definitely in my house.  And speaking to my friends, they all say the same.  Kids don’t chat on the phone anymore.  And widening the circle even further, and chatting to other people with kids, they confer – kids don’t speak on the phone anymore.

For the past seventeen years, I’ve run a business from home.  I depend on calls coming in, for my business.  For my income.  To help me avoid missing calls, I have a cell phone and an answering machine on my home phone.  Since my kids were little, the rule was this, “If the phone rings, and Mommy is not here, don’t answer it”.  And the reason for that was fairly simple and logical.  When they were really little they weren’t able to successfully take down numbers correctly.  Might sound silly, but it’s true.  I couldn’t afford to miss potential clients.

And once my kids got bigger, we just never really got out of that habit.  We have call line identity on our phones.  So if the phone rings and they can see it’s my mom, sister, friends, etc. they will answer it.  But if the number is unknown, they leave it.  Because it’s always business.

The downside of this, is the fact that my kids have zero telephone skills.  And it’s my fault.  It really is.  I have actually done them a disservice.  However good the reason was.

In addition, times have changed to the extent where kids don’t speak on the phone.  At.  All.  They sms.  They BBM.  They WhatsApp.  They Facebook.  They Instagram.  They Snapchat.  They WeChat.  They ChatOn.  Every possible means of communicating on a phone.  Except for verbally.  How sad is that?

Lots is lost because of that.  Verbally the youth of today, is missing out.  On an awesome experience.  Two of my kids have cell phones.  With free minutes.  That they never use.  The only phone calls they make are to me or their dad.  Because they don’t actually need to ever make a phone call.

It is sad. 

Few things in life are better than hearing children’s laughter.  And with a phone conversation between best friends, that is often the overlying background noise.  Laughter, sniggering, giggling, chortling.  Now they type.  With their fingers.  While staring at a little screen.

It is truly sad.

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  1. I got my 'grootmens pak' from Oupa Willem for speaking on the phone to your dad for too long....I was 15 and very indignant!
    I agree, it is sad that the kids don't speak on the phone any more!
    We however, are still doing very well!! Got to speak to you , Katrine and Ouma every day to feel whole!

  2. I speak to my Mom every day on the phone - and I really cherish that. I speak to my sister often - and we laugh and I cherish that too! And my dear friend Julie phones me from England on cool cheap rates for an hour as a time - and I cherish that too! Yes - its really nice to message on wattsapp - but a nice long chat on the phone to a loved one is the BEST!