Thursday, February 27, 2014

My, How Times are Changing!

My first cell phone was a college graduation gift from my in-laws. Like most children of the eighties, I lived over two decades of my life without this piece of mobile technology that we treasure so much.  My phone usage has really evolved over the years. I feel like I was on the cusp of a new era in high-tech devices, sort of like watching the people of  "Downton Abbey" as they made the conversion to electricity.

When I was a kid, I called my friends on the kitchen phone with the spiral cord that tangled in knots and reached half way across the house. Zero privacy was to be had with the phone in a central location: just the way my parents liked it.  My mom would reluctantly let me ride my bike to my friends houses, but I had to call her immediately upon arrival to let her know I was safe. One time I forgot to call her, and she showed up at my friend's front door twenty minutes later. I saw the look of wrath that only mothers can give. It was a mixture of worry, anger, and relief, and I instantly knew I was in deep, deep trouble.  She said, "You forgot to call me. I was worried, and you know the rules. Now you're going to have to come home with me".  I nearly died of mortification. After all, I was at Shelly Harker's house, and she was the coolest girl in 4th grade. She had fishtail braids and side ponytails that every girl was envious of. I could not believe that my mom was making me go home, just twenty minutes after I arrived! I hung my head in shame and said goodbye, both to Shelly and to any chance of me being cool, ever again. My mom was serious about me calling home, and I never forgot that lesson for the rest of my life. (Now I tell that scary story to my children as a cautionary tale of what happens to mothers when their children worry them half to death.)

Then, when I turned eleven, my Granny bought me a "Hot Lips" phone for my bedroom. It was the most awkward shaped, uncomfortable phone I had ever used, but man did I look cool when I used it! My dad drilled a tiny hole through the wall and ran a phone cord into my room so I could talk to my friends without the sound of pots and pans clanking in the kitchen. I still didn't have my own line, though. Kids didn't get their own phone line back then.

When I went to summer camp, my folks gave me the calling card number so I could call home from the pay phone outside the camp cafeteria. Since my dad was slightly paranoid about someone getting their hands on the number and racking up phone charges, he wrote it backwards on a slip of paper, and I hid the paper inside the tongue of my shoe. I felt like a spy with a secret code every time I dialed the numbers. You can never be too careful when a bunch of kids are waiting in the phone line behind you.

In Junior high and high school, I used quarters to call my mom whenever my sports practices were over. I was always running out of money until I got wise, and learned the trick that helped me to save my quarters forever more. I started to make a collect call every day. When the automated phone operator asked me for my name, I would say, "Pick-up, North Gym" or "Pick-up, Cafeteria". Then, the operator would call my mom and say, "You have a collect call from... Pick-up Cafeteria. Will you accept the charges?" My mom would hang up without accepting the charges and magically appear at the cafeteria ten minutes later.  That's called working the payphone like a boss!

In college, my parents were so worried about me living far away that they got a 1-800 number so that I could call home, no matter where I was.  I called from my dorm room, and then later from the ranch that I lived at, a whole state away. But most importantly, I could call from any place that had a payphone; and I didn't need to have any change in my pocket. Since I drove a piece of junk car that always broke down, I called from payphones quite frequently.  Once, I was at the mall and my car wouldn't start. I called my dad with the 1-800 number.  I described the noise that my car was making, and he gave me explicit instructions on how to find my starter and bang on it with a big river rock from the landscaping. It worked like a charm! Another time, I was stranded in Shiprock, New Mexico after stopping to get gas on my way home to visit my parents. I called home and my dad told me how to push start my car by putting it in gear and popping the clutch at just the right time. Even though he was six hours away, he rescued me from that creepy gas station. The 1-800 number was invaluable during my college years!!!

On the day I crossed that stage and got my bachelor's degree, my world changed forever! I got my first mobile phone. I was no longer tied to a phone cord! Help was just a button away. (as long as I was in a cell service area, had the phone antenna pulled up, and stood at a specific location in my house. Cell phones weren't nearly as good as they are now.)

My, how things have changed! Today, we carry around little computers that fit into our pocket with the entire vast world of knowledge at our fingertips.  We can find out anything we ever wanted to know about, and yet we use it to prove each other wrong in arguments, and share pictures of our dogs.

With this new era of technology, I find myself on the parenting end, struggling with how to harness the benefits, while protecting my kids from a world of dangers that are lurking just a button away.

This is what I'll be addressing in my next post.

(To be Continued....)


  1. A favorite go to line for me in a "discussion"..."Hold on! Let me get my phone and we'll see (insert topic here)."
    Did you know that some people don't like it when you do that?? ;)

  2. Its so funny how things change, but stay the same. The mother thing, call when you get there! My son is almost 24. I still make him call me when he leaves to come here and when he gets home or any other time! Granted he is my only child. ha ha! I am so pathetic. Poor child. :)

  3. Ah Nell, I will repeat and repeat till the ends of the earth -- you are one heck of a writer. You better be compiling this for a book, or sending it to a local paper, or a magazine....or something. I love the way you write and you always have me cracking right up.

    Ingenious about the backwards numbers on the slip of paper. Hilarious all around - and the sad part is I can relate to almost all of this. :)