how may I direct your call?

This past weekend I had the very definition of a #firstworldproblem; my 10 year old was at a baseball clinic in one location, and my 7 year old was having his first music lesson in another. Two kids, two spots, one vehicle… and overlap.

I found myself needing to leave the music lesson early to pick up my oldest because I had no way to contact him, and he would have needed to use the community centre phone to call me. I was driving back and forth in a mad sweaty froth, it occurred to me that my boy, who still needs a snuggle on the couch sometimes, calls me “mommy” when he’s sad, and listens in when I read The Gruffalo to the little kids, will need his own cell phone.

When I was of an age to be left at various activities for later pickup, I always had a quarter in my shoe. Can’t lose it there, was my mom’s logic, and then if plans change or there is an emergency I could just go to a pay phone and bam! all set. I even figured out that if you found yourself without a quarter, you could call the operator and they’d connect you to any local number for free. It was great! Pay phones were plentiful. Remember banks of pay phones? Just a whole row of them all lined up, in mall entrances, airports, movie theatres… anywhere, really.

Phone booths were so ubiquitous that it made sense for Clark Kent to use them as changing rooms, for heaven’s sake.


When I was a teenager what I wanted more than anything else in the whole world was my own phone. Remember how Claudia Kishi was vice-president of the Babysitters’ Club just because she had her own phone? Magic. Her own phone number! She didn’t need to share it with anyone, or tie up her parents’ line. I was only a few years out from having a party line when I first read BSC and so the very notion of a 12 year old having a private phone was more exotic to me than her creative fashions.

Do you remember party lines? I tried explaining it to my kids just the other day. See, there were three families on our line, and each family had a different ring sequence. I think ours was short-short-long. If we heard that, we knew it was for us, and we answered it. We heard all the rings for the other two families, too. And if someone else was using the phone, you could pick up your phone and listen to the whole conversation! Oh, and our neighbours had two teenagers so we almost never got phone calls, because they were on the phone all the time.

Whenever I hear of teens sending thousands of texts or snapchats in a month, I remind myself how many hours days months of my own teen years on the phone, and I say nothing.


My first cell phone was an enormous thing with a retractable antenna and no extra features. I remember I once downloaded a ringtone at a cost of two dollars and then I was stuck with Stewie from Family Guy yelling “DAMN IT, WOMAN!” for months because I didn’t want to download another one. The first time I saw a clamshell phone it was a revelation – so tiny! Then came my first phone with a sliding QWERTY keyboard to facilitate texting. Now I have an Android which is a tiny computer first and a phone second… how did we get from this:

Vintage rotary phone - black antique-phone

This image is named “antique phone”, if you want to die of old age today.

To this:


In only twenty years? HOW???


So, to wit: I am old, you kids need to get off my lawn, and my ten year old will soon have a smartphone at his disposal, because we can add one to our existing cell phone plan for only $4 a month.

I still want one of these, if I didn’t think it would probably cost a small fortune on eBay.

clear phone


3 thoughts on “how may I direct your call?

  1. I tooooootally wanted that clear phone as a teen. Still want. Ours would be the coolest house on the block. All the kids would be coming over just to use our phone. (No? Let me have my dreams!)

    Also, this: “This image is named “antique phone”, if you want to die of old age today.” –> is hilarious, and yes, I just died.


  2. When we moved into a new house when I was 15, my room had a phone jack. A PHONE JACK. I was so excited, but my parents said no phone in my room. Then, one day, I HAD A PHONE IN MY ROOM. Greatest day ever. My husband had a party line growing up, because he was in a pretty rural area. I remember taking the phone with the super long cord around the corner so I could have hours-long conversations in peace.


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