Whatever happened to …

… rushing to answer the phone?

When Sheila Stewart suggested this topic for me, I didn’t know. How could I stretch that concept out to be a blog post? But, I’ve been mulling it around in my head and I think that it’s going to be a challenge to keep it a short enough post. And, it’s got lots of stories about my wife in it too.

About a year ago, the kids and I finally convinced her to drop the land line and get a smartphone. Well, that’s not true. It was the guy at The Source who let her know that she could get a smartphone and keep the house number. One of her concerns was that people we owed money to wouldn’t be able to contact us. Rest assured, I said, they’ll find a way. I didn’t succeed but thanks to the teenager at the store who sealed the deal for us. It’s been great for her and comforting to be able to answer the phone no matter where she is.

Just last night, she was in another part of the house and her ring tone had her running down to answer it. There really is a different mindset! We’ve had the talk about the phone log on the smartphone and she just needs to look it up and return the call. I didn’t succeed there either.

In doing my research for this post, we did talk about phones in the good ol’ days. When her family moved into town from the farm, they kept the old phone line which was on a party line and honestly was one of the best phone numbers ever. As an outsider from a rich family (we had a private line), it was funny to watch how things would stop at her house when the phone rang. But, you didn’t pick it up immediately; you’d go over to the phone and listen for the ring. If it was two longs and a short, then you knew it was yours. It was a challenge to pick it up before the other lady on the party line answered and handled the conversation for you. She lived on the phone, I think, because even if you dialed out, she’d come on demanding “Line please” no matter when you used the phone.

I tried to develop a change in this mindset when we rolled out the buggy electronic report card and my home phone number somehow got out. We would literally get phone calls all hours of the day or night. I was quite happy to let them go to the answering machine and return the call when it wasn’t, say, in the middle of supper. But good intentioned family members would answer and then “It’s for you, Dad.”

But, there was something about the damn phone. Three kids and a wife would race each other to answer it first. You’d pay for this form of entertainment anywhere else! Maybe it was an expected call or it was just the excitement of answering the phone not knowing who was on the other end. I don’t know for sure. After all, call display was just something that digital phones had at the time and we weren’t digital.

At times, it was like a race to see who could get to the phone first. I can tell you who got there last. Moi.

Even though we’ve “cut the cord”, I do find myself at times reverting to the old mindset and looking where the answering machine used to be when returning home to see if I missed something! I have issues.

For a Sunday, your thoughts…

  • do you have any rush to the telephone stories to share?
  • did you or your family ever have a party line? Do you remember your ring?
  • do you still have a land line? Why? (apparently, there are good reasons)
  • can you remember dialing a phone without an area code in front? Heck, I can remember our number started with HUnter 2, instead of 482
  • when you get a call now, presumably on your smartphone, do you check the caller display first or just answer it?

Please share your phone stories in the comments. They’re interesting to read.

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If you read it anywhere else, it’s not he original.

6 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. This is a “whatever happened to” post that I haven’t lived through yet. 🙂 I still have a landline with a cord. My lack of Smart phone has me using the landline for most phone calls, although I rarely call anyone anyway. I am not a talk on the phone person, and tend to email or text through iMessage on my iPad. I can run for the phone when it rings, but I’m just as apt to let it go to voicemail and return the call at a better time (if needed). I grew up with the rule that family dinners were not for phone conversations, so nobody answered the phone during them. Even if eating on my own, I don’t answer a call during dinner time. I can always call back later. Curious to hear other people’s stories here. I wonder if there might be more out there with stories like mine.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Too funny. Makes me realize we still live in the dark ages. We have a landline and two hard-wired phones, one with no display and one with answering machine. I hate answering the phone and let my husband rush to answer, as that’s his thing. But I am quite happy to chat at length with friends or family. We live in the middle of nowhere, cell signals are erratic and hydro cuts out in storms. It’s a safety thing. In 30 years we only ever lost the landline during the big ice storm in the 80s and even that was just for a few hours (hydro out 5 days). We each have a smartphone which we use when we’re on the move or when forced to use it when people or institutions find it impossible to accept that landlines still exist!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good morning Doug!
    I have a feeling that you’ve done this “Whatever happened to…? “ before! I remember the story about your wife giving up the landline for her same number cell phone. and I remember you talking about party lines and asking if we remembered what our party line ring was from years gone by …
    However, I’ll play:
    These days, my phone is connected to my watch is connected to my computer is connected to my iPad. If the phone rings, so do the other three. Rather than leaping up and racing to the phone, I can leap up and race to whichever one seems to be closest. It’s kind of like when the doorbell and the phone both ring at the same time and you find yourself pulled in two separate directions, except in this case, it’s four different directions.
    Yes, we had a party line when I was a kid. Our ring was one long and one short. We had one phone in the whole house, and it was mounted on the wall in the nook underneath the stairs to the second floor, between the kitchen and the dining room and right beside the trap door to the basement. It was one of those old rectangular-prism wooden-box-things with the crank on the side, the black salt shaker shaped receiver on a cord that you held up to your ear, and that funky duckbill thing that stuck out the front that you had to talk into.
    Actually, we had a nice modern white dial wall phone that hung on the wall with a medium length stretchy cord. It had a fluorescent orange sticker on it with the phone numbers for the police, the fire department, and the ambulance. This was before the days of 911. And if you were going to talk on the phone, you have to be there right in the middle of the house on full public display.
    I did away with my landline about eight years ago. I had already given up cable TV. One cell phone connection and one wired Internet connection, and I’m good.
    I remember 606-0842 and 867-5309, but never had to deal with anything like.
    These days, I check the call display on my cell phone. I learned many years ago that just because dogs leap up when Pavlov rings a bell, we humans don’t need to always answer the phone when it goes off. What with social media and texting, and email, over half the time when my cell phone rings it’s either a telemarketer or a robot-voice from Service Canada telling me yet again that my social insurance number has run afoul of Canada Border Services and a warrant has been issued…
    Things changed in 2007 when a phone stopped being a phone and it became more of an iPod and an Internet communications device.


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  6. Thanks for “running” with my idea, Doug! I am glad it led to some good stories that connected the past and present. We are still comfortable with our landline for the time being. We are usually slow to respond to it ringing unless we see it is a family member on call display. We can’t run like we used to anyway 🙂 But I do recall how it was growing up: If the phone rang, it must be answered with no delay. Similar with the doorbell, but with a bit more caution. In present times, both might be considered less safe and more obtrusive now. Did our lives just get busier and we guard our time and privacy in our homes more? There is a great convenience and efficiency to text messages, but I often think we have to get much more permission now to expect someone to be available in “real time”. Phoning someone out of the blue just to check in seems odd now and phone call times are often mutually agreed upon or scheduled via text, eg. “When is a good time to call?”. Rules of social engagement change and get impacted by technology too — always interesting!


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