On the line
“My own kids, born in the 1990s, are amazed at my tales of telephonic pre-history in the years B.M. - Before Mobiles.” A recent communication debacle sets Chris pondering the generation of the telephone
My parents-in-law Phyllis and Bob are in their 80s. But little seems to discourage them from engaging with new technology.
They recently invested in a new landline phone with all the bells and whistles. That’s when the fun began.
They value the call blocking function that screens out a good deal of evil cold calling. So they wanted to take it with them from old phone to new.
But pressing a wrong button in the set-up succeeded in blocking only one person – their eldest child – Mrs. v.S.
There followed a weekend-long sitcom episode. At one stage, Mrs. v.S. managed get through to her Mum and Dad’s phone. But they couldn’t hear her and all she could hear was them bickering in the background.
It culminated in Mrs. v.S. calling her sister in Australia, getting sister to Skype the parents to ask them to call.
Somewhere along the line, house phones got complicated. It seems a far cry from my first experiences of a home phone as a small boy. Then, the van Schaick phone was on what was called a party line, which meant the cable was shared with some people across the road. Pick up the receiver and you might hear the neighbours chattering away on their call. In which case, you were supposed to put the phone down and make your call later.
My own kids, born in the 1990s, are amazed at my tales of telephonic pre-history in the years B.M. - Before Mobiles.
They know nothing of the agonies in those days of a teenage boy phoning to ask someone out. Pre-mobile, the house phone was the only way in. It was answered invariably by the gruff father who turned you into a bag of nerves, even before his daughter came on the line.
This parental generation have had to learn their own phone manners for the modern age. My first lesson in what’s known as the butt call came a few years ago. We’d gone round to some friends in Marchwood for a dip in their hot tub. No, it’s not what you think – it was all pretty innocent. But what I did do is accidentally dial up a colleague as I was changing from jeans into swimming trunks. I inadvertently sent him a live audio feed of the whole wine-fuelled hot tub shenanigans for his Saturday night listening pleasure.
Anyway, the parents-in-law have now come to terms with their new phone and normal communication has been resumed.
The same could not be said of Mrs. v.S. The techies talk of the convergence of different devices. Mrs. v.S. took this step too far when on her way out of the house to a shopping trip at Hedge End. She absentmindedly picked up the handset of the house phone and popped it in her handbag. We may all curse mobile black spots. But asking the house phone to get a signal eleven miles from home is a big ask, even for a woman of Mrs. v.S’s demanding standards.