On the line

Hampshire Life - - Meon Valley Man -

“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.

@hamp­shire­life

(us­ing #MeonMan)

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