Cellphones are better, and they are worse

Published 9:15 am Monday, January 13, 2014

Column: Something About Nothing

My granddaughter got a cellphone for Christmas. She is 11 and a very responsible young lady. I was excited because now I could text her and actually call and talk to her directly. I didn’t have to wait for the right time and for her to be with her father so I could talk to her.

My other granddaughter got an iPod with texting ability for Christmas. I was probably more excited than the girls were, because I didn’t have to rely on their parents anymore for communication with my granddaughters. Since they live hours away, I don’t have the joy of being a grandmother where my grandchildren can drop in for a visit on a whim.

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I make sure I send a text in the morning wishing my granddaughters a good morning and I also send one at night. I always receive a response. Occasionally I add a cute little saying. As I was pounding out a message on the keys of my cellphone one day I thought about my childhood and my kids’ teenage years. I wondered how our young people today would tolerate the kind of communication that I or my children had.

I was a chatty child and I still am a chatty adult. My friends would call or I would call when we were in grade school. We only were able to talk for a few minutes before a neighbor would come on the party line and tell us they wanted to use the phone.

If a neighbor or an operator didn’t break in on us when we were having a long conversation we would become suspicious and listened for the clicks to see if we could hear anyone listening in on our phone conversations. We didn’t want to say anything that we didn’t want anyone else to hear.

That didn’t mean we didn’t think it wasn’t fun to pretend to hang up and be very quiet so we could listen to what are neighbors were saying. I know we are concerned now with our privacy, but back then there was no privacy either because everyone was snooping quietly on the telephone line.

I was lucky. I was an only child and the only people I had to compete with for wanting the phone were my parents, but in households with many kids and especially teenagers, they all had to compete for time on that one phone.

When my kids lived in our household we may have had more than one phone in the house but we didn’t have caller ID, so we didn’t know when the phone rang who the call was for. I still remember all the hollering up and down the stairs calling the person to the phone. We also were tethered to the phone. We did have the convenience of long cords, but we didn’t have the convenience of cordless phones. Now I can’t stand being tethered to a wall phone.

With cellphones, everyone in the household each seems to have their own. We can call, text, Facetime and whatever, without the others in the household knowing we are on the phone. We can get in touch with our kids wherever they are, if they answer the phone. Many times when I call my kids they don’t answer, but they answer their texts right away. When my grandchildren are teenagers and go out and about, my kids will be able to be in touch with them.

I can imagine the sleepless nights my parents had when I missed curfew. Maybe I can imagine my parents worry because I had kids that missed curfew or weren’t where they said they were supposed to be when I checked on them. Not only could I not check on them unless they were at a house that had a phone, I couldn’t look them in the face and give them the look to get the point across like we can do now with Facetime or Skype.

What about the wife that used to go on the day long shopping trip and didn’t want her husband to know what city and what shops she was in?

I think of the commercial that is out now for Fleet Farm and the Big Boys Toyland. The husband is going ice fishing and the wife is going to the spa. They could have tracked each other’s cellphones and not be surprised to find each other at Fleet Farm instead of fishing or the spa.

In the olden days that didn’t happen. I wonder how many bartenders back before cellphones wanted to rip the phones out of the wall to keep the wives from calling their husbands to come home. Now those wives have a direct line. Of course, it doesn’t mean the husbands answer or that the wives on a shopping trip don’t turn off their phone.

Life has gotten easier to track people down. We don’t have to wait for busy signals because now we have voicemail. We don’t have to lose our voice calling our kids to the phone and reminding them to get off of the phone because we need to use it. We don’t have to listen in on our neighbor’s phone conversations because they are probably having that conversation on Facebook, and they forgot to set their privacy settings so we can still snoop but with less of a chance at being caught. I must admit the phone game was still kind of fun back in the days.

Communication has gotten easier. I for one hope to use the texts I send to my grandchildren as a time to send them some positive vibes that may make their day a little brighter.

I wish I would have found the following positive quote earlier. I would have used it on my parents when they wanted the phone.

“Talking is always positive. That’s why I talk too much.” — Louis C.K.


Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at thecolumn@bevcomm.net. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/sprinklednotes.