Generational Time Warp: Telephones

Family GeekMom
Image Flickr user milomingo-recovering

My first grade daughter recently accompanied me to my grandfather’s house to help clean it out. He had the strangest thing hanging on his wall. It had a long, curly cord, a clunky handset, and some kind of rotary dial on it. My daughter had no idea what it was.

This was her introduction to a rotary dial telephone.

Telephones have come a long way since I was born in the 70’s, but the way some of us answer them has not. When my parent’s cell phones ring, they have to answer it. They seem to be compelled by some unseen force to answer that call, even if they don’t want to talk to the person. They know they have voicemail and people can leave a message. They know who is calling via caller ID. Generally, they know whether or not it is going to be an earth shattering phone call. But something compels them to answer the phone. Course I have seen this with people younger than me also that are way too involved in their phones, so much so that they interrupt family time to answer everything, but that is another post.

I screen my calls, I admit it. If I am busy with my kids, eating dinner, or don’t know the phone number, I don’t answer it. I have come to see caller id as a useful, time saving tool. If it is my child’s school, I answer it. If it is an unknown number, then it is probably someone I don’t want to talk to anyway. Caller ID let’s me focus needed time on my family without solicitors and other people interrupting me.

So why the difference in the generations? My theory is that during my parents time and even when I was a child, you didn’t know who was calling. You couldn’t get messages. Anyone calling you had an important reason, in theory. You had to answer that phone call or you might miss something important. Old habits die hard. How about you, fellow Geeks? Have you noticed this among your parents as well? Is it a generational disconnect or just an old habit?

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5 thoughts on “Generational Time Warp: Telephones

  1. 40 y.o. mom here…

    In the first house I owned, there was a rotary phone (with a real bell!) hardwired into the wall. Not even a modular jack.

    I definitely DO NOT feel compelled to answer, especially during family time, but DO feel compelled to check who it is. I have preschool-aged kids, aging parents, and several relatives 90+. The odds of a “come to the hospital” phone call are too high to let it go to voice mail without making sure.

  2. Not generational.

    Most of us who are your parents’ age figured out how to use answering machines to screen our calls a long time ago. And we know that the world doesn’t end when you miss a call.

    If anything, I’d have to say that it’s you younger folk who feel compelled to answer every call, text and tweet.

    1. Touche! Maybe it is just personality type based. Though I see more and more kids (thinking anyone under thirty) that do exactly like you say. They walk around with their nose stuck to a phone. I think there is some badness coming from that if it hasn’t already started.

  3. Up until recently, when I switched ISPs, I didn’t have Caller ID on my landline. (Yes, I still have one of those, and I also have a rotary dial phone in the basement.) So when the landline rang, we generally tried to answer it. My cell phone I usually answer, but I’ve also put a few custom rings on it—I know when it’s my wife or a family member. Unfortunately, the little caller ID screen on my cell phone is dying, so I can’t always see who’s calling there, either.
    Generally, though, I don’t get a lot of phone calls in any case so answering all of them isn’t usually a big deal.

  4. Forget my parents. I’M that way. We don’t have caller ID because it costs too much. The phone rings, I answer it. Of course, I hardly ever use my cell phone, and it’ll be a long time before we get smart phones.

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