Monday, November 13, 2006

DIAL That Number

We were at my folks' house yesterday--the house I grew up in-- and our kids were with us. At some point, my daughter was downstairs in the rec room -- does anyone even have a rec room anymore, or just a family room or entertainment room?

In any case, my daughter runs upstairs very excited about something she wants me to see downstairs. I ask what she wants. She said she wants to know what something is. I say I can't come downstairs, to just tell me what it is or bring it upstairs.

"I can't bring it upstairs. It's plugged in."

So I try to envision the rec room and what she might be referring to.

She continues. "It's black and has a round thing on it (at this she describes it with her hands)..."

It hits me. A black rotary telephone. Our original black rotary telephone. My parents' telephone that they got when they moved into the house in 1958. (We were a one-phone family for many, many years.)

And I start to laugh. My daughter -- my children -- are not familiar with rotary telephones. Then I began to think of what else they've missed out on in the years they've been around: b&W TVs, typewriters, life without any kind of remote control, life without a microwave, record players, eight-track tapes, etc. They even learn how to tell time via digital watches! And kids learn to tie their shoelaces later on in their young years, when you can no longer find sneakers in their size with Velcro fasteners.

To that end, I think we should have some kind of survival show for kids, introducing the use of these appliances, electronics and tchochkes that they are not familiar with in their everyday lives. Let's watch them concentrate, get frustrated and try to figure out how these things work.

And if they run into trouble, let them use that black rotary telephone and DIAL INFORMATION!

Update: I was telling my husband tonight at dinner about this post. He corrected my error; my daughter KNEW it was a telephone, but she did not know how to USE it because it is a rotary one.

So my husband guided her in how to use it...and he had her call his cell phone, which he had with him. She could see the process ...or should we call it ''progress"?

My husband also reminded me of a nephew of ours who, a few years ago, saw me take an ice tray out of the freezer and he asked "What is that?" Even at age 7 or whatever he was, he was not familiar with a simple ice tray. Why? Because he had the type of refrigerator that provides ice cubes and ice water right in the door!


marallyn ben moshe said...

great post...when i took my kids back to windsor for the first time, i ran to show them the detroit son,4, turned to me and said in hebrew...oh mom what a big bathtub that is...azoychen vei i thought and took them across the street to buy them a dairy queen.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to envision being surprised by a rotary phone. But then again, I never experienced the 'party lines' that my parents took for granted.

Wendy said...

I loved this! I had a beige one just like that in my room as a young teenager. It was so heavy! Remember you had to pay extra for touchtone dialing? Such progress. Thanks for the smile!

Elie said...

What's amazing to me is that we still commonly use the terminology "dialing" a call, even though dial phones have been all but obsolete for decades. It shows how long it takes language to change. My all-time favorite in this category is when we say a light "blew out". That must date back at least a century, to when homes were lit with gasjets instead of incandescent bulbs! Yet people still say it all the time.

Anonymous said...

I put my foot down when my son was a kid--I flat-out refused to allow him to own a digital watch until he was well into his teens and I was absolutely sure that he could read the time on an analog watch. I think that it would really be a great shame if all the beautiful old public clocks, such as London's Big Ben and our own locally-famous one, the clock in the Main Hall at Grand Central Station, became incomprehensible to the average person under 35. There's also the detail--something that we "language people" (BA in French, here) can appreciate--that the words "clockwise" and "counterclockwise" mean absolutely nothing to someone who can't read an analog clock.

Anonymous said...

When my son was very young, we bought him two different kinds of toy telephones, one with a rotary dial, one with push buttons, just so that he would recognize and know how to use both. I strongly doubt that toy rotary phones even exist anymore. Now, you probably have your choice of push phone or cell models.

I tried to put aside a few odds and ends for the (future, we hope) grandchildren. I hope I can still find those few sheets of carbon paper and the few "original" floppies--from the days when floppies were actually floppy, and could be bent--by the time they're needed.

cruisin-mom said...

LOL great post keeping with the whole phone thing...there are practically no pay phones left here. They are removing them all, because everyone and their brother has a cell phone. Remember the old expression: "Hey, it's your dime...start talking".

tuesdaywishes said...

Same here,my kid found an old phone in MIL's basement. I showed them how it works, and they said "OHH! That's why we call it DIALING!"

BTW...whoever mentioned paying extra for touch-tone, check your bill. In many places that charge is still there.

My family were the first in town to have call waiting because my mom was the mikva lady and people had to make appointments. I think we got it around 1976.

Mia said...

Great post, but it makes me feel old. I grew up with dial phones and pay phones, ok no b&w TV but no remote controls or mobile phones.... I learnt to type on a typewriter, when I tell this to my youngest sister who is 17 now, she can´t stop laughing, we are not even a generation apart and yet her world is completely different from mine! jt

Unknown said...

The rotary phone, okay... but an ice cube tray now? Wow. Now I'M getting old.

David_on_the_Lake said...

Thats funny
I actually have a rotary phne in my basement..that we use during blackouts when all the fancy phines become obsolete