Caller History

Aside

Beginning Wednesday, our house will no longer have a landline or TV service; we’ll use our mobile phones and go with Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV instead. It’ll be the first time in our almost 14-year marriage that we haven’t had some sort of TV provider. When I first moved out of my parents’ house in 1997, I skipped getting cable, but then The Husband and I started dating, and he was like, “Uh, we’re gonna have to fix that.”

After watching True Blood and The Newsroom Sunday night, (Yes, I realize we’ve chosen the worst time of their seasons to cancel TV service, but it was the end of the billing period!) we disconnected the receivers in an almost somber ceremonial fashion. I kept thinking that perhaps I should find a funeral song played by bagpipes as background music in honor of the occasion.

The true end of the era, however, is disconnecting the landline. I’ve lived in a residence with at least one phone for all of my 41 years. You want retro? I’ll give you retro. I have used a rotary phone. More? Okay… I still remember spending the night at my grandmother’s house and watching her pick up the handset on her black rotary phone and dial only five numbers to reach someone in the same town.

You see, the residents of Woodruff had “476” as the first three digits of their phone numbers, so to call someone in town — even as late as the 1980s — all you had to do was dial “6” and the last four digits of his or her number. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had their very own Sarah lurking on the line (Mayberry reference, for the uneducated).

The house where I grew up had one touch tone phone in the kitchen, and we didn’t get call waiting until I was in the eighth grade. My first boyfriend called late one Friday afternoon when we were expecting Dad to call and ask what to bring home for supper, and in the two minutes it took to get off the phone, Dad had, in fact, called and got a busy signal.

That evening we sat around the kitchen table eating our Burger King dinner, and Dad broke the silence with, “So how much does it cost to add call waiting?” He didn’t sound angry — just defeated that he could no longer deny his teenage daughter and his pre-teen son were growing up too quickly for him and would now be vying for phone time.

Molly Ringwald would be so jealous, no?

Molly Ringwald would be so jealous, no?

A few weeks after that, I got my very own phone. In. My. Room. Nevermind that I had to wait a few more weeks because Dad wanted to install the line himself instead of he and my mom detaching an arm and a leg for Ma Bell to do it. That just gave me time to pretend call all my friends. That’s right, y’all, not only did I sing ABBA into my hairbrush, but I also PRETENDED TO CALL my friends on A DISCONNECTED PHONE. Who has two thumbs and is a big ol’ nerd? This chick.

It was a slimline Conair phone. (What? You thought they just made electronic hair gadgets? Oh no… They also produced quality home electronics for the 1980s.) Color? Pink… what else? And the conversations that phone heard! Years of angst and confessions of crushes and multiple rejections. Tears and giggles and flirts and secrets and practical jokes all coming and going across town via wires draped around towering poles. During my junior year alone I burned up that line after 10:15 Monday through Thursday nights with calls to the poor boy I tortured as the object of my unrequited crush.

So sleek AND fashionable...

So sleek AND fashionable…

Five years later, I got my first cell phone. I was a college freshman in Columbia, and the local news ran a story about a girl from the Upstate who, after having car trouble, got into the cab of an 18-wheeler and was found dead days later. So we got two cell phones — bag phones, for the win! One went to my dad, who traveled all day, and the other went to me, with strict instructions to use in the roaming area — which started before I even left Greenville County — only in case of emergency.

Four years after that, I got my own cell phone. Out of college, working in the “real world” in 1995, I got it through the same provider my parents used: Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile. That was a freakin’ pain-in-the-ass to cram in the “TO” section of the check every month. The phone was a single-piece hand weight that constantly dialed the last person I called because the “SEND” button kept getting pressed by something in my pocketbook, and they all had those flimsy plastic antennae that never improved reception.

I still have the same mobile number — from which I’ll get more use after today — but it’s now attached to my iPhone 5 with its Otterbox Commuter Series case. Pink… of course. Some things never change.

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