Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Call 9-1-1: My Children Don't Know How to Use a Phone

I'll bet neither one of my kids
has stepped inside a phone booth.
My children know how to do all kinds of things electronically, but basic phone skills are not part of their repertoire. I guess it's a sign of the times.

I told my son to look up a phone number. He didn't know how to. Seriously. He was 17-years-old and had no clue how to use a phone book. He didn't know there was a difference between white and yellow pages and didn't know what either were for. It scared me. How could he not know something so simple?

But a few days ago I learned that my daughter didn't know how to use a phone book, either. I had to teach her, wondering the whole time whether her friends would even be listed. I've come to realize that not many people have land lines these days.

Lo and behold, her friends' parents were listed and she made a few phone calls. But when she dialed one number and a man answered, she stammered, held the phone out to me, and then hung up on him.

"That wasn't her."

"I know, but you have to ask to speak to her. Don't just hang up. Say 'Is Faith there?"

My children have made it through most of their youth without ever knowing how to use a phone book. That says something, I think. I can only conclude that telephone skills are becoming obsolete, unless you're planning to be a telemarketer. And even then, they don't seem to know who they're calling or what number.

The whole realization made me want to run to the closet and get out my old record player, rotary dial phone, typewriter, 110-camera with attachable flashbar, and every other item from my childhood that has become so obsolete that using it would stump my children.

Or maybe I should keep all this information to myself so that I can claim to know more than they do.


  1. Wow, not knowing the phone book I can understand, but I'm surprised she didn't know how to react when someone besides the person she was looking for answered the phone. I mean, it makes sense -- we call people's direct numbers so often nowadays -- but I never thought about it.

    Ironically, my friend just posted this link:

    1. I was surprised, too, Kristan. Though maybe she's never called a friend who didn't have a cell phone of her own. She's more of a texter, actually. Still, the little things we take for granted. Things I am determined to teach my kids.

  2. I remember years ago when I was undergoing tests for an operation on my brain in Melbourne I took my Olivetti LetterA Typewriter with me to the hospital (as a laptop was too bulky and would upset all the computers there; thus putting off the results of my 24/7 EEG for the 2 weeks I was there... yep, it was torture!). Well, the professor who was conducting the whole thing on me to see if I was a candidate for the operation to help with my Epilepsy - to help stop my seizures for a few years - came in one day with his daughter who was around 8 years old. She took one look at my typewriter and her eyes widened asking me what it was... I said it was a typewriter and slotted in a piece of paper, turned it around and said: 'Go for it... hit a key.' Well! It was hilarious as she touched a key delicately. I laughed, 'No... thump it.. bash it. Trust me, you won't break it.' her Dad agreed as he watched me thump the keys, then he had a go. This poor kid nearly jumped out of skin at the sound of the keys hitting the paper and hid behind her Dad's back. It was the funniest thing we'd ever seen.
    But really, I kind of pitied her as she had missed out on a part of life where typing was once noisy... and I said that the noise wasn't the only thing was fun and I moved the carriage of the typewriter to the end until we heard the sweet, delicate sound of the bell ting gently. She looked at the whole thing as though it had just been beamed from a space ship.

    Poor kid. :P

    1. Ah, the sweet ding of a line completed. I miss typewriters. I got one as a Christmas present when I was a kid. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer.

    2. And I remember that bell gave you only 5 more spaces until the carriage stopped completely... so you got time to gauge what you were typing. None of this never having to stop and never hearing it.

      Actually, hearing about it makes me miss it ... sad really. :/

  3. Yikes! The whole phone-thing has me thinking back to the days of "long distance" only being reached with the aide of an operator, and "party lines" where several families shared the same phone line as you and you knew your calls by the sound of the ring! Two longs, one short... still remember that.

    1. Which seemed so strange to the next generation. Guess that's how the advance of technology will always be.

  4. I HAVE a rotary dial phone in my bedroom. My nineteen year old daughter doesn't know how to use it. She HATES calling anyone on the phone. It's all about texting. Little dos she know she's missing out on hours worth of conversations with her friends, while jump rope swinging the long phone chord (and getting yelled at by her parents to get off the phone!). Her loss.