Communicating Between Generations

iphone5_ios7Our family was huddled together in the stadium waiting to watch #66 play football. As usual we were engaged in deep conversation. ~aka gossip~ I casually commented that I had talked to Auntie Carol on the telephone that afternoon.

Suddenly Weasy, who was sitting in front of me, swung her head around and gave me a puzzled look. “What?” I asked.

Telephone? Really Grandma?”

Curious as to where I went wrong I asked our sweet teenager what term I should be using. I thought it best to learn. I certainly don’t want to embarrass the kiddos. –okay, that’s not totally true. I LOVE watching them cringe when I do.

I learned if I wanted to be understood by younger folks my two options were phone and cell. Phone I understand. Harking back (this is a geriatric phrase I need to start using) I remember a cell is either what our bodies are made of or a room in the pokey.


So I’m from the generation when phones tethered you to the wall forcing you to pay attention to the conversation. You could roam only as far as the coily cord would allow. Which was exactly three inches from whatever object you were trying to reach.

There was no Siri. If you needed help you dialed “0” for the operator. Which was a real person named Gladys, who was our version of the NSA. She lived down the street and knew more about you than you did.

Dialing a rotary phone required endurance and patience. It wasn’t for sissies. 

First, you had to know the number you were calling. To this day I can tell you my Auntie Ellen’s phone number although she passed away nearly fourteen years ago. However I freeze at the pop-quiz question of what my phone number is.*

There was no tap one button and done. Oh NO! Each number had to be twirled clockwise until the finger hit the metal bar before it could be released. More than once I experienced the frustration of getting to the last number and having my finger slip out half way around. Then it was back to a dial tone and start over.

Group chats could only happen if you were on the same party line.

So just uttering the word telephone dated me? I’m okay with that.

I love the history I’ve lived.

Full Disclosure: I have an iPhone. I text all the time. I even make calls from my car by voice command. It’s just that my vocabulary wasn’t up to date.

*tip: an iPhone discretely puts your number above the “A” in your contacts… for this I am thankful.

Maxine cell phone plan

(I can’t wait to tell them about my old phonograph and 45’s)


8 thoughts on “Communicating Between Generations

    • So true Margaret… And no one thought you should be available on demand. I remember telling the kids (when we were going to be gone and before answering machines) “If they really want to talk to us, they’ll call back.” I still believe this 😉

  1. and waiting around all day not leaving the house because someone *might* call. Glad those days are gone. Of course, these days I don’t even answer my phone preferring to use the answering thingie to screen.

  2. love, Love, LOVE this reflection on language, usage, technology and evolution! hilarious (as usual) but full of tiny points of light that illuminate our humanity, both past and present (so great to remember what happened if my finger “fell out” of the hole of a rotary dial and it required beginning again!!!).

  3. 🙂 My cell phone is a dinosaur. Earlier this year I laid it on the bed table in my mother’s hospital room and the nurse looked at it and asked, “What is THAT?” Last year, a young boy needed a ride home after church. We said he should call his grandma because we’ll take him. There is a phone in the sacristy. He came out looking confused. It was a rotary dial phone and he didn’t know how to use it. 🙂

    • Janet… stay strong. Keep the phone that’s best for you. I have a friend who just upgraded to a new…FLIP PHONE. I didn’t even know they were still made. She loves it… my g-kids gave her a hard time. Age and Confidence go together. Stay strong girlfriend. 😉

      And the church story?… so funny. Hope he got the help/instruction needed…to make it home.

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