Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Crappiest Generation of Spoiled Brats

Comedienne Louis CK talks about the amazing world we live in and the idiots now inhabiting it on The Conan O'Brien Show.


We had a rotary phone when I was a kid. For a time it was on a party line. Back then a party line didn't involve phone sex; rather, there were several homes sharing the same phone line. If the neighbors were on the phone, you could listen in on their private conversations until they yelled at you to get off the line. Even if the neighbors weren't listening-in, your whole family was listening because the phone was right there in a central location like the kitchen where everyone was hanging out. There was no such thing as a private conversation.

The phones came in assorted colors - black, white, beige. Sometime in the mid 1960's, we got a colored telephone, turquoise blue. It was ugly, but it never, never, broke down. You got a phone from the phone company and that was the phone you'd have for fifty years. And the same phone number, too. My Mom's number is the same as it was when I was in third grade. Well, almost. Then it started with a word instead of all digits. Turner 5 was the prefix. Now it's a bland 885-.

When the phone rang, everyone ran to answer it jostling for position. If you didn't get there first, you'd say, "Ahhhh, maaaan!" The caller would let the phone ring like a gazillion times just in case you were outside hanging laundry or sitting on the toilet. They wanted to give you just enough time to run like mad into the house, around the kitchen table and chairs, scare the cat, and reach for the phone before hanging-up leaving you with an earful of dial tone.

And it was a real ring, too. Twin raw metal bells hit by a metal hammer loud enough to wake the dead in the next county. Boy, I'll tell ya, you didn't want to let that go on for any longer than necessary. None of that annoying rap and hip-hop tones now on phones. When a phone would ring, you knew it was a telephone and not some damn bird in your pants.

There was a coily cord between the handset and the base on the wall. You could only go about three feet from the wall, no wondering around God's green Earth back then. Every six months, you had to spend half and hour untwisting the cord that had gotten so knotted you could hardly get the phone off the cradle. If you didn't pull-up a chair before answering the phone, you'd have to stretch for all you were worth to get a kitchen chair. Too often, you had to reach out with you leg and foot to pull a chair over. If you were lucky enough to be near cooking utensils, you might snag a chair with the soup ladle before you collapsed from the exertion of standing up talking to the wingnut who had called just to say 'Hi' three hours ago.

Of course, my parents would remind us how easy we had it. We could at least go three feet away from the wall; they had to stand at the wall because that was where the mouthpiece was. And they had to crank the phone to make the electricity to call the operator who placed the call for you. Direct dial was a miracle for them. But so many numbers - all seven of them. Mom still yells into the phone when it's a long distance call. She has to make her voice carry a long way.

Cellphones. Damned nuisance. Who needs 'em?




The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Spot on with my memories. My earliest memories though are that ALL phones were black. Don

Indigo Red said...

Yeah. Ours were all black very early on and they were so heavy users had to continually switch hands holding the handset.

RG said...

We had a party line when I was a kid. One ring was for one home, two rings for another designated home, so on and so forth. Back then a can of oil was actually in a can, trains had cabooses, Mike Barker would walk through my small town with a shot gun, stop at my house where I would join him with my shotgun on the way to bird hunting just outside of town, and no one thought anything of it. Now if someone walks through town like that they get thrown in jail for 30 days, at least...

Indigo Red said...

We had our ring number, but I don't remember how many. Oil cans needed a special oil spout with a sharp wedge you had to jam into the can. After that they were cardboard with metal lids. Jamming the oil spout on more often than not caused the 'can' to collapse.

Nearly everyone had some kind of firearm and crime was so low house doors were left unlocked and in the summer even left open for ventilation. And that was when no one was home. Nobody locked their car doors or bothered to take the keys from the ignition, either.

It's a shame kids today have to live in such fear and panic all the time.

Indigo Rose said...

I'm thinking mom still has a rotary phone by her bed. She likes the way the cord connects her to the caller.
When we wanted to call the neighbor, our party line, we had to dial, hang up, wait for the ring, than we would both answer.
I laugh now, thinking about how we would look out the front window to see if the neighbor was home before we called!

suek said...

Heh...

Remember when "Princess" phones were the hot thing?

Man! Whoever thought we'd ever be this old!

Indigo Red said...

I think you're right, Rose. And she still needs to put on her glasses to hear the caller. Yeah, we did look out the windows to see if the neighbors were home before calling them. If they were home, why didn't we just walk over there? Now we can't walk to the next office cuz it's too far.

I hated Princess phones; they were so sissy. That basic style led to more modern phones though. I'm recent to Facebook and I'm blown away by the grandparents with whom I graduated high school. No, we never thought we'd be grown ups never mind old...

Mike's America said...

Think of how far we have come. We only had three television channels when I was growing up and my parents refused to get cable.

No internet, no computers.

But we did have books.

Do people still read those?

Indigo Red said...

With only three channels we had some really great programing. Playhouse 90 with Requiem for a Heavyweight, to many Twilight Zones to mention, Hallmark Hall of Fame, National Geograpic Special that introduced us to the Chimps of Gombi and Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau. Then there was the regular programming with a moral lesson like Bonanza and Gunsmoke, comedy without cursing like Red Skelton and Get Smart.

Too much available now; too much to choose from. So much that folks can't choose anymore, so accept everything and anything. It wasn't just simpler then, it was human sized.

suek said...

Mike...

Tell the ladies we need "Hang Right" started up again!!

Louise said...

Two long. One short.

Dialed with a small crank on the side of the big mother f**ker wood paneled job permanently affixed to the wall. Ear piece at rest in a cradle had to be lifted out and held at the ear and a miniscule megaphone thingy to speak into sticking out from box.

I remember the family's post office box number, too.

I have a hard time remembering even my name now.

Louise said...

And hell, we didn't even have TV until I was 11, when we finally got electricity. Reception in the summer sucked real bad.

Had to walk to school every day, too. Up hill both ways.

Indigo Red said...

You are two up on me, Louise!

I never could remember my address. Almost flunked out of Kindergarten because of it.

I was signing my timesheet last week and misspelled my name.

"Had to walk to school every day, too. Up hill both ways." You must have attended the same school as my Dad!

Louise said...

I think there were a lot of schools like that in those days.

Indigo Red said...

I'm sure there were. ;)

Anonymous said...

The worst part of going to my school was walking uphill through the snow drifts on the first day of school. Don

RG said...

We lived just outside of town and one day my Grandpa called mom on the party line to let her know that he just got off the Greyhound and all she needed to do was come into town to pick him up. Dad had the car and was at work and she told him to hang tight until he got off work later that day. 20 minutes later he was at the front door and said one of our neighbors came into town, offered him a ride and just dropped him off. As he was getting into the neighbor's car in town, two other neighbors also pulled up to offer him a ride.

Now that was a called listening in on the party line! :-)

Indigo Red said...

Must have been that global cooling thing back then, Don.

And we're concerned with government surveillance. Sheesh, RG, nothing got passed the party line.

bernie said...

I recall when they started giving you a coiled cord for the phone so you could stretch it out to talk far away from wherever the phone was anchored to.

Indigo Red said...

A phone without a coily cord! My goodness, Bernie, we've come full circle.