Cell Phones: When is it Enough?

I’ll admit it. I don’t know the answer to that question.

In 1975 if I wanted to call home, I waited until Sunday. Now, my kids can ask me about their resume or their Dad about their oil change any day of the week in a single touch.

Back in the Day

When I was growing up, collect calls and party lines reigned. Kids didn’t move away as much. Families stayed near families. When my brother was offered a job in Texas, he turned it down because he knew it meant keeping in touch by letter writing, picture sending and Sunday calling.

And phone calls weren’t cheap. Out-of towners called home once a month on the cheapest day, Sunday, to chat, and travelers made collect calls when they arrived at their destination.

What is a collect call? I can see you’re a millenium.

Collect calls, which will shock my children, went something like this:

Daughter to telephone operator: “My name is Cyndie Filutze. I’d like to place a collect call to Donna Filutze at 814-866-5273.” Operator to daughter: “Hold, please.”  Operator to mother: “I have a collect call from Cyndie Filutze for Donna Filutze, will you accept the charges?” Mother to operator: “No, I won’t accept the charges.”

Right now my kids are saying, “W-what? Grandma wouldn’t accept your call?”

Rest assured, kids, she loved me. The translation of the above conversation is: “Mom I’ve arrived safely and I’ll call you before I leave to come home. I love you.”  “Cyndie, so glad you arrived safely. Yes, call me before you leave and I’ll say prayers again for a safe trip. I love you, honey!”

The beauty of that whole conversation was that it didn’t cost my Mom a dime. But there was a glitch. And now I’ll really baffle my kids: sometimes, I couldn’t get through to her right away because the line was busy. Someone was on the party line.

What’s a party line?

You and a neighbor (not living too close because you’d kill each other) shared a phone line, and you could only make calls or receive calls when your neighbor wasn’t on the line. So, if you had to make a phone call, you picked up the phone once per minute to check and see if the other party was still talking in order to annoy them into hanging up. If you were waiting for a phone call, you had to break in on their conversation, say it was an emergency, and beg them to hang up.

And if you wanted to know what they were talking about? You put your finger on the little button before you lifted the receiver  and let it up very slowly so they couldn’t hear you pick up the phone. They never knew you were listening. I know what milleniums are asking: So, people could listen in on private conversations? You got it–happy menage  e  trois.

Two-Word Calling Today   

Now, one touch and two words “Call Home” and Siri connects you with your parents.

Moms and dads don’t spend hours worrying where their children are. Sending messages home no longer takes five days and a trip to the post office. Select an icon, type, and your mom gets your message in five seconds. Friends are at your fingertips on Facebook. Twitter is your own personal newscaster. Instagram replaces Grandma’s Brag Book. Waze navigates you.

You don’t lug big camera bags and your pictures still come out clearer. You can enhance them with PhotoShop. Play music with Itunes. Set an alarm once and it will ring every morning. You can check your calendar, use a calculator, read books or track stocks on your morning commute. The cell phone provides us with information  in so many ways but by far it’s most important use is that it connects us to the people we love in nanoseconds.

Last Friday, my husband and I had dinner with three other couples. Our cell phones lit up like we were playing Simon. But none of us minded. Between all four couples, we educated and sent ten children off in all directions of the country.

So the Kalivodas, the Fricks, the Slikers, my husband and I texted and called and shared pictures of where our children are, what they are doing, and how big the grandchildren are getting as if they were right there in the room with us.

When is it enough?

Let me apologize in advance. I just don’t know the answer to that. But when my kids call, you’re going to see that cell phone shoot to my ear with lightening speed because, well, nothing in life means more to me than them.


Cyndie Zahner is a freelance writer and the mother of three children, Jessie, living in Los Angeles; Zak, living in Philadelphia; and Jilly, living in Raleigh. She thanks God everyday for her cell phone. Follow her on Twitter @Tweetyz or see pictures of her kids on Instagram @athletchicz.



2 thoughts on “Cell Phones: When is it Enough?

  1. Pede says:

    You stated that collect calls were expensive. …..don’t forget, these cell phones aren’t cheap either…..and 9 times out of 10 you are still paying for your kids phones long after the have left the nest.

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