In the 20-34 age group, I am not surprised by the number of people who do not have landlines. These are the kids who grew up with cellular technology, who went to college, and because it offered them ultimate autonomy, this number became their identity. After college, when these young adults moved into “real life,” whether they bought homes, rented apartments, or even moved back in with ole’ mom and dad, their cell phones were their link to others. It would never have dawned on one of these 21st Century thinkers to give out a home phone number as a means for communication; home phone numbers were for their parent’s generation. They scoffed at the idea of being so old-fashioned. Furthermore, these young adults were completely autonomous. They did not need to worry about someone else receiving a phone call because all the someone’s they knew had a means of getting a phone call: their one cell phones!
I am, however, shocked at the number of people in the 35-49 age group who do not have landlines. Astonished really. These people are my generation. The bulk of my life revolved around the landline. The landline helped define me.
I mastered patience while trying to call a friend, and for an hour straight, I got a busy signal because someone in the house was using the phone. I mastered restraint when I expected the person I was calling to be home, and the phone just rang and rang and rang (and rang and rang). I mastered moderation because everyone in my family used the same phone, and we could not all be on it at once. I mastered resignation when I could not call my friends to gossip because dad was expecting a call from the lawyer.
Growing up in the 1970s, there were two phones in our house: a wall phone in the kitchen and a rotary phone that sat on the night stand next to my parents’ bed. If I talked on the phone in the kitchen, I would have to pull the cord as far as it could stretch so that I could get around the corner into the family room so that I could get a little privacy. When I had the opportunity to lounge on my parents’ bed and talk with my friends, well that was just the lap of the luxury.
Then the 80s hit. Technological advancements were in full swing. Mom bought a cordless phone and signed up for call waiting. Suddenly, no one was yelling at me to “Get off the phone.” In addition, we got an answering machine. Actually everyone I knew got answering machines. It was virtually impossible to miss a call from anyone; all they had to do is wait for the beep and leave a message. It was marvelous, simply marvelous!
When I moved out of my parents’ house in the 1990s, it never dawned on me not to get a landline. Cell phones were in a very infinitesimal stage at this point. The people who had them, had to carry a bag around with them, too. It looked very hokey.
In the late 1990s, once I got a cell phone, it never occurred to me that I could use it as my sole contact number, as the only way people could get a hold of me. Why would I do that? Tom and I lived together.
We had a cute little message on our answering machine:
Me: “Hi This is Cheryl.”
Tom: “And this is Tom.”
Together: “We’re not home, so leave us a message.”
How would people know our true love if they could not hear the harmonious rapport of our message?
However, recently, I have realized a great deal of people I know, people who are in their thirties and forties, do not have landlines. They have gotten rid of it, written it off as an unneeded expense, and they have gone the route of strictly using cell phones. These people that I am speaking of, they are people like me: married with 2.5 children.
Hmmm. This arrangement is working for them? Maybe I should consider it. AT&T jacks up my home phone bill about every six months, and then I have to call and negotiate a new U-Verse package to bring my bill back into a reasonable zone. It would be great to pay out less money each month, I thought.
However, in the matter of one week, two events occurred that convinced me otherwise.
1. Carson went over Marta’s to babysit and forgot her cell phone. Yes, Carson has a cell phone. She has a basic phone, and it only raises my bill by $17.00 a month. It is worth it to me. Anyway, she forgot her phone at home, and Marta does not have a landline. When Marta and I realized, we each panicked a bit. What would she do if there was an emergency? How could she contact Marta or me or the fire department, for that matter? The easiest fix was for Marta to leave her cell phone home with Carson and show her the number of who she would be with so that if there truly was an emergency, Marta could be reached. A minor inconvenience for Marta, but peace of mind for us all.
2. The second incident was a conversation with a friend who has a ten-year old daughter. She was lamenting that she and her husband were thinking about buying her a phone, but that the plans were outrageous.
“You know, they want everyone to have smart phones, so they are jacking up the prices on the basic packages, so people say to themselves, ‘Eh, for an extra ten bucks a month, I could have a smart phone.’ ”
“Does she need a phone?” I asked. Maggie is ten, and I do not think she needs a phone as of yet.
“Well, I’m kind of fed up. Every night I get home from work, and my phone “blows up,” but it is not my friends calling, it’s my daughters. I am sick and tired of getting phone calls from every ten-year old in North Royalton.”
Ah! An epiphany! I had never considered the children! Maggie who is ten and Lizzie who is eight are both talkers. They love to come home from school and call their friends. On certain days, one child puts down the received and the other picks it up to call her friend. I hadn’t considered how they would communicate.
I do know that when I get a new cell phone, I am going to have to switch to a new data package. Basic lines are going to run $30.00 a piece! If I decided to get Lizzie and Maggie phones, I would have to pay $60.00 a month! That is way more expensive than my landline!
So, as I sit at the computer and stare at my crappy old phone sitting next to me, I think, “To have a landline or not to have a landline?”
There really is no question!