“I think it’s broken.” My son said as he handed me the phone. I put the phone up to my ear and listened. After a moment, I stared at him dumbfounded.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked incredulously.
“Do you really not know what this is?” I demanded, holding the phone receiver up like a smoking gun.
“It’s a BUSY signal!” I exclaimed.
My mouth dropped open. I could not have been more stunned if I had heard Elvis on the other end of the line.
“A busy signal is what you get when you call someone and they are on the phone with someone else so they can’t answer your call,” I explained. He looked at me as though I were speaking in tongues.
“I don’t get it. Why don’t they have call waiting? Or voicemail? Or SOMETHING?!” he demanded.
I shook my head. I could understand his confusion. He had never had the experience of NOT being able to get in touch with somebody. If he called someone and they didn’t answer, he could leave a message, or text them, on instant message them, or Facebook them, or tweet them. Unless the person was scuba diving, in orbit around the Earth, or dead, he was pretty much guaranteed to get a hold of them somehow, somewhere, at the exact moment he wanted to reach them.
How scary is that?
Having grown up without the convenience my kids have today, it never occurred to me how easy we had made it for them. Back in my day before the wheel was invented and dinosaurs roamed the earth, we had to call someone back if they weren’t home or they were on the phone; we had to go to a bank and talk to a real person to get money; and if there was nothing on the total of seven channels of TV, we were out of luck and had to go read a book, in print, with pages that we turned with our fingers. There were no VCRs, ATMs, SUVs or MTV. You couldn’t IM your BFF, and if you had ADHD you probably didn’t know it and just thought you had too much MSG. A laptop was the place where I bounced on my grandfather’s knee, and a Labradoodle was a mutt.
Although I was stunned by this realization, I did not share any of this with my son. I remember talking to my grandparents when I was a kid and hearing about the days before cars, airplanes and TV and wondering how the heck anybody survived back then. My kids already thought I was so old I could have dated Moses, so I really didn’t need to confirm that for them.
Page 2 of 2 - “I’m sure if you wait a few minutes, you can call back and they will answer,” I told him as I went back to making dinner.
“What am I supposed to do until then?” he wondered.
“I don’t know,” I said distractedly. “Go play some records.”
He furrowed his brow. “What’s that?”
Follow Tracy on Twitter at @TracyinSuburbia.