Monday, October 11, 2010

The single household telephone

Way back before we became parents, Ben and I had a conversation about phone use in our future household.  We were both remembering how when we were in middle school, when you called a friend on the phone, you often had to talk to their parents, or their siblings, or whomever it was that answered the house telephone.  I remember being taught telephone manners around age 8 or so - how to answer politely, how to take a message, how to say, "I'm sorry she can't come to the phone right now" rather than "She's busy,"  how to ask to talk to the person you called, etc.  It was a big deal to me, and made me feel very grown up.

  Crosley Princess Phone, Vintage Tub

Not only were manners important, but having a single household telephone meant that our parents knew and regularly spoke to our friends, or at least the friends that were close enough to be calling.  Ben and I realized that we feel the loss of the single household telephone even now.  When Ben's family calls, they call him.  When my family calls, they call me.  It's surprisingly (sadly) rare that either of us talks to the other's immediate family on the phone.

And it only takes about 20 minutes in the presence of a text-happy teenager to start saying things like, "When WE have kids...blah blah blah."  But seriously.  What in the world are you texting to each other?  Who are you talking to?  Call me a control freak, but I kind of want to know who my kids are talking to.  And also, put the dang phone down and go do the dishes.  And tell your friends to get off my lawn. Hippies.

Turquoise push-button phone, Etsy

So, we decided, when we have kids, we'll have a cellphone-free home.  Check your cellphone at the door, (perhaps in a nice little common area where the chargers are all lined up).  Tell your friends that if you don't answer your cell phone, they can call the house phone.  Simple as that. 

rotary phone from Etsy 

Ben mentioned the other day that, you know, if we wanted to, we could institute the common household telephone plan now.   He also pointed out that hey! we don't even need to get a landline, we could just get a third cell phone.  And he's right, technically that would satisfy our current situation, where it's just the two of us text-averse old farts using the phone.  But it seems silly, doesn't it?  To have this third cellphone that you use after certain hours when you're home?  It seems unnecessarily uptight and fussy somehow.  (yeah, I know, like the rest of this isn't...)

reconditioned 1940's Stromberg-Carlson 1222 Deskset telephone, Three Potato Four

I think that part of what is appealing about the common household telephone is that it's a throwback.  I imagine it big and clunky, like old movies where the big sister has to sit in the hallway to talk her beau and the little brothers and sisters are all listening in by the stairs.  It's stationary - that phone is for home, and it stays there (and doesn't get lost in couch cushions).   And perhaps that's the heart of this idea:  something to mark the difference between the outer world, where each of us is a single mobile individual, and the world of Home, where we exist all together, as a family.  Plus if you're going to torture your kids by being a stodgy old curmudgeon, I say go big or go home.  Maybe when they're 13 they can have a phone in their room for a little privacy. 

Wall phone 302 by Crosley, Vintage Tub

We haven't actually instituted the single household telephone system yet.  But we're seriously thinking about it.  And that has only a little bit to do with my recent desire to buy a funky old telephone.  I think any of these beauties would fit the bill...

PS: This is the exact phone that I had in my room in high school.  I spent many hours being fabulous on that phone.  It was my grandmother's.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget - "no, you can't answer the phone, we're eating dinner; they'll call back if it's important" - cuz of course I grew up before answering machines and when we all sat down together for dinner!!!

I never understood letting a child come to the table with a cell phone or iPod. Kinda the same with having a computer, stereo and/or TV in their room - they never come out and interact with anyone. They need to learn to make small talk with odd relatives during holidays and to compromise over what TV show to watch or what music to listen to.

It is probably a good thing I'm not raising kids now - Child Welfare Services would probably be called in - no electronics in their room and they have to do chores around the house! From what I hear, that qualifies as cruel and inhumane treatment now.

And I'd take any one of those phones you showcased - so pretty!


cb said...

this is a such a great post and oh soo true! it is kinda sad really... i want a land line but don't have a phone hooked up...and who doesn't like those vintage rotary phones! when me and the mister have kids this will also be a rule too! this post made me laugh, thanks!!


Anonymous said...

i could have written this. we actually have a single household telephone. we try very hard not to use our cell phones when at home. i only have a cell phone for emergencies. it's a prepaid. it doesn't even get service at our house (we live far off the road, in a rural area). this works very well for us. granted, our oldest is only seven-almost-eight, but we plan to keep the single phone thing for the long term. we'll have a telephone table in the entry, even. i'm shopping for a vintage phone, too.

i'm so old and stodgy that i'm not even sure we'll give our kids cell phones until they're in their late teens. (and i'm only 30. wait until they're actually that old!)

Di said...

We may not have a single household phone (though we do have a landline), but nobody gets to have one in their room. And we already have a one computer and one television rule that will stay in place forever. I see no reason for a child of any age to have their own TV. Of course, we watch so little TV that I'm hoping it will never even be an issue.

Technology is no replacement for face-to-face human interaction. Hopefully we can teach that to this next generation...

Don't worry, you aren't the only young and stodgy one out there!!

Tara Thayer said...

first of all,
you made me laugh out loud tonight with your comment, but as blogger doesn't tell me who's commenting, i have to spend twelve minutes figuring out how to say thank you, which, actually , is just fine as i got to find your blog...etc...
and also,
my husband made a movie this spring and bought that same avocado green rotary phone from etsy, and we used it for a while in the house, until the kids,
broke it.
and yes and cell phones in the house.
except when you're so glad they're all upstairs "reading" and it's quiet, and truth be told,
i guess i don't really check.
when you get here,
tell me if you put your glass down to go pierce the silence and check.

it was so very nice to meet you tonight,
you nimrod.

thanks so much for reading.
best wishes,

Kristen said...

Hi everybody! Thanks for the comments! We're pretty far away from the teenagers-at-the-dinner-table phase of family life, which is when this will probably be most applicable. But maybe it's good to start the habit now?

Cheryl: Good point on electronics in the bedroom. Though I have such fond memories of tween-ing out with my super fancy (not at all) stereo when I was in middle school.

cb: I'm glad I made you laugh! Maybe you'll find the perfect vintage phone that will inspire you to get a landline!

Serina: You guys rock. I wish we could have been friends while you were still in Pittsburgh!

Di: Sing it, sister!!

Tara: Hi yourself! I only recently discovered your blog and now look forward to your posts. I love your photos and the way you write. Did you see the post in your honor? It's called "Simple." <3