Teens and phones can be a real “hang-up”

Before call-waiting technology, there were teens, phones, and busy signals.

This didn’t make parents too happy. So when someone wanted the phone, families resorted to their own versions of call-waiting.

Like the moms who drummed their fingernails nearby while we talked on the only cordless phone in the house.

Then there were siblings. They eavesdropped. They mimicked. They drove us crazy until we threatened, “You’re so gonna get it!”

In my house Dad had his own version of call-waiting. This was known as dad-waiting.

“Time to hang up!” he said.

Dad-waiting was pretty effective.

LeAnne Chapman can relate.

“We had a kitchen timer, so when we got on the phone, Mom set it for five minutes,” said Chapman. “When it went off, she’d say, ‘Time to hang up!’”

Even without looking at the timer, Chapman and her three siblings knew when they needed to say goodbye.

“Mom walked by and you knew — her presence was just there!” Chapman said with a chuckle.

“But sometimes when she was in the laundry room, we’d try to change the timer. We didn’t dare change it too much because then it would be noticeable. So we’d add just a couple minutes or so. But the timer got stuck; I think it was from her washing it so much,” she said.

Then what happened?

“She’d dock us those minutes from our next call. Mom always followed through; she was a follow-through person,” said Chapman.

The kids’ phone woes continued when they tried to avoid certain callers; keep in mind Caller ID hadn’t been invented yet.

“Sometimes we’d tell Mom, ‘Tell them I’m not here!’ But Mom didn’t allow it.

If we said that, we had to physically leave the house and cross the street to the neighbors’ yard. That’s because technically even if we were in our yard, we were still here!” said Chapman.

Joanne Morrison shared her phone memories, too.

“I could only talk on the phone for a little while before Mom said, ‘It’s time to hang up!’” said Morrison.

Years later Morrison saw a different viewpoint of her mom’s phone limits.

“A friend told me, ‘I was always jealous of you because your mom made you hang up the phone.’ She knew Mom cared and gave me limits,” Morrison reflected.

What will phone technology look like a generation from now? Beats me. But I’ll bet you one thing: There will always be teens, phones, and parents who say, “Time to hang up!”

Judy Halone is a member of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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