It's Thursday, so it must be time for a trip down Memory Lane...
Recently we received the records for our teen daughters phone usage during a little vacation to Florida. In two weeks, she spent 3337 minutes talking to her boyfriend and sent 1021 texts to her buddies. I tried to work up righteous anger, but I couldn't.
To do so would've been hypocritical.
To do so would've been a denial of the misspent hours of my own youth.
I, too, spent more time missing my friends than appreciating my surroundings on family vacations - particularly when they extended longer than a week (the proven measure of time that a teen girl can comfortably tolerate separation from her peeps).
In the summer of 1978 I was almost sixteen. My friends were the most important people in the world and our constantly shifting romances were the most important events.
This was the summer my parents decided to take us on a tour through the northern United States with a few jaunts into southern Canada.
This sounds like a beautiful way to pass the summer, no?
At the time, this sounded a lot like the seventh level of hell.
In 1978, of course, cell phones existed only in science fiction. Long distance calls were expensive. To hear my parents tell it, very, very, very ridiculously expensive. They were never made lightly. They were doled out carefully, like a precious commodity. Most of them were made to relatives at home to check on the house and the extended family. The purpose for these calls was assuredly more report than rapport.
Every time I would pass a wall of pay phones I would slow down and gaze at them longingly. They represented passage from this cowboy hell to the socialization I was missing and craving at home. So close and yet so far.
Then, one day, during a visit to a tourist attraction somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, I saw my opportunity. And I seized it. An available pay phone and not a parental unit in sight. There was no time to think, I needed to act quickly. I picked up the receiver and followed the instructions on the phone.
"I'd like to charge this to my home number, please."
Then the voice of my friend, spanning the distance, taking me away from this stupid wilderness and reporting all the small town gossip.
My eyes rolled back in my head. It was otherworldly. I was only aware of the dulcet tones of my friend's voice and the information she was sharing.
"Tammy! Lu! Hunter!"
That was weird, Cyndi almost never used my middle...
"TAMMY! LU! HUNTER!"
The spell was broken.
The middle name had been invoked.
My mother looked like a cartoon character does right before steam starts shooting from its ears.
"I gotta go..."
Sadness about the disconnect mingled with fear of retribution.
I mentioned that we were somewhere in the Rockies. We were somewhere in the CANADIAN Rockies. Making this an international call. And an international incident. If long distance calls were verboten, international calls were - well - if there's a word for how off-limits they were, I don't know it.
As we walked back to the car, the vibe I got from my parents was clear. "We will continue to feed, clothe and house you because you are our responsibility but we do not intend to like being in your presence."
I acquired my first job within a week after getting home. I paid the phone bill with my first check.
An irresponsible and immature act resulted in the first truly responsible and mature decision of my young life.
Sometimes it just works out that way.