Thursday, July 23, 2009

Talk To Ya Later

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."

One ring.

Two rings.

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!"

Oh shiiiiiiiiit.

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.

24 comments:

Housewife Savant said...

FIFTY-FIVE HOURS on her cell?

I'm not judging.

I ATE COOKIES for 55 hours while on vacay.

The only people I can tolerate were with me. Who would I call?

It'd be nice to have a friend to talk me out of the Chips Ahoy.
I felt so pirate-y.
Now I feel so fat, and lethargic, and starving, cuz of course I'm dieting.

How does this always become about me?

I'm just that good.

Vivienne said...

What a great post! I was just thinking about the very concept of being a teenager and not appreciating the "now" with your family. (As I spent my vacation with my husband, in the same place I pined away for him as a teen...)

I hope you have a great cell plan.
:)

Sandy said...

Great post! Been there, done something like that! But I remember when I used to write LETTERS to my friends during the summer!! How old am I?

There was something very exciting about going to the mailbox daily and finding those multi-colored envelopes with my friends loopy writing on them.

When did it all become about instant gratification??

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

I remember those teen angst years - and the fact that cell phones existed only in science fiction... ;) I'm not looking forward to when the Princess Nagger reaches her teen years - I suppose we better make sure we have an awesome cell phone plan for when that happens. ;)

Great post - and trip down memory lane...I love that you dared to make an International Long Distance phone call to a friend... ;)

...Mrs. Southern Bride... said...

I'm sure I was pathetic on my cell phone before I was married..heehee. ;-)

Stopped in from SITS!

Sir Hook of Warrick aka "David K Wells" said...

Excellent Post! My son and daughter, especially my daughter, now regret not being in the Now with us on some of our vacations. It's hard to enjoy life when the spirit and body are disconnected.

Saying that, we just returned from England last night and I'm spending the day letting my Spirit, which is still in England, catch up with my body here in the States. Your blog is an excellent reminder of where I am today.

Thanks!
Sir Hook of Warrick

Gibby said...

OMG, that is freaking hysterical! Probably because it is so REAL. I went to a Catholic high school that accepted kids from several different cities, and of course I became best friends with a girl who lived in a city that some evil telecommunications person categorized as LONG DISTANCE. Well, hello, I just had to talk to her every afternoon to discuss the school day. My dad continuously beat his head against the wall when he got the phone bills. He told me to do all of my talking during the school day. Riiiigggghhhhtttt.

Melissa B. said...

My Dad drug the family to Boston one really HOT July week. And made us walk the Freedom Trail. I didn't like Boston for years after that. My Dad was a Vacation Nazi. And I have similar pay phone (me) and cell phone (the chicas stories...

mzbehavin said...

Tammy Lu..... You make me laugh....... until I choke..........

"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'm having a tee shirt made......

Kathy B! said...

I love these posts! Your perspective is so good, but you still "get it." This is one of my favorites, although it makes me worry about getting my daughter a cell phone... maybe we should re-think?

{Katie Lane} said...

Humm... I must not have been a teen because I always enjoyed trips with my family. Never did I want to call my friends from the road (maybe I should have as I apparently have never grown up either).

But I enjoyed your story :)

Pam said...

First, you are the coolest mom to have kept your righteous indignation in check. How well I remember the expense of long distance phone calls. I spent all four years of college in a long distance relationship with my HS sweetheart (who is now my husband) and I spent practically every dime I had on the phone bill. Kids today have it so easy with unlimited cell phone plans, facebook, email, skype, IM. Not to mention I had to walk to school in blinding snowstorms. Uphill. Both ways! LOL!

SparkleFarkle said...

Man, you filled E.T.'s shoes before Speilberg had the chance to tell him to jump spaceship! I simple love reading your look-backs. And I'm also suddenly craving Reeses Pieces.

BONNIE K said...

I remember the last "family" vacation I took. As the youngest, I was the only one left at home, and my parents and I drove straight through to Boston from Cleveland. I am a person who goes nuts being in a car for more than 2 hours. Especially with my parents. Oh what a nightmare that trip was. I think family vacations should end when the kid is like 10.

Unknown Mami said...

A boy I LOVED moved out of state and I talked to him so much my mother had his number blocked and didn't tell me. When I called the operator to ask why I couldn't make the call she got to hear me cry inconsolably.

Joanna Jenkins said...

WOW, that is some serious talking and texting time! I would never be able to look at the the phone bill again :-)

Your post was terrific and brought back many "phoneless" memories for me.

I stopped by from Vodka Mom. Nice to meet you. I'll stop back again soon. I really enjoyed your writing.

Declutter Your Life said...

What a funny post! Sometimes we forget what it's like to be a teenager!

WhisperingWriter said...

Holy crap, I hope my daughter doesn't want a cell phone. Please oh please.

mama-face said...

'More report than rapport"- love it.

We lived in the good old days. Not. I love cell phones, texting, facebook, all of it.

Funny how our cumulative trains of thought run...I was just thinking about collect calls the other day. I remember making those all the time.

I don't know what I would do if I didn't know my kids (especially my girls) had their cell phones.

My parents wouldn't pay for anything; I had a job the minute I turned 16. I've resented them for that; but secretly, I think they did me a favor.

As usual, excellent post you!!

Rocksee said...

hahaha.. wow. Ok... So I talk on the phone for 8 hrs a day..

But I guess I get paid for that.


I can eat for 55 hrs straight.

I guess that's why me and Savant get along so well, we are similar creatures.


:)

carma said...

Long distance calls were not done at our place either. And I remember my grandmother and uncle would do "two rings" to get one to call the other back for free :D since there was a charge for one direction but not the other. Life was so complex!!

MiMi said...

Holy crap, Savant did the math. I wondered how much that was. That's like over 8 hours a DAY! Holy seventh layer of hell, Tammy!
You know? My worst most irresponsible act led me to my first job too. And it led to lots more irresponsible and FUN things too. Dang parents. Thought it was punishment. Ha!

the girl with the pink teacup said...

This had me laughing so hard I didn't quite know how to explain it to The Boy. I'm kind of in love with your sixteen-year-old self, Tammy Lu! How totally and utterly endearing. We've all had those times where we've broken the piggy bank for phone calls - but I don't know of a single person who's regretted it. The first two years of my relationship with The Boy were semi-long distance (only seeing one another on weekends and holidays - how cruel!), so we spent a small fortune on phone calls. It was worth every cent. As I'm sure your 'international' (!) phone call to your friend was, too. Totally adorable.

Anita said...

You are so wonderful! I also try to remember my phone obsession at 16, and I had it bad, in life before call waiting and cell phones, I tied up our home phone for hours on end! I did my own share of no no long distance calls.......lets not go there, I can still see the disappointment in my father's eyes. My daughter Adrienne can text several people at once and does! 12,000 texts a month is nothing, but it does semi make my head spin...LOL. Neither of my girls uses many minutes and they are as anal as me, and ask friends if they are "in network".
Lessons learned.....teens are interesting.