Storytelling Sunday: Always Busy
Long before Skype,
call waiting …
…there was, at our house, almost always a busy signal for anyone trying to call our telephone number. The cause, as you might guess, was a teenager who had lots of friends and a sudden but abiding phone habit. This is the story of how our little family of three negotiated our way through the perils and pitfalls of adolescent communications in our small town in the early 1990s.
During their early high school years, Karen and her friends were only as mobile as the buses that took them to and from the town’s only high school each weekday. Because they had no other option, most of them were home from mid-afternoon on and depended on their telephones to gossip with friends about the day’s happenings. Our house rule was for Karen to call me at work as soon as she got home from school so I could be sure she was there safely and we could discuss things like homework and after school chores. After that check-in call, the only sound anyone heard if they called our number was a busy signal because Karen was, invariably, on the phone with one of her friends. (I have yet to figure out how the kids managed to connect with each other amid the tangle of busy signals all across town—I’ll have to ask Karen if there was a strategy of some kind.)
This went on every afternoon and into the evening as late as we would allow Karen to be on the phone, usually 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on the weekends. The only way we were able to use the phone was to ask Karen to end a call so we could make one of our own. Of course that did nothing for the unfortunates who might be trying to get in touch with Husband or me.
Finally, after complaints (and laughing sympathy) from adult family and friends about our telephone situation, we instituted the quarter hour rule. Karen was allowed to be on the phone during the first and third quarter hours of a given hour while the second and fourth quarter hours were reserved for parental use. This was, as Karen’s friends soon learned, non-negotiable. Karen was instructed to end calls at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour, and Husband or I would pick up any calls that came in between 16 and 30 and 46 and 60 minutes past the hour. If the caller was one of Karen’s classmates, he or she was told that Karen could not take the call right then but would be available again during the next odd quarter hour. It took a while for everyone to get used to the idea, but before long the subset of high school students that was Karen’s circle of friends were complying with our family quarter hour rule.
So there you have it…one family’s approach to communication management 1990s style.
Posted for Sian’s Storytelling Sunday. Click here for Sian’s own story and for links to other interesting and entertaining reads. And, of course, you are welcome to add your own story to the link party.