Hung up the Phone!

When was the last time you “Hung up the phone”?

Technology pays my bills.  Well, more like the fact that technology isn’t perfect pays my bills.  However, while technology changes our lives, we cling to old expression and idioms.  The jokes about eight track tapes are endless, but how many of you reading this actually used an eight track tape?  I did, it was part of the stereo my brothers and me received for Christmas one year.  It had a turn table, cassette player, AM & FM receiver, and the venerable eight track player.

I could not wait to run out with my Christmas money and buy my first eight track cassette.  I bought two that trip; one I do not remember, the other was a Jefferson Starship cassette.  It lasted approximately one and a half plays before being devoured by the eight track cassette player!


Kids today don’t get any jokes about eight track cassette players, but they might still get “hung up the phone”.  Because of audiophiles, vinyl records are still available, so they get that.  But now it’s a luxury, for us, it was life.

When my parents moved to Minneapolis, I was in the middle of fourth grade.  I have no memory of class room phones before the Minneapolis schools, probably because they were pretty un-remarkable.  Those phones in that old Minneapolis public school were the epitome of “hung up the phone”.  These were the ear piece on the cradle while you spoke into the mouth piece protruding from the ugly black box on the wall.  It would ring, and that gray haired old lady would pluck the ear piece from the cradle, put it to her ear, and talk into the cone on the black box.

When she was done, she would hang up the phone.  Wasn’t really a phone, it only went to the office, no angry calls from parents to the classroom in that school…noooo!

When I was a kid, most homes had one phone.  It hung on the kitchen/dining room wall.  If you were really fortunate, you had more than one phone.  The really privileged kids had their own line.  My high school sweet heart had her own phone line, but she paid for it.  They were far from privileged, she was just ambitious.

When we were done with a call, we put the phone back in the cradle where it hung.  We “hung up the phone”.

Before I move forward, how many of you remember what a pain it was that your grandparents still had rotary phones?  It was an exercise in misery!  Six…de de de, until it came back to the start, one…de de de, back to start, two…de de de, back to start.  And you still had seven more numbers to dial if it was a long distance call.  If you needed to make more than one call, you went searching for a pencil, eraser first, because dialing seven numbers was bad enough…ten was HELL!

Then the cell phone came along.  My first was mounted in my truck, hard wired, corded from the handset to the radio mounted below my seat, on up to the antenna.  It sort of hung up, but just picking up the phone didn’t answer the call, you had to push the “Send” button.  To make a call you had to punch in the number, and then hit the same “Send” button.

“Send” send what, the numbers, the call, you’re first born.

When you were done, then you hit the “End” button.  Just “hanging up” the phone wasn’t enough for some carriers.  If you “hung up” the phone without hitting the “End” button, the call may continue, and you get a bill for your first born because you have been billed for hundreds of minutes at $.037 a minute.

Eventually the words left the “Send” and “End” buttons and they just became a color.  Green for “Send” and red for “End”, Green for Go and Red for Stop.

Maybe there should be a yellow button.  You pushed it when you don’t want your significant other to “go there”, let her know if she continues, she will get the red button.

Remember when getting “hung up on” was cut and dry.  She would yell into the phone, “You are such an ass!”  Then you heard that distinct crash of plastic on plastic just before the call went dead.  Now, you could be rambling on for minutes and not realize she hung up on you.

“Hello…hello…did you hang up on me?”  There is no distinct sound telling you the call has ended.  After having the “End” button used against me thousands of times, I can tell instantly she hung up on me, but for you less experienced, it’s a challenge.

If only I had a hundred dollars for every time I was hung up on.  I could very well retire in the next couple of years.

One other piece of telephone technology that has almost slipped into the past, I say almost because I recently experienced this phenomenon, the busy signal.  My landlord a couple years ago was a telephone dinosaur.  He had a single line, no call waiting, no caller ID, not nothing.  If they were not home, the answering machine answered the phone and took your message.  At least it was a digital answering machine, no cassettes necessary.  If his wife was on the phone with a relative in a distant state, you got a BUSY SIGNAL!

I pulled the phone from my ear and stared at it as though it lost its mind.  It took several moments for that sound to dredge through those memories pushed away into the various corners of my mind to understand what happened.  I thought about holding the phone up to my kids so they could experience this little piece of my past.  I refrained, fearing I may frighten them.

The last time I heard that sound was when the San Francisco area suffered a massive earthquake and I was trying to get a call out to an old friend of mine to see if she was ok.  There was three days of busy signals and all circuits are busy recordings after that quake.  To my relief, she finally called me and left a message she was ok.

My kids don’t know what a busy signal is, and they are in their late teens.  They may have hung up a phone though.  We kept a corded phone in the kitchen on the wall just in case we lost power for many years.

One final thought on the subject of phones and hanging them up.  In third grade, I was in a rich suburban school, Vista View Elementary, in Burnsville, MN.  We had a telephone etiquette class.  The teacher setup a mini phone system.  There were two phones and everything needed to make them work in between them.  We had a whole day on phone etiquette and the proper use of the telephone.

Yes, the lesson did cover how rude it was to hang up on someone.

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