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I Miss Obscene Phone Calls

You can’t slam a cell phone down.


Before universal caller identification on our cell phones, back in the dawn of time or at least telephones, we all had land lines and no caller ID and no voice mail.

We ran to answer every phone call, because we didn’t know who was calling or when they might call back. I remember having a crush on a certain boy, and I was the first one to snatch the telephone, in the off-chance he might call.

Family members answered many sales calls, and were polite enough to listen to the pitch before saying, “No, I don’t think so.” The calls often came around supper time.

We also got prank calls, especially when tween-aged children lived in the house.

The family had telephone extensions in different rooms, which were good for listening in to your siblings’ phone conversations, or your parents’ conversations, by accident. Parents yelled “Get off the line!” typically to a teenager, “I need to use the phone!” Mysteries in books or televisions turned on the clue of an overheard telephone conversation.

Hang-up phone calls lent themselves to the “if a woman answers, hang up” fear of infidelity, when one cared about such things.

It must be easier to conduct affairs with cell phones. You don’t have to face the partner going through telephone bills and asking “What are all these phone calls to and from Bayport, dear?”

I was so lonely when I moved to a new town that I remember talking to wrong numbers and trying to engage them in conversation.

But most of all, it was the obscene phone callers who could be a nuisance.

There were the heavy breathers, who sounded like they were getting off just listening to your voice, and the disconcerting question of whether you knew them or not before you hung up.

Verbally explicit obscene callers said what they wanted to do or what they wanted you to do. Which could lead to a loud bang of the phone in the receiver. If you were lonely and trying to engage in conversation, you might ask “How would I do that?”

You can’t bang a cell phone down with any satisfaction, only a fear you might shatter the glass screen. Sheesh.

Radio stations played jingles with phone numbers to insert the phone number as an ear worm in the listener. Prefixes used to start with letters. I can still remember “Call CApitol three seven three one oh, call CApitol three come on let’s go.” I don’t remember what the business or product was.

Since there was a charge for long-distance calls by the minute, my father used to act like there was an egg timer next to the phone. Let’s say I was calling to wish him Happy Father’s Day.

“Thanks. Everything going OK?”

“Yeah, Dad.”

“OK, good to talk to you. Bye.”

Now, we mostly text between family and friends, which leads to misunderstood communication instead of no communication. People seldom pick up the phone; we schedule phone calls. We have more ways to communicate than ever before, and more ways to avoid them.

Obscene phone calls, like many other boomer memories, are gone. I guess sexting has taken their place.


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  1. SingingFrogPress
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    yes! so appreciate this meditation!

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