Monday, March 8, 2010

Caller I.D.

Caller I.D.
By Allison Adams 02-20-10 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 02-20-10

“What is this scribbled on this piece of junk mail?”


“This! I can’t make out what it says – its your handwriting. Looks like it might be a… oh, wait… oh, no. Is this a telephone message?”

“Oh yeah! Mom – somebody called for you earlier - maybe yesterday.”

“I can’t believe you actually answered the house telephone.”

“Yeah – I know. I don’t know what came over me.”

“I can’t read this. Does it say Jane, or Jan?”

“Jane. Jane somebody, or maybe Jan somebody. No, I think it was definitely Jane.”

“I know about a dozen Janes!”

“Really, mom? A dozen? Don’t you think you’re exaggerating just a little?”

“Am I supposed to call her back? What does this say here? Did you take her number?”

“I don’t remember – that was about a week ago.”

“I thought you said she called yesterday.”

“Before I answer any more questions, I think I should be allowed to have an attorney present.”

“Honestly, son – how hard is it to take a message?”

“Wait. Is that a trick question?”

“Let me tell you a little story.”

“Why are you punishing me?”

“Once upon a time, before the days of Caller ID, answering machines, and cellular phones, families often had only one telephone in their home. Because there was just one phone in the house, it was centrally located – like on the wall in the kitchen.”

“Was it a tin can tied to a string?”

“No – but it did have a long cord. That one telephone was used by the entire family – they all shared it!”

“Mmmm. Hard times.”

“Not really – just different. Back in those days, whenever the telephone rang, it was a big event! Everyone was excited to find out who was calling whom! Whenever it rang, everyone within earshot would make a beeline to the telephone so they could be the one to answer it! Not like now when our house telephone rings and everybody but me scatters like ball bearings on a marble floor. Why, back then, sometimes the kids would actually race to the phone yelling - I got it! I got it!”

“How lame.”

“They recognized it was a privilege and a courtesy to answer the telephone back in those days. Why, before the children in the family were even allowed to answer the phone, they were trained how to do so.”

“Get out!”

“Really! Parents made sure their children understood proper telephone etiquette first.”

“You mean they didn’t know how to say hullo?”

“Back in those days, you wouldn’t just say hello – you’d also politely identify yourself.”


“For example – you’d be expected to answer the phone by saying, Hello! Adams residence – Nate speaking!”

“No way!”

“Yes. And, you’d use a clear speaking voice instead of a drone.”


“There’s more. If the person calling wanted to leave a message for someone else in the family, the person who answered the telephone would write down the message on a proper piece of paper. There was even a special pad of paper and a pencil placed next to the telephone for the express purpose of facilitating the taking of the phone messages.”

“Wait. Is there going to be a test over this later?”

“They’d also take care to correctly spell the caller’s first AND last name, they’d ask the caller for their telephone number, which would be included on the message along with the date and the time of the call. ”

“Seems a little excessive.”

“And instead of using chicken scratch to copy a portion of the caller’s name on the back of a postcard advertising free estimates for aluminum siding, and leaving it folded up and partially hidden underneath the fruit bowl on the kitchen island – all of this helpful information was written legibly, and the message was carefully placed out in broad daylight so the person for whom it was meant would actually see it! Do you see where I’m going with this?”

“Yep – I do. Because you haven’t properly equipped me to do so, I shouldn’t answer the telephone.”

(Sigh.) “So … do you think it was Jane who called, or Jan?”

“I’m sure it was Jan, mom. Unless it was Joan …”

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