Growing up in a 6 person household with one landline, most of my evenings were spent screaming up and down the stairs for a sibling to either pick-up, or get off the phone. I also did my fair share of spying on my parents’ conversations, as well as on my older brother’s phone calls, which often ended in a thundering fake fart noise made to reveal the prank (classy, I know). For a while, my siblings and I were obsessed with producing elaborate and creative answering machine greetings tied to the landline, which ultimately resulted in us screaming inaudibly and off-key to a Third Eye Blind tune.
This piece from The Atlantic got me thinking about how much of a role the landline really played in my house growing up. For better or worse, the landline was the nexus of our family’s communication up until I left for college, and my younger siblings were given cellphones. My parents disabled the line about five years ago. I still remember the landline number of friends I haven’t seen in over 25 years. I couldn’t recite my current best friend of ten year’s cell phone number from memory if you had a gun to my head.
If you’d told me two decades ago I’d one day be nostalgic for an inconvenient, ugly white plastic contraption wired to the kitchen wall, I’d probably tell you to be quiet, I’m on the phone.
My tween will never know the sound of me calling her name from another room after the phone rings. She’ll never sit on our kitchen floor, refrigerator humming in the background, twisting a cord around her finger while talking to her best friend. I’ll get it, He’s not here right now, and It’s for you are all phrases that are on their way out of the modern domestic vernacular. According to the federal government, the majority of American homes now use cellphones exclusively. “We don’t even have a landline anymore,” people began to say proudly as the new millennium progressed. But this came with a quieter, secondary loss—the loss of the shared social space of the family landline.
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