Can You Hear Me Now?
The Cell Phone Era
When my eldest son turned 16, nearly four years ago, I bought him a cell phone for his birthday and soon thereafter was guilt-tripped into getting one for his 14-year-old brother as well. I'd initially seen the cell phone as a high-tech toy, like a PlayStation, except worse: a ridiculous indulgence for a child. But I had come around to the idea that the little gadget was more like a microwave -- a parenting essential.
Like many other baby boomers, I grew up when the TV show Get Smart made the shoe phone a sci-fi joke and came of age in an era when only doctors and drug dealers had pagers. I got my first cell phone for my 40th birthday. At first I was just like my mother is now -- never turned the thing on, couldn't remember my own number.
Nine years later my wall sockets are a rat's nest of chargers and I have my sons on speed dial. I finally understood why all their friends were packing Nokia and Samsung. Once the kids start driving, you spend half your time picturing their mangled bodies in a wreck by the side of the road. So it's a blissful relief to be able to dial and hear your child's voice on the phone.
"What, Mom?" (To get the full effect, read these greetings in a tone of profound exhaustion, impatience, and irritation, a zombie-like register designed to communicate what an intolerable intrusion it is that you have called.)
But zombie or no, he's alive!
Unfortunately, the fact that he still walks among the living is about all you have learned for sure. For your next question is, "Where are you?"
Well, he's "on my way to Mike's." He's "at the varsity girls' volleyball game." He's "at Ben's house." Really. You soon realize that you have no idea if this is actually the case. Okay, you say, what's the landline number at Ben's house? Well. Hmmm. He can't find Ben right now. Okay, what's his street address? What's his last name? You point out that you can look up Ben's number in the phone book.
One time, I seem to recall, it was claimed that Ben himself did not know his own phone number or address.