It’s a given you can’t remember what you had for dinner last night but you can probably remember the Gilligan’s Island theme song. When you smell something, like cotton candy, all of a sudden you’re taken back a few decades and remember Rockaway Playland or Coney Island. You can’t remember the person’s name you just met but you can remember somebody’s phone number from third grade.
And speaking of phones. In the old days, the phone would ring and you and your siblings would race to answer it. There was no Caller ID, you just hoped it would be for you. And then, if it was a caller of the opposite sex you’d stretch that cord as far as it could go to get out of earshot from everyone else. Sometimes the extension cord allowed you to sit in a closet or it stretched so far you could get halfway down the basement stairs.
Of course, in those days, your parents – if they were interested at all – could pretty easily find out who was calling. Or at least they would learn about who would call on a regular basis. But lawd knows, there was no rest. The ringing phone was a constant annoyance. Tell your friends, no calls at dinner time. Tell your friends, no calls after nine. Tell your friends, stop calling all the time.
If you had a friend who was stupid enough to call during dinner (or suppertime as we called it) and then again after nine that friend might get a parental lecture or you’d be told to find another friend.
These days the phone rarely rings. You have no idea who your kids are talking to because everybody’s got a cell phone. It’s a tradeoff. You don’t know who they’re talking to but at least the phone’s not interrupting your favorite show. It’s easy to get used to, not having the phone ring.
You almost forget how little the home phone is used these days. You can see the day when it’s gone completely. Too bad that hasn’t happened already. These past few weeks reminds you how your parents wanted to throw the damn thing out the window sometimes. If Joe Lhota or Melinda Katz calls me one more time. Or if Chuck Schumer calls on someone’s behalf I’m taking hostages.
My mother, Helen, told me she got a call from someone asking if she had 10 minutes to answer a survey. What, I said — you gave them 10 minutes? Oh, even more than that, she said.
The caller was a young woman from Florida and she wanted to know if Helen liked “Christian” Quinn or Bill Damn-ballsio. Well, first Helen had to help the poor woman with pronunciation. Once my mother got started the 10 minute survey turned into a three and a half hour conversation. Genius, that mother of mine. Even robocalls couldn’t get through.
And before we know it, the calls will start again with the run-off and the general election. Gotta get me some call-forwarding to Helen’s number.
Boyleing Points: Sad news to report. Mary Sullivan, longtime Brooklyn College employee who worked in the Bursar and others offices and who was married to Mister Mike – Mike Sullivan, died this week. She witnessed my hijinks as a high schooler and beyond and somehow still showed great affection for me through the years. My condolences to her family.