When I was young the phone lived in the hall, on it's own table. The only other items on the 'telephone table' as we officially called it, were the phone directories and perhaps an ashtray, as it was the 70's and everyone smoked – everywhere. The table was high and imposing and the hall was cold. The phone was answered formally, stating only the phone number. Conversations were brief and often interrupted by the party line. When I grew older I often listened to the party line, inventing fantastical stories about the lives of the 'other family', but sadly, I never heard anything remotely thrilling!
I had friends with low level phone tables with built in cushioned seats, implying that one could possibly relax and even enjoy being on the phone, but they also had net curtains and mums with big, back combed hair, who made you take your shoes off in order to walk on their deep shag pile carpets! They were different.
When I became a teenager the phone became a vital life line to the outside world. I would rush back from school and be straight on the phone to my best friend to discuss the dramas of the day. I say straight onto the phone, but obviously I had to wait until after 6 o'clock, as no-one used the phone until then. If the phone rang at 2 o clock in the afternoon, someone was either dead, drunk or clearly insane!
I waited till after 'tea' and Crossroads and settled down – well stood, uncomfortably, in the cold hall – to talk about who had fallen out with who, what we would be wearing to Thursdays Youth Club and most importantly, boys. Well I tried to talk about boys, but my parents would be back and forward to the kitchen with trays of tea, and my brother would be playing football (listening) with the dog, right next to me.
After what was considered an outrageous amount of time (five maybe ten minutes) my Dad would start pointing at his watch and making pip noises, to get me off the phone, as it was costing money! Don't get me wrong my parents weren't hideously tight (although they are Scottish) it was just the way it was.
Eventually they went mad and got an phone extension in their bedroom which allowed me a little more privacy, but when the boys my BF and I had discussed at length actually started ringing me, there was much running upstairs at break neck speed screaming "I'll get it', as inevitably another family member had picked the phone up downstairs at exactly the same time, so I could never be quite sure they hadn't just pretended to put it down again and were secretly listening to the stimulating things Wayne/Carl/Kev had to tell me about re-building their motorbike or re-wiring their cassette payer!
Even when I left home the phone was still an issue, as in my house share of six fashion students. the phone could only take incoming calls, meaning only our mums ever rang us. But somehow we still managed to have friends and a social life. I don't know how we did it, but we did. Maybe we had to be more organised, less spontaneous and heaven forbid, talk to one another more. But I still managed to be out every night and have a huge circle of friends.
When I came to London, got my first job and had no money, I would spend whole evenings on the phone with friends, gossiping, drinking wine, smoking Silk Cut and planning my social life, with no-one to disturb me. Bliss!
Personal phone calls at work however, used to be quite a big deal, with regular memos (memos, what's that about?) sent round about phone usage and bosses giving you the evil eye if your phone rang one too many times, with friends asking 'whats the plan' for that nights social event. It was big brother/parent syndrome all over again.
These days one need not utter a single word to arrange 'the plan'. It can all be done completely silently, over email, text or on Facebook, whilst giving the impression that one is a diligent and hard working employee!
My daughter is a little (make that a lot) like me and 'the plan' seems to centre on her rather a lot. Her phone is a constant source of disagreement between us, as I think her phone use is excessive and she thinks it is normal. Which it probably is, for an almost 15 year old girl in 2011.
One recent argument resulted in me threatening to (whisper it) 'take away her Blackberry'. I might as well have told her I had booked her in for an operation to remove her right hand, the reaction I got. Actually, I am convinced in the future, teenagers wont have right hands, they will simply have Blackberries morphed onto the end of their arms, with just a giant thumb!
This will only apply to teenage girls obviously, as boys and phones are a whole new post. Lets just say teenage boys (well the ones I know anyway) are somewhat minimal in their communication techniques. My son loves a chat, but his texts and phone calls are purely functional.
While I yearned for a little (make that a lot) more privacy and communication as a teenager, I worry that todays teenage girls communicate a bit too much. The dramas of teenage life are difficult enough to negotiate, without sharing them with 750 friends on Facebook or pinging 25 of your closest girlfriends, day and night.
The teen says I am old fashioned and don't understand. Perhaps I don't! I love texting and emailing on my iPhone, Twitter more than is probably healthy (especially when on a deadline) and check my Facebook at least once a day, but when it comes to making phone calls, somewhere in the back of my mind, I am back in that cold hall with my dad tapping his watch!