You Are Old: A Continuing Series

Kids today will never have the experience of being at home, listening to the radio, hearing “I’ll take the second caller,” and instantly knowing you’re totally fucked.

[via Know Your Meme]

I see the future of the nation is secure. Next technology up? I suggest birth control.

But fun fact: In the olden days, long before Catt got his first princess phone and devoted his life to Olivia Newton John, when rehearsing a play in the Olde Country – say one of Mrs Christie’s thrillers, Cynthia Used the Wrong Fork, or something, and after the fourth murder at the vicarage it’s beginning to seem that perhaps Things Are Not As They Should Be. Of course one naturally suspects the foreign gentleman, then the spinster for obvious reasons, but then it begins to dawn on the assembled company (God knows why everyone’s there and why they don’t piss off home) that there’s something fishy about the butler who insists on putting Milk In Last. As the dashing young romantic Leading Man it falls on your admittedly broad shoulders shown to advantage by a rather well-cut tweed suit to phone the local constabulary. So you lit your 19th fag smoked in the course of the first act (many hours spent in rehearsal deciding where ash-trays would be needed) and then you had to actually dial all seven fucking numbers. Because you know the audience is counting each slow unwind on the dial. The same way you do when watching old films and you catch Barbara Stanwyck only dialing five. Well, actually one dialed three letters for the exchange and then four numbers, e.g. ROD(ney)-7643. There was no such thing as an area code. One called the operator, she placed the call, and called you back. One booked international calls in advance then called the bank manager for an overdraft to pay for it. Back then you had to dream up diversions as the dial was spinning. Always surprising to discover how many off-stage characters shared 111-1111 as their the phone number. Of course, nowadays, it’s the audience making and receiving phone calls as the play is being performed.

Also, back then, it could take 9 months for the Post Office to install your new phone. And it would be black. Only aristos and roils could get white phones. And we all had answering services and the world was a happier place.

@Benedick: Fascinating. You are truly a trove of ancient lore. Now explain how it worked when you were all communicating by telegraph and semiphore.

@Tommmcatt Au Gros Sel: [Obligatory Wuthering Heights in Semaphore Reference.]

At least they recognize it as a phone. If you ask younger kids to draw a phone these days, they’ll draw a black, Kubrickian monolith with a circle at the bottom.

@Benedick: The same way you do when watching old films and you catch Barbara Stanwyck only dialing five.
That’s not necessarily incorrect. When I was growing up in the 1960s, we only had to dial five numbers to call someone on our local exchange–the last number of the exchange followed by the final four digits of their number. I can still remember my best friend’s five-digit phone number, but have no idea what my husband’s cell phone number is.

We rented our phone – no one was allowed to buy one.

SHerwood 7-xxxx


If baked were here, we’d go through all the fildelpha metropoltan numbahz. I miss her. I HATE it when FB suggests I invite her to play some game or whatever.

Question for Mellbell: have you ever used a rotary phone?

@Dodgerblue: Yes. I also used Windows 3.1, a 14.4 modem, and a dot matrix printer back in the day.

@mellbell: 14.4 modem

Mark my words, Slow Porn is due for a Hipster Revival.

@mellbell: All of which is to say, anyone who lumps me in with Millennials does so at their own peril.

@mellbell: That’s exactly what a Millennial would say! Own it, sistah.

I’m on the tail end of Generation X, or as I like to call us Generación Desaparecido. Seriously, check your college alumni news magazine–we don’t exist!

@¡Andrew!: Living in the crack between Boomers and Gen X, my cohort never existed. Even though one of us is Preznident.


I took a “test” that asked “how millenial are you?” I scored a 78 out of 100 which plops me right in with that generation. It is strange because I’m a Gen Xer.

@nojo: I’m horrified by the prospect of a Gen X president. S/he’ll be a Machiavellian, psychopathic fusion of Hollywood/K Street/Wall Street/1% supremacist interests that’ll make Bill Clinton look like Barney Fife. Picture Sarah Palin or Paul Ryan, but with a brain. Let’s hope our nation chooses to live and skips to the Millennials.

@ManchuCandidate: Strangely, I don’t have any 90s nostalgia, otherwise I’d be right there with you.

My 80s nostalgia, conversely, is totally out of control: I’ve recently begun falling asleep while watching Miami Vice. There’s something inexplicably comforting about knowing that every episode is gonna end with Crockett and Tubbs in an apocalyptic shoot-out with the Cocaine Dealer of the Week right before I close my eyes each night.

@¡Andrew!: The difference between my cohort and Boomers is that we had to suffer their love of Fleetwood Mac. Twice.

I’m a first-born, but I grew up in a culture of obnoxious older siblings.

I don’t have no 90s nostalgia either. That decade sucked for me mostly my own doing.

Never break the chain, Nojo.

@¡Andrew!: I’m deeply troubled by that ography.

I wonder if anyone could ever explain a party line to any of these children, including all of the Gen-Xers and millenials. See, you have a phone in your home, but while somebody at another house is using theirs you can’t use yours. If your home phone rings it could be for someone at your house, but probably not. I’m sure that kind of enforced social cooperation is beyond the wildest imagination of the me-generations.

Radio Shack began its long decline when America no longer needed long curly handset cords.

@¡Andrew!: Ultimate 80s moment: Watching Miami Vice at the Betty Ford Center.

@mellbell: Dot matrix, awesome. I always had trouble getting the goddam perforations to line up. Perhaps you long for the days of WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, as I do.

@Dodgerblue: WordPerfect! WYSIWYG OMFG! Blue screen: white text: migraines.

I’ve long said Word 5.1 was the last decent product Microsoft made. When 6.0 hit, you knew the world was going to hell.

@nojo: I should be be there to tuck you in bed and bring you cocoa. You need a gay uncle.

Add a Comment
Please log in to post a comment