How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

You Know You’re Getting Old When…

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You know you're getting old when...

When I was a kid… wait. No no. Not like that. Not like, “When I was a kid I used to walk twelve miles to school carrying my lunch in a block of ice with shoes made of burlap sacks filled with broken glass and rusty nails.” Though I’ll write something that at some point, I promise.

    “Hey, Dad. Can I have a quarter.” My brow furrowed as I started digging through the jangling junkyard of my pocket, “Sure. What for?”

    “To make a call,” said Cody, in a meaningful way.

    Trying to comprehend, I asked dumbly, “Your phone’s dead? Wait. What? Why not just use my phone?” Referring to our mobile phones.

    “Because I want to use this one.” He thumbed over his shoulder to ye olde school British telephone booth behind him. He nodded when I asked, “It actually works?” and I must have looked as doubtful as if he’d told me it also led the Ministry of Magic.

This is where the experience was starting to become strange. Stranger for me than the things that were actually happening. Something more. (insert eery music here)

It had been… well, years since I’d made a call on a pay phone. As the realization of this sank in, it occurred to me that Cody hadn’t even referred to it as such, as a “pay phone.” HE PROBABLY WASN’T EVEN FAMILIAR WITH THE TERM! Anyways, I knew he’d need more than one quarter but told him I didn’t have another. Nearly hopping from foot to foot with eagerness, like he had to pee as badly as the sun needs to rise, he asked if he should beg for it from strangers. I looked at him in horror and redoubled my effort in the abyss of my oversized and over-full pockets. Luckily I produced another quarter. Bling!

“Who are you going to call?” I asked. “Myself!” he said. Then I got it. It hit me like a splash of water to my face.

“You’ve never made a call on a pay phone!?!” I admit I must have squawked the question. He shook his head. No.

Wow. Let’s talk a relevant left turn for a sec. Charlie once sent me an Interweb funny saying:

My kids won’t know the joy of finding a quarter in the coin return slot.


I’d laughed at it when I saw the picture and I knew it was all too true. But there was a disconnectedness in my laughter, that was finally connecting here with my son, at this pay phone. And somehow, now, it wasn’t funny. It was just weird. Like wearing your underwear backwards.

There are times when something happens and you know that a page has just turned in the book of your life. It whooshes over head and the wind of it blows the hair of your soul. A love letter, a drivers license, a first job. These are the pages of your life turning. But then there are those pages that turn that are bigger than your life. They’re chapters. Chapters that represent the pages turning in everyone’s life. Unfortunately they don’t have the cool illustrations that mysteriously tease what’s about to come. Which would be nice, because it seems the further we go in the book of our own lives, the more we have no idea about where we’re actually going to wind up.

Back to the phone call. Cody tried and failed. He tried again. Fail.

    “It’s not working, Dad.” said Cody. And I thought he was just being a noob.

All arrogant and self-assured, I climbed into the big red phone booth (Holy crap! Some day people won’t know what a “phone booth” is!!!) and tried to do it myself. And… IT DIDN’T WORK!!! I thought he was just screwing it up because he was a pay phone virgin, but it was broken! I got the good ol’ “Boo doo DEE! I’m sorry (the most un-sorry any human voice has ever sounded), your call did not go through. Please deposit 50Β’ to continue [being denied any kind of quality service].” I tried again and again. FAIL!

In the end, Cody never even made his first pay phone call. He may never. In his entire life.

Now I’m just waiting for some kid to ask me if I was born before iPods and electricity.


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44 Responses to “You Know You’re Getting Old When…”

  1. alkd says:

    I work at a community college, with international students coming to study from all over. In explaining how emergency preparedness is done in America, a few people in my office shared their experiences with our students. I shared a story about my first natural disaster, that occurred when I was in high school, which resulted in my needing to walk across the city back home because the schools had closed, the buses were down, and I had no real idea if my parents would be able to come get me even if I could contact them. After finishing my story, one student looked at me in total confusion and asked, “why didn’t you just call someone on your cell phone?” uff da … because nobody had cellphones then. Those brick phones were just about to be the newest thing… “brick phones?” that’s something it’s actually totally OK for everyone to forget about.

    • Andy says:

      Ugh! I feel your… not pain… uh, age? :/ A lot of movies just wouldn’t work as remakes unless rewritten around the present prevalence of cellphones.

      Yeah those bricks, not a big loss there.

  2. Laurie says:

    I actually saw a pay phone the other day in the city I grew up in, I was shocked that there were any still around..My husband even said god, remember pay phones?!?!

    • Andy says:

      I know right!?! About a couple of years ago I spent five minutes looking for a pay phone because my phone died and my wife needed to know where to pick me up. Five minutes before I smacked my head, walked up to the nearest human being and asked if I could borrow their cell phone. I didn’t ask if they HAD a cellphone. It was a given. Wowzers.

  3. Thommo says:

    I recently saw someone using a working payphone but that wasn’t the surprising part. The weird part was that their was someone else lining up waiting to use it as well!

  4. Tegan says:

    I often wonder if my daughter will ever truly understand “Be kind, please rewind” outside of any kind of pop culture history lesson.

    • Andy says:

      YES!!! Or how about the sound of a record needle vvvvvvvvvvrp-ing across a vinyl? They still use this in shows and films, but younger kids probably don’t even know what it means other than a show-stopping interruption.

  5. Chris says:

    Wow, I wonder if this is something my kids should learn how to do just in case they lose their cell phone or something. Well, when they get old enough for cell phones that is.

  6. Paul says:

    Recently I had this conversation with my almost 9-year-old son. We were standing by a block of pay phones, and he asked me, “why are these phones here?” I explained about the olden days before cell phones. He, too, thought it was cool, and wanted to call someone. My mind immediately flashed to the amount of germs contained on such a public item, in such a public place (terminal waiting for the Staten Island Ferry), and quickly said “No Way!” A history lesson and life lesson all in one!

  7. Kathy V. says:

    When I was growing up, my mom kept around a rotary phone so that my brother and I would know how to use one should we be abducted and only have access to a rotary phone. It was archaic even then, in the 80’s. Now when I see that kids’ toy phones are still shaped like rotary phones, I have to wonder if they even realize that it’s an actual thing, and not completely imaginary like purple stuffed moose with squeakers.

    • CatZilla says:

      Good point! I’ve never even thought about that, how funny that they still make/sell the toy version of the rotary, yet no one uses them anymore. Except, of course, hipsters. πŸ˜‰

    • Andy says:

      Times they are a-changin’

      I think it’s funny about the reasoning, the abduction-phobia was big when I was growing up. I got the idea as a kid that it happen all the time, everywhere, like SERIOUSLY all the time. It was odd to find out later how uncommon it is compared to what I was trained by culture to think.

  8. Melissa says:

    Last summer I was driving a 1989 Toyota Corolla. I drove my neighbors kids to get something to eat (they were 10 and 12). They didn’t know how to roll the windows down because they were crank windows and not power windows and they’d never seen that before. In that moment I felt reaaaaaaaly old!

  9. Terry says:

    You know youre getting old when… you get a stiff neck for changing your sisters flat tire. I literally hurt myself in 15 mins of work.

    • Andy says:

      I’m there with you! I just threw out my back while driving. Just driving, not drag racing, or crash derby, or monster trucking, just plain ol’ driving to work driving.

  10. Nicole says:

    When my sister was younger, she asked our mom, who was in her 40’s at the time, if she had ridden across the country in covered wagons. My mom’s face at this was one of disbelief. We still tease my sister about that.

  11. Evonne says:

    After seeing a typewriter in a second hand shop a few months ago my son wanted to know where the ‘backspace’ key was…and then just last week I pulled out an old cassette tape to listen to, I asked him to turn it for me when it got to the end of side 1 – of course I ended up showing him how!

    Ha! kids are just getting younger and younger these days!!!

  12. Kez says:

    Ha! A pay phone not working. That means your son totally had the REAL pay phone experience.
    I remember making prank calls on them as a kid. We’d call directory (was free to do so) and ask for stupid names or pretend we were little kids who were lost until the operator threatened to send the police to our phonebooth. We’d freak out because they knew where we were.
    Good times.

    • Andy says:

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha! You’re absolutely RIGHT! It was authentic since it didn’t work! Holy crap you’re more right than you know!!! I forgot to mention in my story that it also ATE THE QUARTERS EVEN THOUGH IT DIDN’T WORK!!! Ha ha ha ha!

  13. dadblunders says:

    You know I wonder these same type of things all the time. My 3-year-old son is so used to “on demand” that I don’t know how he would operate if we didn’t have internet (computers, DS, cell phones, netflix, Amazon)

    He will grow-up without ever knowing the great pleasure of sitting in a library going through encyclopedias to find information. Most likely he will just look it up on something like Wikipedia. I think I am getting old….sigh


  14. Jess says:

    There’s always going to be a moment or many moments of “you know you’re getting old”. It happens with every generation. So why fret now?!? Just remind your kids that they too will grow up and get old.

    • Andy says:

      Good outlook. I’m not worried I’m getting old though, I’m just cognizant that I need to take special care since I’m getting older but I’m still a kid inside. A kid who happens to have more hands-on knowledge of public pay phones, but a kid nonetheless. πŸ˜‰

  15. Mimi says:

    Better go get my walker…

    • Paula says:

      Let me know where you get yours and I’ll tell you where to get crazy cool colored tennis balls to trick out the pegs.

  16. Karen says:

    Where my youngest goes to guitar lessons, there is still a rotary wall phone there. She saw a payphone and actually knew what it was! I just want to know what Superman will do? Heck, I still have my old calling card number memorized – and the code I could use on a pay phone for it just in case I ever lost or ran out of change!

  17. Catherine says:

    We kept a rotary phone around for power failures. They work when the cordless models won’t!

    • Andy says:

      I know! I really should have one around. But then I figure if the power goes out so bad that I really need a landline then I’m pretty much screwed and should start stretching vigorously to prepare for kissing my ass goodbye. πŸ˜‰

  18. Karen says:

    My daughter takes guitar lessons, I had an old guitar lesson book that her teacher said would be fine to use. At the lesson, she opened the book, looked inside and said… “Mom… is this what I think it is???” She held up the book and yes it was… “I only heard of them through you, wow…” It was a square plastic record that comes in books.

    I have started taking her to our local used book store – part of a great chain called 2nd and Charles where you can buy old LPs. She loves going through the store and seeing what we can find. My son, not so much.

  19. Niki says:

    We have pay phones all over the place. Granted, I live in an Amish community and only half of them have cell phones…so every half mile, there’s a phone booth in front of the house…for the whole neighborhood.

  20. Jesi says:

    I’m only 23 and I definitely remember using a payphone to call my mom to pick me up from practice after school until at least the age of 13 or 14 when my mom deemed me old enough to have a cellphone. We also definitely used the payphone to call 1-800 + 7 letter words to see what we would call. (1-800-boobies, anyone?)I also remember vividly using a payphone to call my mom in Pittsburgh at the age of 9 when I went on my first trip away from home. Now I have cousins who are 8 and 10 with their own in case of emergencies. So strange to think there are people only a few years younger than me that will never know payphones, cassette tapes, vhs, etc… *sigh*

  21. Gracie says:

    I’m a teenager, and I gotta say, I love those things! Living in Sydney, there are quite a lot of them. There’s a dozen or so at the airport! But, I’ve only been a phone-booth once in my life; in London. I’ve got a feeling that by the time I’m 25 (which is about 10 or so years from now), there will only be a little of them left. Which is sad really, because every kid can relate to this: BlackBerry’s and iPhones have awful battery life XD

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