Saturday, January 25, 2014

That's not my ring tone!

Back in the dark ages (the 1970's and 1980's) when I was a child.

We did not have mobile phones.

We had ONE yes that is right ONE phone in the entire house.  Usually in a place where everybody could easily reach it and where everybody could hear your conversation.

Ours was downstairs opposite the front door.

A boy that I liked once phoned me and because everybody could hear the conversation I turned his request for a date down.

We lived in a double storey house.  As a rule whenever I had reached the top of the stairs the &*^%ing phone would ring.

When you went to meet people at a park or a festival you had to be very specific about where you would be.  I wonder how we found people back then.  I don't remember struggling except for one instance.

I borrowed my Dad's car and drove to the neighbouring town.

The car broke down and I walked to a nearby repair garage that belonged to a friend of my Dad's.  I phoned home to tell my Dad where I was.

My parents were not home but their housekeeper answered.  I did not know that she was dyslexic.  I dictated the phone number to her and told her I was at Pine Pinaar's garage and she must please tell my Dad when he returns.  When my parents returned the only part that the housekeeper got right was that the car had broken down in Nelspruit.  She gave them a completely different name for the garage and she had 4 digits of the 7 digit phone number written down.

My parent's drove to Nelspruit and frantically looked for me.  I can't remember how we eventually found each other but it took hours.

On my aunt's farm it was even worse.  There was a party line.  This meant that when the phone rang you had to listen for your specific ring and answer.  Anybody could listen in.  When my friends accompanied me to my aunt's farm they loved listening in on strangers phone calls.  When you wanted to make a call, you had to pick up the phone and enquire:


If nobody answered you could spin the side thingy and ask for the number that you wanted the operator to dial.  They only did away with the party line system about two years ago!

At some point land line phones became mobile and we thought we were very fancy walking around with the phone.  Best of all finally privacy!

Then in the nineties MOBILE PHONES!

At first you could only get mobile phones on contract so they were not easily accessible.  You had to earn a certain income and the calls were very expensive.

Having a mobile phone was a status symbol.

In the early nineties we all had a good giggle at the executives who would be talking away on their bricks when the phone would actually ring.

By the late 90s when it was becoming the rage to have a very small mobile phone, my Dad borrowed me his brick to use as I had to drive home late at night from work and we lived in a dangerous area.

My work colleagues had so much fun teasing me regarding my brick.

Things like:

"Is that a weapon?"

"Are you going to kill somebody or make a phone call?"

"Careful you don't lose your phone."

Then text messages came about and in SA  we call them sms.

I heard people talking in the office talking about sms and I thought they were talking about some new sex thing.

I could not figure why it was the rage topic.  I did not have a tv and I worked long hours so I never knew what half the topics of conversation were about.

A few years later things were a bit better financially and I finally bought a semi decent mobile phone.

My daughters were very excited about it.  They liked mobile phones a lot more than I did.  I soon realised that their generation was born to sms so I would pass my phone to one of them and dictate my message.

Around this time I was shopping in a supermarket.

A phone was ringing and ringing.


A woman tapped me on my shoulder and said:

Your phone is ringing!

I responded briskly:

That's not my ring tone.

To prove my point I pulled my mobile phone out of my bag.

I wanted to stick it under her nose and shout:


The problem was it was actually ringing.

I turned bright red and answered it.

Yip my daughter's thought it was fun to change my ring tone without consulting me.

After that for years I never actually would know what my phones ringtone would be and I learned that when I heard any strange noise I had to dig my phone out of my bag and check it.

Then came the internet and when we decided to get ADSL we for the first time in years had a land line phone.

I asked my youngest Jess to phone her Granny.

She picked up the phone dialled the number and asked:

Where is the call button?


  1. I can remember all of this Vivian including the old party line phones my grandparents had. I have to admit I enjoyed listening in on the conversations. I still do it, listen in to conversations in public places. Sometimes I don't want to, but how can you help it. People talk so loud on their mobiles. Great story..I enjoyed going back in time, reliving the old ways! :)

  2. That's not listening in Steph it is research for your next stories. ;-)