That other generation gap

This was the scene earlier this morning…

“Dad, I think something’s wrong with the phone. When I call Jake, it’s not going through.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s not ringing, I’m getting this weird noise”

“Well, why don’t you call from your cell phone? That’s how we figure out if the problem’s with our phone or theirs.”


“Umm, no, it’s still happening…”

“Okay, well then, it’s their phone not ours…”

“Yeah, see?”

“Wait, that’s what you’re hearing? That’s why you think the phone is broken?”


“Bud, that’s a busy signal.  You’ve never heard one of those before?”


“It just means somebody’s on the phone and they don’t have call waiting or they have it turned off.”

“Oh. Okay, so what do I do?”

My son is almost 9.

Wow. I had no idea he’d never heard a busy signal before, but I guess it makes sense. It makes me wonder how many other things he has no idea about.

He’s probably never heard the old-school modem dial-up sound. Never used a pay phone. Never spoken to a live person at directory assistance, if ever even used the service.

And this is a kid who’s far from sheltered: he’s tech savvy, driven a boat, skiied, flied in commercial and private planes, made a podcast, and has a diverse group of friends. I’ve even gone out of my way to expose him to a lot of retro and old-school things: when he was young and all the toy phones were fake cell phones and push button, I ebayed an rotary play phone – so I know he’s at least seen that. He’s simply never encountered this phenomenonwe call “a busy signal.”

I’m thinking I may need to try to expose him to some additional bits of Americana.

Contributed by: Scott Copperman


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