All hail the mighty landline

July 26, 2014 • Posted in Flo, questions kids ask, Uncategorized by
Thanks to good old fashioned wires, I can hear Floey loud and clear.

Thanks to good old fashioned wires, I can hear Floey loud and clear.

Anyone out there still have a land line? We do. We still use an answering machine, too. I came home from memoir class and pressed the button on that good ol’ answering machine the other day and was tickled to hear my eight-year-old great niece’s voice ringing out from a tiny speaker. I’ve written about little Floey here on the Safe & Sound blog many times before — AnnMarie Florence Czerwinski is the only offspring in our entire family to be blessed with my mom’s beautiful name. I call her Floey for short.

Anyways, Floey sounded excited on the answering machine, and she wanted me to call her back right away. “I have awesome news!” Beep! Another message. Floey again. “Oh, and when you call back, use this number.” I had to rewind the message a few times to get the number right, and hearing Floey’s voice over and over again, I couldn’t help but notice how loud and clear it sounded. A clue to the awesome news, I thought. maybe they got their landline back.

Like so many other friends and relatives, Floey’s family got rid of their landline years ago to save money. Mike and I talked about getting rid of ours, too, but Floey’s great-grandma Flo had a hard time understanding people who called from cell phones, and, to be honest, so do I. The quality of a conversation is sooooooo much better on a landline than a cell phone, and for obvious reasons, sound is very important to me. Others seem resigned to cell phone’s, but I’ve gotta wonder: if cell phones were the only thing humans could use to make calls, and word got out that some tech guru had come up with something called a landline, would the inventor make millions?

The last time Floey stayed overnight with me, she seemed pretty excited when I gave her permission to use our landline to call home, but after she picked up the reciever, she was dumbfounded. “Do I just push the buttons?”

Floey and her family just moved into a new house, and I figured their move might have triggered the decision to go back to a landline. Turns out there was more to it than that. After I returned Floey’s phone call, my niece Janet (Floey’s mom) called me back to say thanks. “It gave her a chance to practice on the house phone,” she said. . “with everyone using cell phones, it’s like little kids are not learning this anymore.”

Janet said her concern over her kids ability to use a regular phone started after she’d told Floey’s five-year-old brother Raymond one morning that she was going to the basement to do laundry. “About 5 minutes later, he was running through the house, screaming out windows, crying, ‘MOM! WHERE ARE YOU?’” She ran upstairs to comfort Ray, and the experience led her to go through some “what would you do?” scenarios with him. “I tried to show him how to use the cell,” she said. Raymond couldn’t figure out how to use it. “It was charged, but it had been sitting there a while so he had to wait for it to come alive, then plug in the password, then dial 911, and hit enter.”

Even when Janet helped him through the steps, Raymond couldn’t tell if the call went through, and whether it was actually dialing. They decided to invest in a landline again. That’s one reason I’d never thought of for keeping a landline, and now I wonder: do other grandparents and parents go out of their way to teach kids how to use landline phones?

Here's the clip with Floey's personal bests.

Here’s the clip with Floey’s personal bests.

I am one of the few people who will know Floey’s landline number, and when I told Floey how special that makes me feel, how excited I was about her awesome news, how cool it was that she has a landline like mine now, how nice it is to hear her voice so clearly on my phone, she sighed an exasperated sigh. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I heard her eyes rolling. Floey’s awesome news had absolutely nothing to do with the landline. “We had a swim meet, and I got three personal bests,” she exclaimed. “My picture is in the newspaper!” She proceeded to describe herself doing the backstroke in the photo, then she read the caption, and then she read the story. And, thanks to the new landline, I could hear just how proud she is. Loud and clear.


Catherine Rategan On July 26, 2014 at 11:02 am

Agree completely, Beth. I love my landline and would never give it up! I do a lot of interviewing for my writing work, and I’m able to plug a headset into my landline. That leaves my hands free to take down the conversation on my computer. And yes, I too still use an answering machine. And yes again, the sound quality from a cell phone is decided inferior to the caller’s voice on a landline. You’re right, right, right!

bethfinke On July 26, 2014 at 11:45 pm

I haven’t done a lot of interviewing for stories lately, but whoa, don’t get me started on how disappointed I am to hear our local NPR affiliate, WBEZ, talk to people on their CELL PHONES rather than have them come into the studio for an interview –the sound quality is terrible! At the very least they might insist that the person they are interviewing find a landline to call in on…sigh. _____

Shelley On July 26, 2014 at 11:37 am

OMG just talking about this a few hours ago. We want to rid ourselves of this significant expense as well, especially since 90% of our incoming calls are intrusive. But cell phone delay and distortion frustrates us SOOO much and ends up making me not want to talk to people at all. Doug was so grateful to have the landline to talk to Flo. Interesting to hear of an example where someone went back to landline, and for a new and valid reason. Those Finkes, always coming around the back way with something awesome!

bethfinke On July 27, 2014 at 10:33 am

You’re not alone — I think poor sound quality on cell phones leaves a lot of people reluctant to call each other — much more reliance on texting and Facebook updates to relay information. Not all bad, really — people used to yell to each other on the phone in public places, and ever since texting got popular, the train and bus rides I take are much quieter!


Jennifer On July 26, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Yes! We still have a landline and answering machine. I agree, too, that the sound quality is so much better if both people are on a landline. And when the power was out for many hours a month ago, I knew once it came back on by when I called the house and the answering machine picked up again–another (infrequent) use for that combo. I never thought about it being more useful for kids in an emergency, but that’s just another reason to keep it.

bethfinke On July 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

Another use of landline that I hadn’t considered. Thanks, Jennifer L. Good to hear from you!


The Empty Pen On July 26, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I haven’t used a landline in so long, I can’t compare the sound quality. That said, I’m not sure I could ever go back to a landline. I like the flexibility of my cell phone and voice mail.

Congrats to Floey!

bethfinke On July 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

Oh, Empty Pen, you are such a youngster!


Janet On July 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm

The kids just loved being mentioned in the world famous blog, even Ray, who we read this too…”the screaming and crying boy is you.” “Yep, that’s ME!” Anyway, love this and all the other blogs….keep ’em coming! xoxo, Janet

bethfinke On July 27, 2014 at 10:35 am

Everybody loves Raymond.


Brad On July 26, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Hail the mighty landline indeed, Any long conversation with someone on their cellphone is so frustrating. I’m glad to still be in the past with my landline and answering machine. Both work just fine. Thanks, Beth.

bethfinke On July 27, 2014 at 10:36 am

Nice! Gee, maybe I’ll pick up the phone to call and thank you for the comment….


Marilee On July 27, 2014 at 10:00 am

Another great blog! We still have our landline and you have convinced me that it really is good to have in an emergency or just for that quality. I love that Floey was calling to share her AWESOME news about swimming and you went on and on about the landline. Congrats to Floey! Thanks for sharing that great news in your blog!

bethfinke On July 27, 2014 at 10:38 am

My pleasure — glad to share awesome news.


Nancy B On July 27, 2014 at 12:04 pm

one other thing about the landline…..911 knows exactly where you are when you call….so even if you can’t say anything (i.e. someone who is having a stroke or whatnot)…..they can come check it out. I hate paying that bill too but we have reluctantly held onto ours, mostly because if there was an emergency I doubt I’d know where my dang cell is!

bethfinke On July 27, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Wow — so many things I hadn’t thought of. And you are so right — think of all the times we walk around our houses trying to remember where we set our cell phone down last. Imagine trying to do that in an emergency….


Catherine Rategan On July 27, 2014 at 12:23 pm

If your landline phone has a different number from your cell phone, you can call your lost cell using your landline.

bethfinke On July 27, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Aha! Another benefit of having a landline — I’ve used it at home more than once so Mike could find his cell phone. Caviat: the cell phone has to have the ringer turned on for this to work. I don’t recommend using the landline to find a cell phone in an emergency, though…;)


Charmaine On July 27, 2014 at 7:24 pm

I loved this, Beth! I had to laugh though. I have both a landline and answering machine, yet I have never thought of myself as Wilma Flintstone–now I do, but that’s okay. I can live with that. My three-year old granddaughter can check the weather on my cell phone with no assistance, but I guess this was a good reminder that maybe I should be showing her how to use a landline!

bethfinke On July 28, 2014 at 9:34 am

Wilma Flintstone? She rocks!


Myrna Knepler On July 28, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I ‘be kept my landline too, and answering machine too. I know the messages I keep on there are the ones I want to or need to keep. Also I’ve been through so many changes in technogy over the years–just think of the ways of listening to music–that I want to hold on to this one

bethfinke On July 28, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Interesting to hear this from you, Myrna –you always struck me as one of the first writers in the memoir classes I lead to embrace technology, seems you had an iPad and iPhone before all the others. Oddly reassuring you still hold on to this “old-time” technology, too. _____

Barbara Gaither On July 28, 2014 at 1:36 pm

My best friend from childhood became very ill in the middle of the night a few years ago and her young boys did not know how to use her cell phone. She had gotten rid of her landline in an attempt to save money as well. The boys ventured out at 2:00am to walk a few miles to their dad’s house to get help for their mother. Their dad (her ex-husband) drove them back to their home only to find my dear friend unconscious in the floor. Thankfully after a lengthy hospitalization, she has completely recovered. But, as a result of this I would not get rid of my landline for several years and only after Scott was old enough to use a cell phone with ease. I do still miss the landline, but we have let ours go. Glad your niece still has one with young children in the house. I think it is truly a safety issue.

bethfinke On July 28, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Oh, Barbara, I can’t wait to tell my niece Janet this story (knowing, of course, that it turned out well in the end). Just confirms her feelings for reinstalling the landline.


Marjorie Freed On August 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

I adore the blog re Floey and you. It reminds me of my granddaughter so much especially because they are almost the same age and relate similarly to you, me and the world.

Also I love the way she understands you & your situation so well and clearly considers you a special friend…also the way Simona & I relate.

Xxx Marjorie

Sent from my iPhone


bethfinke On August 1, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Floey should be flattered, being compared to the lovely Simona. she (Floey, not Simona) and I are going to a minor league baseball game together this Sunday — no doubt after that, I’ll have more tales to tell!


Deborah Darsie On August 7, 2014 at 2:18 am

Some interesting experiences with cell vs. landlines.

My mom has MS and some cardiac issues but she is quite independent. When she was diagnosed with the cardiac stuff I took her out to the wireless store and we tested out all the phones until she could feel the buttons when she pressed them. Neuropathy and tremors are a bear!

Then we got help setting up the #5 (it is in the middle & has an orienting bump on it) as her emergency speed dial for 911.

She only needs a ‘feature phone’ and it gives my sister & I a little peace of mind that she has access to us, help and her medical contacts.

I love my cell phone only life, I can’t imagine getting a land-line for just telemarketers and political robocalls.

bethfinke On August 7, 2014 at 9:02 am

Thanks for this, Deborah — I will pass it on to others who have either written me or spoken to me personally on this issue, the information you’ve left here about the “feature phone” is exactly what a lot of them are looking for.


Susan Ohde On August 28, 2014 at 4:20 pm

The land line rules! No argument. Some of my relationships have suffered because all they have is a cell and I can’t really hear them that well, so we don’t phone talk. I once dropped my old Illinois Bell phone in the dishwater and pulled it right out and kept talking. They really made those things well!

bethfinke On August 28, 2014 at 11:16 pm

I know exactly what you mean. I am reluctant to call certain people , and it’s not b/c I don’t love them, it’s because they talk very fast and when they’re on a cell phone, I can’t understand a word they’re saying. Maybe this is why texting has replaced phoning?


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