The thrill of answering the landline and not knowing who is calling . . . it wasn’t for me - Susan Morrison

The landline phone rang. I stared at it like a startled ostrich, because I couldn’t remember the last time it sprang to life.

By Susan Morrison
Friday, 5th August 2022, 7:00 am
The landline sparking into life is an unusual event
The landline sparking into life is an unusual event

Now, there were two possibilities. One, someone telling me I’ve been in an accident I don’t remember, but they generally pester me on my mobile phone.

Two, it's so serious they’re using the landline. I always assume it's more serious when it's the landline, probably because when I was young the telephone was no frivolity.

It demanded its own little table in the living room with a built-in seat. There was a shelf underneath for the phone book, which was roughly the size of a small family car, and a tiny drawer for the family address book, with all the contacts needed to raise the clan, summon the doctor or plan a wedding/funeral. It was a sort of telephonic shrine.

A phone call was a serious matter back then. You always answered the call in your telephone voice. You’d recite your phone number, like you were an extension of some vast office complex. Randomly chatting was unthinkable, mainly because the phone was in the living room. The whole family was listening in.

The calls were always for mum. On one occasion it was someone for my dad and the family were agog for hours.

I answered our ringing phone with a hesitant ‘hello?’ because I was unsure who was on the other end. That’s the other exciting thing about landline phones. Generally you don’t know who’s calling. I once answered a call in Liverpool and it was Chick Murray on the other end.

It wasn’t for me. The bloke on the other end wanted to speak to my husband, the newly retired Yorkshireman. The memories of all those years ago when the call was for my dad came flooding back.

It appears my husband has been applying for what we’d call ‘wee part-time jobs’. The man on the other end wanted to ask for some more details. He asked a few questions, and I can tell you all about them because I could hear him, being helpfully close to both phone and husband to listen in, ready to prompt him with suitable answers.

Of course, I am delighted that he’s exploring new opportunities. I mean, it’s been lovely having him around the house all day, every day. Why, I just love the way he pops up beside my desk to ask what I’d like for dinner. At about 9.30 in the morning. He’s been doing jobs about the house that have needed doing for a while, but I’m worried that the list is starting to run down.

There have been several such calls now, and a few emails as well. He’s been writing up his CV. There is talk of a website listing jobs.

Oh, he’s a determined man, and I’ve no doubt he’ll find something, but it's been a long time since he faced an interview panel. I fear he may have to up his career hunting technique for the 21st century. For one thing, he will insist on referring to HR as ‘personnel’.

He could start by giving them his mobile number. I swear there are kids out there who’ve never even seen a landline at home, far less a wee seat for it.