I was thinking about this on my way home from work last night after unsuccessfully trying to reach my mother on the phone. I called from my cell phone on my way home which I do every Wednesday night. My mother and I usually chat for the 45 minutes it takes me to commute and we catch up on each others lives. Last night there was no answer. So I called back in 5 minutes and my step dad answered explaining somewhat exasperatedly that he was on the other line long distance and couldn’t be interrupted. No problem said I, however he did seem somewhat off put by being interrupted to take the call waiting. This got me thinking.
I never consider whether or not a call I am making is long distance or local. I call prime time any time. Cell phone or home phone. Doesn’t matter.
Now my parents don’t seem to mind taking or making long distance calls but they are definitely aware that it’s costing them money. My step dad uses Skype.
My grandmother on the other hand would turn white as a sheet if she knew that I was calling long distance to speak with her.
Is this unique to my family or has the perception of long distance communication changed over the years?
Man. Totally different. Back in the day, a long distance call cost a fortune and it was a big, big deal. I can remember the whole family gathering around to get the long distance call from grandma in Tucson. You wouldn’t linger on that call. Just say hi, report the health and well-being of the family, and hang the hell up. In fact, I used to write to my grandmother a couple times a year. Calling was nearly unheard of.
It’s definitely different. Back in the early days of the telephone, a long distance call was a big deal (see Meet Me in St. Louis for a slightly exaggerated view of the effect).
Long distance was much more expensive than local back when I was growing up. Even when I was in college, you didn’t make long distance calls from someone else’s phone without asking them first.*
Once phone deregulation was established, long distance costs dropped rapidly (AT&T used long distance to subsidize cheap local rates – thus, local phone calls have gone up just as rapidly with dereg). By the 90s, out-of-state long distance was down to a few cents a minute.
Now, with cell phones, there’s no difference between long distance and local rates. If you have minutes, you can talk as long as you want.
People are also not fazed by a phone bill that would have given a heart attack in the 60s.
*I once needed to phone home long distance from someone’s house I was visiting. To be polite, I started to make a collect call. To be polite, they told me just to call collect. But if I had just picked up the phone and made the call, it would have been seen as rude.
I think it’s changed over the years. It’s also come down in price by quite a bit.
I clearly remember my mother being loath to call my older sister when she lived in California because of the cost. This would have been the early 80s. I also remember being really really upset that there was no local Compuserve number in my area, and if I’m remembering right, it cost $14/hour to call the closest one, long distance. Adjusted for inflation, that’s more like $28/hour now.
Last I looked, it was easy enough to get 5 cents/minute long distance, for a grand total of $3/hour. And lots of cell phones/phone plans don’t charge anything beyond a flat monthly fee for long distance.
I’m like the OP - I don’t even blink twice at calling long distance. Chances are that I would if it was $28/hour though.
hey, you must know my family!
The OP summarized the way my family reacted to phone calls–up till about 10 years ago, that is.
The reason is obvious–long distance calls used to be super-expensive.
Long distance was reserved for important news only–either very good, or very bad. But never for casual chats.
My grandmother never got used to the idea of calling relatives in another city. My parents learned to do it more casually, but it took a decade or more. And us kids , well, we’re the modern generation, ain’t we?
And don’t even mention international calls–In 1970, my family would call from the US to England–and it involved the following procedure:
call the international operator and request to be put on the waiting list for a vacant line to open up on the underwater cable.
Wait an hour or more, till she called you back with a vacancy and asked you what number you wanted to call.
tell her (always a woman!) your number, she dialed it for you, and waited till the recipient answered.
She explained to the recipient that they were about to receive an international call, and clicked some switches, and then told you that you were now free to talk to each other.
And it cost a fortune.
I remember in the late 60s, my friend’s older sister was on a call for an hour from Okinawa (her fiance was in the service on his way to Vietnam). All she did was cry for an hour. The bill was over $100, which was HUGE back then. I was stunned for weeks.
In the not to distant past, you actually had to place a long distance call through an actual, human operator, who would patch your call to another city, where an actual, human operator would call the other party and patch you in.
Not only was it expensive, but time-consuming. So up to the mid/late 1950s, a long distance call was A Very Big Deal.
Even after “direct dialing” came along, long distance was still expensive, and the number of circuits was sometimes limited. The Phone Company (there was only one, you know) tried to encourage calling in off-peak hours. But right up until the 1980s, a long distance call was still A Big Deal.
Is it just me, or do threads like this make others feel old?
We couldn’t even stay on local calls long. We were paying by the minute, not any flat rate. And frivolous calling outside your zone, even if not “long distance” (such as from Queens to Nassau County in NY) was also frowned upon.
Now, you want to be on the phone as much as possible, to get the most for your money.
Ditto - we used to talk to our grandparent’s (in Tucson too! Hey kalhoun, your grandma didn’t live at the Far Horizon’s East mobile home park did she?) MAYBE once a week. What my dad used to do was record us on the weekend’s having breakfast on a cassette player - we “talked” to them and told them all that was going on - then sent them the tape. Then they’d “talk” to us on it and mail it back - we exchanged a tape or so a week until my grandfather was killed…
My grandmother who had family in Sweden just never ever called them. They wrote letters.
During the vietnam war, my grandfather was stationed at Subic Bay in the Phillipines, and my grandmother and uncle were there with him. My mother was at college in the states (NJ), and the rest of the family was nearby her. Once a year, at Christmas, the entire family would gather at 2AM (because of the time difference) and call the base on, literally, the opposite side of the world, and pass the phone around. This was a Christmas gift to my grandparents, as the call cost more than $100 (as said, a lot of money back then)
Sorry for the double post. . . but my Mom and her family used to do this, too. What’s cool is, when moving a few years ago, my mother found the tapes (they were the old reel kind) and her machine. I came upstairs to find her sitting in the attic, crying, listening to her mom and dad’s voices for the first time in 20 years. It’s sort of two bad we don’t do that kind of thing any more.
Hell, I’d consider it bloody rude right now! It’s still probably costing the person money, even though the amount is much less. And, btw, the in-state but out of your free range calls are considerably more expensive than the interstate these days. I eliminated this issue by having no long distance or in-state-out-range service at all. Any long distancing, I do by cell phone, and I’d be perfectly delighted to allow guests to use mine if they didn’t have one of their own.
But here’s the weird thing, and the thing that shows how much early training sticks: I STILL feel a little antsy speaking long distance, even on weekends on my cell phone, when I have unlimited minutes and doesn’t cost me a cent. We were pretty darned poor when I was a kid, and long-distance was emergency (or *very * special occasion) stuff only. I’m 50, btw. Oddly, my parents, each in their 80s, have both adapted to the lower cost of long distance more readily than I. But then, I’m weird about utilities of any kind - for some reason I feel more need to watch my spending there than in any other area - and yet they make up only a very small percentage of my living expenses. Go figure.
My ex was at my house about 2 years ago and decided to call his friend in England for a chat. He stayed on for about 2 hours. When he got off I mentioned that I would like it if he would pay for the call, which was going to be about $50.
He was totally shocked that I didn’t have a plan that covered England (despite the fact that I don’t know anyone there…).
So yah, I think that just calling on someone else’s line is sort of rude. I would certainly ask before I did.
If he wasn’t an ex at the beginning of that visit, he certainly would have been by the end! What’s more, I don’t think he’d have been welcome in my house after that, not only because of the long distance, but where does he get off spending *two hours * of visiting with you yakking on the phone with someone else? That’s just rude.
Ah, Kunilou, you took (wrote) the words right out of my mouth. Was going to post about this, as very few of us are left who even knew there were such creatures as Operators. If you youngsters don’t believe this, look at the “0” on your phone, lo and behold, it was for the Operator.
We were far too poor to ever have a phone; my first one was after I got married at 24 and we bought our first house. However, when young, there were a few times we had to borrow a phone to make a long-distance call, and used the above procedure.
Then, when the operator called back when the call was connected, you usually had to shout at the top of your lungs to make yourself heard. When done, we’d call the operator back to get the charges for the call so we could reimburse the friends who let us use the phone.
When I was a kid, some of my friends had phones. To make a call, you turned a little crank on the side of the wooden phone box, and got “Central.” You say, “Hello, Central (sound familiar?)” and then give her the number or the name of the person you wanted and she’d connect you.
Then later came rotary phones that had a dial, which is why we still say “dial a number” although they’re all buttons now.
Now we can direct dial to Japan and it sounds as though my wife’s relatives were right next door. No, I don’t long for the “good old days!”
It doesn’t even have to have been all that long ago. My parents spent most of the 90’s living in Africa. For me to call them cost me $1/min. Even worse, it cost them about $10/min to call from Africa to the US. Phone calls were, as others have said, for special occasions and emergancies.