Of Telephones And Teenagers

My teenage daughters share a special intimacy with the telephone, which chirps in affectionate salutation the moment one of them walks in the door. Before I can react my daughter will answer it, settling the handset into the phone-shaped crease which has been worn between her neck and shoulder, and commence a two-hour conversation with the person she sat next to on the school bus.

Reasonable people (meaning, fathers) might wonder what emergency issues can possibly arise between the bus stop and our front door. The answer, apparently, is none, since my daughter's side of the conversation sounds like this: "So, like, I'm like, you know, like, amazed, that, like, you know, he's like, so...I don't know, so, like, you know, like..." (There might be more, but at this point I become so exasperated I lose the capacity to retain blither.)

Convinced, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that I was missing lucrative business opportunities due to a 24-hour busy signal, I arranged for a second line to be installed in my home. This gives our family the capability it has always needed: conference calling.

"You can't tie up both lines! I need the phone!" I rage.
"My dad says we can't tie up both lines," my daughter dutifully reports.
"Get off the phone now!" I nearly shout.
"He says I have to hang up pretty soon," she interprets.
"NOW!" I bellow. I make violent, daughter-strangling gestures for emphasis. "I'm expecting an important telephone call!"
She rolls her eyes. "Fifteen minutes," she mouths at me.
"Get off the phone now or I will collect the clothes off of your bedroom floor and burn them all," I warn.

With a sigh drawn from the depths of teenage angst, she surrenders one of the lines, which rings instantly. I snatch it up with I-told-you-so enthusiasm.

It's for her.

The advent of cellular phones has only served to increase my aggravation. Yielding to the worry that our car might break down and leave her stranded somewhere, I purchased a cell phone for my oldest girl to use in emergencies. To me, "emergency" means "you're 52 seconds late for curfew; where are you?" To my daughter, it means, "Oh m'god, Heather like broke up with Derek AGAIN!" The cigarette lighter adapter allows for potentially indefinite conversations. I'm convinced an energy analysis would reveal that we spend more money on gasoline to keep the phone powered than we do to drive anywhere. My cellular company recently informed me that I've been elected their 1999 "Man of the Year."

For Christmas last year I was given an answering machine. My kids wore the thing out in three weeks. I switched to phone company voicemail and gained a new occupation: secretary to my children.

"Dad, these messages make no sense," my daughter complained. "The first one's like, Amanda called to say Heather and Derek are meeting after school. Then it's like, Heather's still mad about Alicia, then it says Derek was just using Alicia to get back at Heather for Matthew, then it says Heather and Derek are back together, and then it says she hates Derek!"
"No, it says that I hate Derek," I inform her. "You've turned me into a scriptwriter for Days of Our Lives." Then I advise her that because she left my car with so little fuel it gasped to a halt a thousand yards shy of the gas station, she may not use the telephone for the entire evening.
She gives me a "why don't you just shoot me it would be more merciful" expression. "You don't understand," she accuses with undeniable accuracy. "These are, like, the most important people in like my whole life."

I respond by sharing with her my interesting theory that everyone is born with a limited supply of the word "like," and that she is coming dangerously close to prematurely depleting her inventory. She displays her total fascination with my hypothesis by slamming and locking her bedroom door and, amazingly, dialing the telephone.

"I said no phone!" I shout at her.
"I'm calling my friends to tell them I can't talk on the phone!" she shrieks back at me.

Like, I give up.

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Submitted By: W. Bruce Cameron
Jun 30, 1999 12:56

This joke is rated: PG