Saturday 03 Dec 2016

You Have a Call
Jennifer Flaten

Brinnnng; brinnng, the shrill sound of the telephone reverberates throughout the house. The sound causes an almost Pavlovian response in the children. They immediately cease "playing" which to the untrained eye looks a lot like no holds barred wrestling and spring to their feet.

Thus begins the race to the phone. The ensuing footrace looks like something straight out of NASCAR with plenty of rubbing, bumping and crashing. Coming out of a sharp corner one child goes down in flames.

The remaining two children skid into the kitchen and dive onto the phone. After much poking, shoving and name calling one child comes up the winner.

By this point, if the caller hasn't already hung up in disgust, the phone is seconds from switching to voice mail. For the few calls that actually make it through well, they are in for a treat.

The winning child clutches the phone to her ear and begins to speak. It's as if a switch has flipped, no longer is she the breathless rather shrill child, but the professional phone answerer or so she likes to think.

The caller is treated to a very formal thank you for calling the Flaten residence, followed by a "how may I help you." Her telephone patter never fails to elicit giggles from the various callers. I tell you the kid has a future in the telephone answering business.

Now, before you wonder about the child labor laws in my state, I didn't coach the kids on the phone script. They came up with it themselves. After they relentlessly, did I mention relentlessly, hounded me about telephone answering privileges, I gave in, but the only way I would let them anywhere near the phone was if they promised to answer it in a proper fashion.

To ensure that my kids wouldn't end up telling their entire life story (thus far) to some poor telemarketer, I programmed special rings for the various family members on the phone. I also issued strict, under penalty of death, rules as to what rings they can answer.

It probably won't surprise you, because it didn't surprise me, but the boy doesn't care about talking on the phone as much as the girls do. The girls hang onto the phone talking to the caller until I pry it from their sticky little hands.

The girls crush on the phone has led me to question my phone use. I didn't think I used the phone that much, but after witnessing one kid in the checkout line with her pretend cell phone, which doubles as a calculator, talking into it nodding and saying "uh huh yeah, really" finally finishing up with, "I know we will talk about it later," I am beginning to wonder.

They also copy my habit of walking around the house while talking on the phone, in my case I use to keep small prying ears from hearing what I am talking about...in their case it is damn annoying!

The kids, more so the girls then the boy have started a rather relentless (did I mention relentless) campaign for a cell phone. They pop up at odd moments and ask me in that oh so subtle way they have for one-basically their technique involves wrapping their arm around my neck planting a big kiss on my check and asking "so mom when can we get a phone?"

My mom didn't raise no fools...my standard response is that they can have a phone when get a job and can pay for said phone. So the next thing they ask is so mom when can we have a job. Now they already know where they want to work, ice cream shop and coffee shop respectively, as far as they are concerned they could start today.

I have to explain to them that no one is going to hire an eight year old to sling ice cream or pour hot coffee no matter how well they answer the phone.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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