Do you remember the first time? Yeah, Jarvis Cocker might have been smoothly singin’ about his first ride but in not-so-modern Ireland, what sticks out for lots of us in lack-of-communication land was getting the phone in for the first time. In our house, it was round about 1981. Yes, nineteen eighty one, people. A combination of my parents moving from Dublin suburbia to a Kildare village in the mid-70s and having to go back on the waiting list meant that they were held at ransom by what was then P&T for several more years until some lackey bothered to lay a line and hey presto! We Had The Phone.
Of course, Having The Phone meant any number of things for Irish households. A plethora of new cultural diktats, ephemera and behaviours had to be adopted family-and country-wide as we all got connected. Identify with any of these …?
Naturally, the first phone we got was was one of those Telecom Éireann rotary beauties that took about 25 minutes to dial. The sort that Little Mo could lay Trevor out cold with as easily as she did the iron. A solid chunk of plastic, the phone came in black by default but also came in a cream version which wasn’t quite so practical – think of all the Mr Sheening of sticky fingerprints you’d need to be doing – and was only chosen if your mother was particularly stylish and wanted her communikay device to go with her sheepskin rug bought specially from the local butchers.
Ireland is an absolutely crazy place, really, isn’t it …
Location of Said Device
The hall. Always the bloody hall. Why? Oh, because apparently you didn’t get to pick. A man just walked into your house and put it there: Telecom Éireann phone engineers evidently went on a course on Phone Jack Placement and it was decreed, by a quango on a junket, that the family telephone should be placed in a location that would most inconvenience the majority of the household. A place where all conversations would have the maximum chance of being overheard due to volume of passing traffic; a location where the sitting room door was but a mere couple of feet away so any conversation about boys would be heard easily during a quiet lull in Glenroe causing much scarlet-faced embarrassment; a place where you couldn’t drag it to the stairs because the cord wasn’t long enough and it wouldn’t fit around said sitting room door either. Sighsies.
Placement of Device
The phone table. All Irish mothers lost their reason for one of these babies. It was infra dig, you understand. You had to have one. If we could invent some sort of must-have furniture for iPads we could get ourselves out of recession in six months. Ours was a hideously uncomfortable, restrictive dark wood affair upon which no comfort was possible, and upon which the cream telephone stood, in the hall. Accessorised with a sheepskin rug. From the butchers.
Answering the Phone
All mothers immediately adopted a phone accent, especially reserved for the taking of telephone calls. Even if their normal speaking voice was pure Ceee-av-van, suddenly the cream telephone would be answered with “HELLOOOO The McDermoshhh residawance, heawww may ai help yew?”
Once the phone was in – in the hall – your dad then became Phone Hitler. He policed that mother like nobody’s business. “Do you think it’s free!?” he’d roar, at conversations over 2.4 minutes in length. “Didn’t you see her all day at school!?” he’d shout in exasperation over your need to spend an hour each evening discussing Beverly Hills 90210 with your best friend. Particularly mean dads would put a lock on the device – we even heard tell of someone whose father installed a payphone. In the hall, of course. Mind, there were eight of them so maybe he felt they had to pay their way. Us? We blithely ignored him and made sure to be out when the bi-monthly bills arrived. The time my younger sister racked up the triple figures, pages-long one from all those calls to the Manchester United premium calls hotline? Well, that people – that is the stuff of family legend.
The Need for More
Now that the cream plastic rotary was installed in the hall and the novelty had worn off, we all began to hanker for an extension upstairs. Or maybe in the kitchen. God wouldn’t that be amazing. A cordless! Could you credit it! But there was one thing I really, really wanted: a burger phone. I dreamed of it, night and day. I knew my life wouldn’t be complete until I had a burger phone. As a ten year old I’d have traded my fancy paper collection for it, that’s how seriously I needed that flip-top fast food-inspired telecommunications device in my life. I never got it, but it possibly explains my deep love now for having to constantly upgrade my mobile to the latest, greatest model. And why I’m broke.
The campaign for the burger-shaped iPhone starts here.
(by Kirstie McDermott)