Part of me is sad children growing up today won't experience the same fear
I felt as a kid the first time I heard that one ghost story where the landline telephone
is used for terrorizing effect. You know the one: A mysterious and creepy caller
keeps ringing the baby sitter on the house phone asking if she's "checked the children."
Eventually, the baby sitter calls the police who trace the line only to deliver
the terrifying payoff: "It's coming from inside the house!"
I know, it doesn't really hold up, but that's because the mystery surrounding a
ringing telephone started to disappear with the advent of caller ID. The rise and
dominance of the smartphone almost makes us forget it was ever there. And with vast
numbers of families cashing in their landline for a family plan, a phone connected
to the wall with a wire will soon seem as outdated as dialing a number by spinning
a silver metal circle.
It is time to write the obituary for the landline. It was solid, it was trusty.
Calls weren't dropped. Young children could easily be taught how to dial for help.
It was a simple and solid design. It became part of our family. It's why a creepy
story about someone using it for sinister purposes seemed so chilling once upon
Nothing has really changed when it comes to placing a phone call, except for the
aesthetics. But to me, the landline's golden age was when it still resounded with
a sturdy, analog ring. Unlike its successor — the cordless phones of the '80s —
there was no battery, no shrill chirp. There was just the sound of a bell inside
a plastic case.
And while the iPhone has a decent impersonation of that classic ring, it's all synthetic
sheen. The real one had a weight, a vibration, an echo that announced a mystery:
Who's on the other end? There was only one way to ever find out.
No matter how convenient my smartphone is, no matter how cool it looks, my Samsung's
sedate, almost-apologetic vibrate function will never be able to compete with that.
// Jim Vickers
Frozen in Time
I may not remember my first purchase from the neighborhood ice cream truck, but
that sweet melody tempting and pulling me and my brother away from serious matters,
such as getting to the next level of Tetris or interrupting Barbie and Ken's umpteenth
walk down the aisle, is frozen in my brain to this day.
Hopping on our bikes or racing barefoot down the street (who had the time for shoes?)
with those stacks of quarters hot in our little hands were some of the best unexpected
moments of my youth. While I could never pinpoint when the ice cream man would show
up blaring "Turkey in the Straw" or "Pop Goes the Weasel," I know I was always glad
when he did, offering his vast array of cold refreshments to me, my brother and
And when it came to selecting just one of those prepackaged novelties from the colorful
display lacquered to the side of the truck, it was one of the hardest decisions
My brother, on the other hand, always knew what he wanted without hesitation: the
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle popsicle complete with bubble gum eyes. I wavered: Did
I want the unusual, yet super-fun Choco Taco? What about the ScrewBall with the
added surprise of two gumballs at the bottom of the plastic cone? Or was I feeling
patriotic? Then how about the red, white and blue Firecracker? Oh, the agony.
Things are different now. I can drive myself to the grocery store, and I have the
funds to buy unlimited Drumsticks whenever I want. I can even track the locations
of local ice cream trucks on Facebook and Twitter.
But there's nothing like the luxury and
impulsiveness of hearing the harmonies of the ice cream truck streaming through
your window on a hot summer day. The next time you hear it, don't fight it. Grab
some change and celebrate your childhood. // Kim Schneider
On A Roll
If you're not using toilet paper for its intended purpose, you're probably using
it to communicate, which is weird. What makes this all the stranger is the message
you're sending by toilet papering someone's house is entirely a matter of context.
You can use toilet paper to simply get back at someone, maybe the girl who agreed
to be your homecoming date and then told you two weeks later she was going with
someone else. Other times it's an on-the-whim prank fueled by souped-up youth and
a warm summer night.
Often, it's used as a symbol of affection, like when underclassmen launch a cottony
assault on the homes of their graduating seniors so everyone knows an athlete —
a senior athlete at that — lives at the home. It's the one time you can challenge
their superiority without the fear of any repercussions.
These are the sort of shenanigans that thrive among teens in the suburbs, and to
be truthful, toilet papering is as thrilling as it is silly.
If you've ever taken part in a late-night TP campaign, you still remember it: The
soft thud of rolls bouncing against houses, the rustle of the leaves as it sails
past tree branches. You know you're doing something you shouldn't, wide out in the
open of a neighborhood that has fallen into its nightly slumber — one that will
be packed with kids and dogs and people who will see your
handiwork by morning.
Especially in this anti-bullying age, toilet paper in your front-yard trees is two-ply
soft. (By the way, double rolls work best since it's going to last longer in that
30-foot maple.) It's a prank. No eggs, no foul.
Is it annoying, yes. But harmful, no. It signals to the rest of the neighborhood
that somebody lives here. Somebody worth raiding your bathroom of its most precious
commodity. Somebody worth piling seven kids into a Chevy Cavalier. Somebody you'll
risk a vandalism charge for — or at least the embarrassment of getting caught and
having to clean it up in broad daylight. // JV