Call Your Mom

When I do something bad-like ruin my appetite before dinner by eating cereal-I call my mother. “Hi, Mom. Just wanted to tell you that I spoiled my appetite with cereal. Ok. Talk to you later.”

There’s an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry does the exact same thing, so I’m not alone. Why do people do this? Are our mothers representative of our guilty conscious? Is telling on yourself a way of making sure you get back in line?

Actually, I think I call my mom so that she can reassure me everything is OK. I  want her to accept that I ate the cereal, so that I can accept it and move on. Unfortunately, she never does. I don’t think she would be a good mother if she did. So it’s important to hang up before you can experience any sort of judgment.

Besides, phone conversations with my mother are always a laborious process. I’m not saying we have a hard time talking, on the contrary. It’s just she hates cell phones. I do most of my conversing while driving, so she’s always on speaker. I put my turn signal on and she says, “What is that? Are you near some sort of large insect.”

“No, it’s my turn signal.”

“You’re driving?”



I think she’s a little hurt that I talk to her while multi-tasking, or she’s surprised that she didn’t suss the situation out earlier because of bad sound quality. Normally our conversations, especially if she‘s on a cell phone, go like this.

“There’s a muffled sound. Do you hear that?”


“It’s a really bad connection.”

“I can hear you.”

“There’s something wrong with this phone.”

“Should I call you back?”

Then she says, as if she’s at sea, “I’ll call you from the land line.” No cell phone has ever been up to her sound standards.

To get in touch with my mom, I call her cell first. It’s usually off because she forgot to charge it. Then I call the house, and if she doesn’t pick up there, I call my dad’s cell. He has been married to his cell phone since the late nineties. He can usually tell me where my mother is.

Sometimes he’ll say, “Oh, we heard you call mom’s cell.” This means no one could find it, even while it was ringing, so they just waited for me to make the phone rounds.

Partly because my mom has never adapted to the cell phone, she observes strict cell phone etiquette. When we get separated in a huge department store, I will call her. It always rings for a long time, and I can imagine her frantically searching around for the phone in her purse. She never learned to set the ringtone volume, so the loud ring is also probably embarrassing her while she looks for it. Finally she picks up.

I ask, “Where are you?”

She whispers, “I’m in the store.”

“I can’t hear you.”

“I know, but I’m in the store, so I should get off.”

“But where are you?”

“I’m going to go outside so we can talk.” She hasn’t resigned herself to speaking on the phone in public.

Terry Gross

Mom isn’t going to take this blog post well. I don’t blame her. No one wants to identify with being behind the times, but she’s with it in many different ways. She uses Facebook (albeit with my help) and thanks to Terry Gross on NPR, she knows pretty much everything in pop culture (excluding reality TV). She’s a college professor too, so her students keep her hip. I remember what a relief it was when I explained the term “emo” to her. It was sort of a pre-cursor to hipster, and it really helped her understand her students (she teaches art). I’ve tried to explain “hipster” and we both get confused.

What I’m trying to say here is that her lack of cell phone savvy is incredibly endearing. She puts up with her obvious hatred of the medium all for her daughter. Plus it reminds me that there was a time when land lines existed and people didn’t talk on the phone in department stores. These are the lessons the older generations are supposed to impart. At least that’s what they keep telling me.

1 Comment

  1. Hoff says:

    I’m sort of tempted to friend your mom now, mostly out of a somewhat shared understanding of your speaker phone cell etiquette…but I’m equally guilty, and besides, I’m not sure she could figure out how to accept my request.

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