Honey, you gave birth LONG before Verizon did

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Labor Day, 1990. You are driving back from visiting your parents, who live two states away.  Your four-year-old daughter is strapped into her car seat in the back, and you are both singing along merrily to Raffi, or some such, when your accelerator gives out–suddenly a mere flap of a thing.  You  manage to turn on your emergency flashers, glance into the rearview mirror, and then guide your car over to the shoulder, braking gently.

“Mama?” your daughter asks from behind, holding her doll.

“It’ll be okay.  The car’s broken but we’ll get help.”  You crack your window in order to fly a piece of kleenex like a tiny flag and then open the other windows for air.

It is ninety-eight degrees, you are a month pregnant, and you are sitting in a broken car with a four-year old on the shoulder of a major interstate.

And…there is no such thing as a cell phone.

Nothin’ else to do, but to keep singing Raffi.  And the peanut butter song.  And the Mr. Rogers song.  And all of your Sesame Street favorites.  For safety’s sake you both stay buckled in, although soon her blonde bangs are sticking to her forehead.  There is no such thing as bottled water, so you hand her a juice box.  Luckily you’ve just had lunch and do not need to use the big girl’s room.  You are not in maternity gear yet, but you feel a little queasy from the gas fumes from other vehicles whizzing by.

Do you want someone to stop…or not? The phrase, ‘sittin’ ducks,’ comes to mind. What if it’s some drifter, or ne’er do well?  Some escapee from a Eudora Welty book?

Finally–thank heavens that it’s a holiday–and a state trooper storms by to chase a speeder, as you were starting to segue into “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  He passes you, turns around in the grassy median, and parks in front of you.  He is the quintessential trooper–sunglasses, dunlop over his belt, tight hat, buzzcut.  You have never been so happy to see anyone in all your life.

You explain the situation.

“So your pedal done give out,” he scratches his jaw.  “Mind openin’ the hood?  I’ll take a look at the engine.”

You pull the handle and he rachets up the Mommy Volvo hood for a look-see.  You hear him mutter, “Damn foreign cars.

He leans way over for a closer look, his holstered gun grazing some internal automotive organ or another.

“Mama,” your daughter gasps.  “Is he going to shoot the engine?”

“No, sweetie, he’s just checking it out.”  Although you are sorely tempted to shoot it yourself, or give it a swift kick.  How dare your old reliable Mommy car leave you stranded?

Slamming the hood, he crunches off to radio a tow truck, then give us a salute and zooms off.

Again, we are at the mercy of the strangers on the highway, until a kind ‘Mr. Tiddle’ chugs up and jerry-rigs your accelerator– with a MacGuyver-esque rubber band and paper clip– so that you can limp home at the absolute minimum speed.

You arrived home safely, and furthermore, you had never even heard of a cell phone, so it was what it was.

Once your second child was in elementary school, you bought a ‘car phone’ the size of a brick with a tight curly cord which plugged into the lighter, and which never quite reached your mouth, and sucked all of the juice out of the transmission, but still gave you an overall sense of security. You try not to think too hard about all of emergencies you could have avoided,  the carpool dramas you could have assuaged, much less quick frantic calls to babysitters, teachers, doctors and the like.

And–instead of only being armed with juice boxes and songs, to actually be able to foist an iPhone with a game app into a toddler’s palm when they are screaming in the middle of Sears?  Priceless.


About reelingintheyears.wordpress.com

A freelance writer who revels in the 1970's...and today. Thoughts on being a baby baby boomer and empty nester. Welcome to the Saturday evening porch.
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12 Responses to Honey, you gave birth LONG before Verizon did

  1. Hello RITY:

    I came via my friend Amiable Amiable at Big Happy Nothing…I’m enjoying your blog (have subscribed)!

    My oldest daughter was 4 in 1990 too. We had a similar experience when a Rent-a-Wreck car broke down on our way from the airport to my mother’s house two hours away in Southern Ontario…it was the summer of 1986, and our first trip “home” (we lived in New Brunswick) since our daughter was born (she was only two months old). Definitely no cellphones then…I really can’t remember how we got out of that situation…apparently, it was so traumatic, I’ve blocked it from my mind! I do remember another incident from that same trip: we had gone downtown to do some shopping. I handed my purse to my (now ex) husband to hold while I got the baby out of her carseat. That was when a hornet took an uncomfortable interest in him (he’s terrified), and he started madly swinging my purse at the hornet. I laughed and laughed! No one was stung, and the hornet lived to terrorize other hapless tourists!

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts!


    • Posky says:

      I was four in 1990 too! Just kidding, I was seven.

      I remember trying to use the car phone and thinking my dad must have made a lot more money than he did to afford one. Even during high school it seemed like everyone had to ask to borrow a phone or use the phone. However, by college, everyone had cell phones. I don’t think anyone under thirty even uses land-lines anymore.

      I have a rotary phone in my home that is connected and my friends think it is the funniest thing in the world. I once hosted a party where four people even got photographs of themselves using it.

      The world is a strange and quickly evolving place.

      • Exactly–I broke down and got my daughter a lil cheapie phone so she wouldn’t have to borrow everyone else’s. Man, did they come in handy when the cheerleading squad would get back from 3 counties over at 10 p.m. and I could dash over and pick her up. Back in the day, I would have been sitting in my car at the school for hours!
        Thanks, Posky! I like your cartoons!

  2. Welcome to the porch! Cyber-porches are cozy even when it’s freezing outside! I do the same thing with repressing–and it’s a good thing! Still howling with laughter over the whole purse swinging image.
    Thank you, Wendy! Love your blog and the recent lil childhood photo!

  3. Tori Nelson says:

    LOVE the title! My mom once got in a minor wreck with me (4), my sister (7), and a school friend in the van. I promptly peed my dance tights, and my sister and her friend screamed for minutes like their hair was on fire. I’ve thought back to the scenario a million times and thanked GOD for the dinky cell phone I never leave home without!
    Great post!

  4. The whole breaking down on the highway w/toddlers and babies thing – been there, done that too. (Read my Feb 1 post “Got an Angel on Your Shoulder?” if you missed it.) Did we live similar lives prior to our emptynestdom?? And isn’t it a miracle we survived what we did without cell phones? 🙂

  5. My oldest is 19, so no cwell phone when he was little either. I have sooo been there done that as well.

    Now, I couldnt imagine being anywhere with out a cell. Amazing, huh?

    Love your post – very thoughtful – and funny!

  6. leahsinger says:

    This is great! We had it SO rough (just kidding). People were probably more resourceful then than now because we didn’t have cell phones, bottled water and iPads.

    • Thanks, Leah! That’s a good point…were we more resourceful? Years ago when I lived in London we didn’t even have a landline–no phone of any sort. People stopped by to visit, and if we weren’t home they left written notes! It was charming, but then, I didn’t have children!

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