By Mordechai Schmutter


I don’t think most of my younger siblings have home phones.

Sure, most of them are still in the apartment phase. But for instance, I have a brother who just bought a home, but he doesn’t have a home phone. If we want to talk, he has a cellphone that’s always on him, his wife has a phone that’s always on her, and their one-year-old . . . is usually unreachable, actually. But we don’t generally need him in emergencies.

And they’re not alone. Approximately 50 percent of families in the U.S. don’t have home phones at this point, nebach.

So there’s a pretty good chance that you are wondering, “Should I get rid of my landline?” Or, for half of you, “Should I have gotten rid of my landline?”

My wife and I still have a landline. We use it to find our cellphones. How do you even find your cellphone if that’s all you have?

Well, I guess that’s why you get married.

This question is a lot like saying, “Everyone in the family has a car, so why do we need a house?”

Though it’s not. You’re not having a family get-together in your car. So maybe it’s more like the time I was wondering if it would be financially worth it to get a motorcycle instead of a second car. It costs less, uses less gas, and traffic is apparently never an issue. We all assume that bikers are scary people, but maybe they’re just financially sensible individuals who happen not to have to wear business suits on their commute. My point is, though, why have one group car that the whole family has to share? Why not get everyone motorcycles?

Sure, cellphones are more convenient. For example, one downside to home phones is that you can’t bring them with you wherever you go. Well, technically you can, but it’s not going to help you as much, except as a weapon.

On the other hand, cellphones have poorer sound quality, though that doesn’t seem to bother the people who exclusively use cellphones. They’re happy t**********ou while you’re ************ther word, and you have no idea what ******** are saying, but they don’t seem to notice, except oops, they have to go because their wife is ************, and their battery is about to–.

Which is one of the downsides of cellphones — that when you are home, you have to charge it, and it’s only in one place in the house, and if you want to use it, you’re tied to a wall. Like an old-timey phone.

Whereas when I’m home, which is almost always, I don’t have to have my phone on me, because I have cordless phones scattered all over the house in strategic locations, such as under the couch. That way, if I’m ever cleaning under the couch and the phone rings, I’m right there.

Also, speaking of convenience, if your cellphone doesn’t work, you have to take it to the store. Whereas with a home phone, they actually come to your house, which is awesome. They will come between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., on Tuesday.

“This Tuesday?”

“We don’t know. We just know it’ll be a Tuesday.”

I know this because every single time we call the phone company, they send someone over to fix our phone line. We did it four times this month! You can’t put a price on convenience like that.

Whenever we have problems with our line, we just call the phone company, and someone picks up and says, in a heavy Indian accent, “Hello, my name is Bob.” (There are a lot of people in India named Bob.) There are people from India in this country, too, but they all have Indian names.

But Bob is helpful, for someone who’s not going to come over and fix the line himself. For example, the other week he told my wife, “We’ll send someone to fix it, and then you won’t have no problems with your phone line.”

And my wife was like, “Listen Bob, we already don’t have no problems with our phone line. That’s why we’re calling.”

And he’s like, “What?”

So the guy came and worked on our line, and sure enough, as soon as he left, our phone wasn’t giving us no problems. In that it was giving us problems. So apparently, this is a thing their lawyers make them say in case they can’t fix the issue.

The issue, which my wife figured out but couldn’t prove because we can’t legally climb the telephone pole, was that even though the guys kept coming over and playing with the utility box on the street corner, the real problem was that some birds had built a nest on a little covered section of the telephone wire. We’re not phone experts, but we’re pretty sure that’s not great. Especially since, when it rained, the birds all huddled inside the nest, and the phones got worse.

But every time we called, they sent out a new guy, who started by doing exactly what the previous guy had done — checking the box. The guys also climbed up the pole, because that’s one of the main perks of the job, but every time they did that, everything looked fine, because the birds weren’t just going to hang out up there with him.

So that’s one benefit of cellphones. When you go to the store to get it fixed, you can make sure to always deal with the same guy. That way, you can say something like, “What we did last time didn’t work. Do you want to maybe check if there are birds living in there?”

But home phones have other benefits, such as that you have a phone number that you’re actually willing to give out. Sure, I could give out my cellphone number, but I don’t want everyone in the world to be able to reach me when I’m out. When I’m out is not a good time. I’m out.

I rarely give my cellphone number to anyone. Especially my students. My students sometimes ask me what their grades are, because if they’re not paying attention in writing class, chances are they’re not paying attention in math either, and I say, “I have them on my computer.” I keep the grades at home, because I don’t want to spend the entire class time haggling. Then I give them my home phone number. Then they ask, “What if you’re not home? What’s your cell?” And I say, “If I’m not home, I can’t look up your grades. You think that even though I don’t bring your grades to school with me, I bring them to the supermarket?”

I should, because that’s where I run into the parents.

But people who only have cellphones say that that this is why they like it — because they’re unlisted.

“I don’t want random people finding my number and calling me.”

Yeah, like your kids’ friends.

Also, just because we have a public phone number doesn’t mean we have to answer the phone if we don’t feel like it. Are you really safer because stalkers can’t look up your phone number? They can still look up your address. Shouldn’t you worry about that?

Maybe living in a car is the best idea.

And speaking of kids, my kids’ school forms specifically ask for a home phone number. They want to know that when they call you to pick up your kid in the middle of the day because he ran into a wall during recess, or during class time, that you can’t say, “Sorry, I’m at work. Can’t I just pick him up at dismissal in 15 minutes?”

They want to be able to say, “No, you’re home. We called your home phone.”

“Oh, I brought it with me. I have a mobile home.”

And anyway, it’s nice to be able to get on the phone with someone and have your wife pick up another extension, so you can not only both hear what the other party is saying, but hear what each other is saying in stereo.

And anyway, sometimes people don’t want to call a specific person in your house, they want to call your house in general.

“Hey, is anyone home right now? I don’t care who. I need to borrow a cup of sugar.”

“Why are you eating that much sugar?”

“OK, is your mommy home?”

Because if all we have are cellphones, there’s no such thing as having your kids screen calls for you. When I was growing up, that’s how we learned to take messages:

CALLER: “Hello, can I speak to your father?”

CHILD: “He’s having stomach problems.”

FATHER (in the background): “Don’t say that! Tell them I’m not available!”

And taking messages is an essential skill to teach your kids for when they enter the workforce.

“Sorry, my boss can’t come to the phone. He’s having stomach problems.”

So even though most of the people I know who don’t have home phones keep insisting that it’s a generational thing, I think it’s a stage-of-life thing. And they’ll get there. When they get to a point where they’re both out and they want to call the kids and they realize the kids don’t have a phone, then they’ll say, “You know what? We should get a separate cellphone just to keep at home!”

That’s definitely how they’ll phrase it.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to


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