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knocking a phone off the hook...does that happen anymore?

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I'm working on a scene in my MG where the protagonist lives in her grandparents' old house with her dad and gram.  She's waiting for a very important phone call.  I never specify the type of phone, but in my mind it is an old school phone with a cord.  The antagonist is over for dinner and "accidentally" knocks the phone off the hook.  The protag discovers this b/c she hears the busy signal.

Couple of questions:

1) Do you think kids ever see corded phones anymore?
2) Do you think kids have ever experienced having a phone be "knocked off the hook" and would get what that means?

I could make it a cordless phone, but getting that busy signal is usually a result of someone not hanging it up, not it being bumped off the charger.  I want it to be bumped off the hook b/c I feel like the antagonist could claim innocence in this situation as opposed to it being a cordless phone where that would likely be more intentional. (And it would be likely that my protag would have the phone with her outside.)

Thoughts?  Can I use a corded phone and the "knocked off the hook" scenario and have kids get it?

Thanks,
Kellie
#1 - September 30, 2012, 07:13 AM
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FWIW, my MIL still has a corded rotary-dial phone in her house. And my parents also have a corded phone in the basement of their house, which is the playroom for the grandkids, so, yes, my kids know all about them. But they might be aberrations? And, neither my 9yo or 6yo knew what "knocked off the hook" meant when I fed them the phrase, but when I explained it, they understood.

You could probably use it, if you're careful in the details. A lot of kids grow up with corded playphones (or even actual phones that have been donated for a school to use), so most would get it. I think. :eh2
#2 - September 30, 2012, 07:20 AM

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I think a fair number of people keep a corded land line in case of emergencies, like when the power goes out. My parents do, so there is one more set of real-life grandparents with a dial phone. If it works for your story, you could certainly explain the situation. It would actually be nice irony that the emergency phone stopped the call from going through.
#3 - September 30, 2012, 07:29 AM
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I agree, alot of people still have at least one corded phone for emergencies.

One other option with a cordless is that the phone is accidentally knocked off a table, etc. which causes it to unplug from the wall, then there is no signal, no phone ringing, nothing. I have had this experience with my cat! He is a bit of a troublemaker :)
#4 - September 30, 2012, 07:56 AM
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I think the question might be whether you want to put in the detailed description of the phone and how it works.  There's a picture of a rotary phone in one of the older picture books I use in my classroom and 95% percent of my students have no idea what it is or what you would use it for. Dial tones would also be unfamiliar.
#5 - September 30, 2012, 08:13 AM

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OK, as another example, when most of us were growing up, we had corded phones or cordless. But you still knew what an old phone looked like, where someone took off the the earpiece and spoke to the operator, "Baker 357 please." You probably knew what a party line was.

Today's kids might not get those references without a bit of setup, but I think that corded phones are to them what party lines were to us.

Then again, if it doesn't work, it could be a cordless, or even an internet phone. My cordless phone (which does have a dialtone) gets knocked off sometimes, and a few times, the router needs to be rebooted or whatever. Maybe somebody unplugged the router or dock or knocked it out when vacuuming or something.
#6 - September 30, 2012, 08:16 AM
« Last Edit: September 30, 2012, 08:22 AM by Kell »
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I have two corded phones, ha! Some of us just don't like the hassles associated with cordless (namely, batteries that die unexpectedly and the inability to find where you "left" the phone.)

I sincerely doubt many kids would get the rotary dial, though. I barely remember it.
#7 - September 30, 2012, 10:24 AM
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We have two corded phones, too (and one cordless, plus our cell phones). Yes, they could definitely be knocked off the hook.

If you think the meaning of this needs to be established, would it work for your story to have someone accidently knock the phone off the hook in the early going as foreshadowing? Then when the protag discovers the phone off the hook at a crucial moment, readers will already know what it means.

Having the phone go off the hook twice in a short time could be very plausible on some desk models. The first time, it could be a thrown toy or ball, say. The second time it'll be a human, of course. The first time could also be the result of a child hanging up the phone carelessly and not getting it quite in the cradle.
#8 - September 30, 2012, 11:50 AM
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I like mrh's suggestion. Do the explaining earlier and then the readers will understand when the important incident occurs.

FWIW, we have a hard-wired phone with a cord, too. We never use it, except when the power goes out, so we can call downtown and find out what's going on. I'm not sure how aware of it our grandchildren are even though it's on the kitchen wall.

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#9 - September 30, 2012, 01:10 PM

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Thanks for all the input everyone!  I definitely will explain it in a bit of detail in the opening chapter and maybe refer to her taking care not to knock it off the hook. 

Really glad to hear that it isn't unreasonable to have a house that still uses a corded phone.  (And makes me wonder if we should keep one handy for emergencies like you've all alluded to!)

Off to write the scene....

 :phone
#10 - September 30, 2012, 01:29 PM
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We have four land-line phones, because our cell phone reception is spotty at our house, and for reasons mentioned, such as power rgoing off, etc.

Since the character lives in the house, she woud probably be familiar with the problem of one of the phones being off the hook.

BTW, am I the only one having to scroll across to see the whole thread now that the menu is on the side of the page?
#11 - September 30, 2012, 01:43 PM

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Yup, so long as you explain it up front, I think it will work.

I have a funny scene in my pony book where the MC needs to use the phone for the first time at her dad's house, but can't figure out how to make the ancient rotary dial work.  :hahaha

Another option: if a cordless phone is dropped, the battery could pop out (or even dislodge). No calls getting through that way either.

Hope that helps!

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#12 - September 30, 2012, 01:49 PM
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BTW, am I the only one having to scroll across to see the whole thread now that the menu is on the side of the page?

Ann H, you can fix this by changing the default text size and/or changing your monitor resolution size. See this thread for help:
http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=64617.msg760233#new
#13 - September 30, 2012, 03:48 PM
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FWIW, my 12 year old saw a corded phone in a vintage junk shop and pretended to dial it--without first picking up the receiver.  I had to explain the whole "off the hook" thing.
#14 - September 30, 2012, 03:55 PM

Yep, we have 2 corded phones because I got tired of never being able to find a handset. ;) And my kids knock them over *all* the time!
#15 - September 30, 2012, 05:27 PM
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I think a lot of families with young children keep the landline for emergencies....

We've always had a plastic Fisher-Price rotary-dial, smiley-faced phone on wheels, so that's probably why my kiddos are familiar with the contraption too....
#16 - September 30, 2012, 05:33 PM

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Ann H, you can fix this by changing the default text size and/or changing your monitor resolution size. See this thread for help:
http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=64617.msg760233#new

It's not the text size, this happens even with the size set on smallest. It's the Main Menu that gets in the way. But I can scroll to see everything, so I'll just live with it. :)
#17 - September 30, 2012, 06:30 PM

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Cordless phones with aging batteries that fall off recharge cradles quickly become useless too.
#18 - September 30, 2012, 07:42 PM

Kellie, this happens at my house all the time. We have two corded phones and a couple of cordless ones too. Last week, one of the cordeds was off the hook for three whole days before I finally quit blaming AT&T and checked it.
#19 - September 30, 2012, 09:01 PM
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A lot of people over here still usethe very old style corded phones for their internet connection dial-up. And nearly everyone would "leave their phone off the hook". To the point of mobile use. I do it a lot.
#20 - October 01, 2012, 03:55 AM
« Last Edit: October 01, 2012, 06:35 AM by thunderingelephants »

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I think it will be unlikely that your protagonist could discovers the phone is off the hook because she hears something as she walks by. Phones do make that annoying sound when they're knocked off the hook, but not for longer than two or three minutes. Then they go silent.

#21 - October 01, 2012, 04:27 AM
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Mrs. Jones....you raise a good point...I need to figure out a few things like how long it takes for that noise to start up and how long it lasts.   (BTW...were you at the Ohio SCBWI conference???  I swear that I saw you in a session  and then I couldn't find you again!)

But so good to know that this still happens and I'm not completely way off in terms of what's possible.  Sometimes I'm afraid I'm stuck in the 80s in terms of my references.   :lol2

All this talk of corded phones makes me miss my peach Conair plastic phone that I got for my 14th birthday!   :)
#22 - October 01, 2012, 06:48 AM
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I was there! I thought I recognized you sitting behind me, but I couldn't get a good look at your name tag. I shouldn't have been so cautious, but I am not the most socially-forward person in the world!

Maybe your antagonist just switches a cordless phone to the "off" position? Or turns the ringer off? I think there are a bunch of scenarios that would work, unless the plot somehow revolves around an old-fashioned phone with a cord. But even they had switches to turn the ringer off, didn't they?

#23 - October 01, 2012, 06:56 AM
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My kids' school still uses corded phones in all the classrooms, but I'm not sure they'd understand the whole 'off the hook' idea.  I told them once upon a time about rotary dials, and they thought it was funny (like a joke) ;)
#24 - October 01, 2012, 07:31 AM
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I keep a corded line, and I do knock it off of the hook every now and then. But it is more likely that I forget to properly hang up a cordless phone... like I don't press the button hard enough... and that will also make the phone go dead! Still, you've raised a good question about whether or not kids will get it. You could have a cordless phone knocked off the charger... and broken. Maybe the batteries fall out of the back. And the protag could notice this when her foot kicks the phone on the floor... I think you can make what you want to happen work, even if you have to use other avenues
#25 - October 01, 2012, 10:21 AM
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I love the idea of writing about corded phones in books. It's like writing about a record player--a nostalgic, realistic detail.

I feel like a lot of kids have seen corded phones but your question reminded me of something that happened to my coworker this summer. She called her son at a sleep-away summer camp. Another camper answered, and when she asked to speak with her son, the camper said, "Well, I'm not sure how this is going to work because for some reason, this phone is attached to the wall!" Priceless!
#26 - October 01, 2012, 10:45 AM

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ChristineCA...that is hilarious.  Reminds me of when my kids see the rare phone booth at an airport and they ask "What's that?"
#27 - October 01, 2012, 11:08 AM
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KDuBay, I did some research. I took my corded phone off the hook and timed it. At :20, the dial tone stops, and you get some boops and beeps and an announcement that if you want to make a call, you should hang up and try again. At 1:04, I got the annoying beeping signal that it's off the hook. At 1:49, it stopped. From this point on, the phone is completely silent. Your MC won't be able to hear a dial tone or anything else. She'll have to find out that the phone is off the hook some other way.

If the antagonist wants to get away with this, I think she'll have to witness the phone being taken off the hook earlier in the story so that she knows what happens, and make sure she does her dirty deed when no one is around and she can be reasonably sure no one will show up for 2 minutes. Alternatively, she can take the receiver off the hook and muffle it with a pillow. That works.
#28 - October 02, 2012, 06:27 AM
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It happens in our home :)
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#29 - October 02, 2012, 09:01 AM
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