“Ma! I can’t talk right now. I’m broke! Send money! I’ll call you back soon!”
That was me, circa 1991, yelling into the phone hanging on the wall of my fraternity house. Behind me, my fraternity brothers were howling like a pack of hyenas. That was the tradition back then. When mothers called to check on their boys at college, it was pandemonium in the frat house.
I could hear my mom faintly, amid the ruckus, protesting. She rarely got me on the phone at college and she was reluctant to let me off the hook. But I had mastered the art of the frat-boy escape. The trick was to sound urgently studious. “No, Ma. Don’t try to call me, I’ll call you. Gotta go to class.”
I didn’t have a cell phone. No one did back in 1991. Like most of the students at the University of Kentucky, I had the Wildcat calling card. It cost fifty cents a minute to call home. Needless to say, my calls were brief and infrequent. Most of the time, I was just trying to siphon some money out of the parental wallet.
Times have changed, of course. These days, we ship our kids off to college with an arsenal of technology. Thanks to all those advances in tech, communication is cheap and easy now. But some things never change.
My son is in his fourth week as a college freshman. He has a functioning iPhone, he has a plan that allows unlimited texting, and, unless he has worn his fingers to a nub playing beer pong, he has the capability to tap out a message to the folks back home. After all, we’re the ones funding this venture.
So far, we haven’t gotten anything more than one or two perfunctory calls from the kid. Zip, nada, nothing. Here’s the long version of my last conversation with him: “Dad, I don’t get cell service in my dorm. I’ll call you. Gotta go to class.”
I recognize that brush-off. After all, I perfected the technique almost thirty years ago. Just like me and my frat brothers, my son is relishing his newfound independence. At least I know I’ll be hearing from him somewhat regularly – when he runs short of money.