IT’S a different world these days, isn’t it, when bills no longer plop through the letterbox, but drop soundlessly into your email inbox.
But in the same way that you’d put those envelopes to one side to open later, when you have more time, you ignore the inbox reminder.
If it looks on first glance roughly about the same as last month, do you need to look any closer?
The utility companies – those unavoidable gas, electric, phone, mobile, TV, credit card and water firms – are onto a winner aren’t they? We’re too distracted to check the bill, too busy to pay the bills individually, manually. We click the direct debit box and off our money goes into the ether.
But on one odd occasion between Christmas and New Year, the figure on the phone/TV/broadband company bill caught my eye: It was more than twice as much as usual.
All right, so we may have watched an ‘on demand’ film with the kids over the holiday, but we use pre-paid mobile minutes to call each other, so why is the home-phone part of the bill SEVENTY POUNDS rather than the usual six or seven? Have we been hacked? Has the phone company made a terrible mistake?
No, it was a much simpler, old-fashioned explanation: We have a teenager in the house.
My children find it hard to believe that we were teenagers once, when PC stood for Police Constable not personal computer, mail came through the letterbox and a mobile was a thing you hung above a baby’s cot.
But like today, being on the phone was one of the major ignition points for a family row. You were far more conspicuous of course, being stuck in the hallway or front room, tied into a conversation everyone in the house could hear because the one phone in the house had a cord that stretched about as far as your arm.
But I used that phone at any and every opportunity. I can even remember our phone number, back in 1982. It wasn’t hard: 203. Yep. Three digits to freedom from my family.
And I got into trouble for running up phone bills – although I can say with all certainty they weren’t anything like £70. Nonetheless, it would be me getting berated by Dad for being on the phone all the time.
And now, of course, I’m saying the same thing to my own offspring:
“Why are you on the phone, you just saw *insert name here* five minutes ago?”
“Who is ringing who? I thought you said you had no credit?”
“Why don’t you text? Or use Facebook? Or Messenger? Here, use my phone. . .” (OK, I made that last part up).
How on earth did our mostly-monosyllabic First Born manage to ring up seventy quid’s worth of calls IN A MONTH!
Yes, so I did tell him it was OK to use the home phone to call landlines at evenings or weekends as long as he hung up after 59 minutes, because it’s free to ring at that time if you don’t exceed an hour. But he ‘forgot’ the ‘landline’ part and has been ringing his girlfriend/mates ON THEIR MOBILES for up to 59 minutes at a time. (The itemised bill also showed he’d been calling at midnight, when he’s supposed to be tucked up in bed asleep, but that’s another issue).
Needless to say, we hit the roof, and he voluntarily coughed-up his £45 Christmas money to pay for his mistake. (Cruel, cruel parents). Landlines only from now on, and no midnight calls. Lesson painfully learned.
Don’t tell him, but we’re going to give him the money back in return for a series of tedious chores . . .
Happy New Year kids!