There are plenty of things that we used to do way back when that seem utterly ridiculous now. Times change, technology advances, attitudes evolve. That said, the concept of “buzzing” always struck me as incredibly odd.
I don’t know if other people did this or not, but growing up, our family had a system in place to alert the others if one of us died in a horrible car accident on the way home from a family get-together. Pretty specific concern, I know. But apparently, the fear of this eventuality ran deep in my family. Maybe it was a Jewish thing? A worry that, at any given moment, Hitler might come back and start rounding up Jews on the Southern State Parkway?
Regardless, after a day spent at my grandma’s apartment or my aunt’s house, as we’d leave, the refrain was always the same: “Buzz me when you get home!”
“Buzzing,” for the uninitiated, is the practice of calling someone, letting the phone ring once, and then hanging up.
We take it for granted that nowadays, we could just send a simple text instead, something like: MADE IT HOME OK. HITLER DIDN’T COME BACK 2 KILL US XOXO
But in those pre-cell phone days, we didn’t have that luxury, and thus the concept of “buzzing” was born. But even back then, I never followed the logic. Because often times, it wasn’t just one group heading home; my mom, sister, and I would drive back to the Five Towns, whicle my aunt and cousins would be Bayside-bound. Sure, one trip would invariably be shorter, but you never know how bad traffic can be. The group going the farther distance could make record time, while the people with a shorter trip could be tied up in a roadblock caused by some other famous anti-Semite from history returning to Earth. (I dunno, Antiochus maybe?)
So if only one party “buzzes” when two cars left, how do you know who’s alive, and who’s dead in a ditch? (This was also in the era before Caller ID and “Missed Calls” would let you know exactly who called and when. Dark times, indeed.)
Further complicating things is that sometimes, you wouldn’t be killed in a grizzly 26-car pileup, but you’d get home and simply forget to “buzz.” And you know what that leads to?
So it’s not surprising that the whole “buzzing” thing eventually collapsed. But it wasn’t because cell phones became commonplace or because people suddenly realized that Zombie Hitler’s Long Island Attack was fairly unlikely—it was because we just stopped hanging up after the first ring. Yes, we ultimately took the guesswork out of the system by allowing the family member on the other side to answer the phone, and telling them directly that we were all still alive, and that none of us had been enslaved by the Pharaoh. (Whew!)
In other words, “buzzing” became “calling.”
Which made far more sense anyway. This way, my mom could give my grandma a detailed recap of everything that happened during our totally uneventful drive home.
Except, of course, for that time when Haman came back to life and caused a huge traffic jam on the Cross Island Parkway.