I was chatting with my friend this morning while waiting for Al to wake up. The conversation came upon the topic of party lines. Some of you may ask, what is a party line? Others may very well remember the term too well.
For me I can remember when I wanted to use the phone I may have to wait my turn. I honestly believe this is where I learned to hate busy signals and the word, impatient. The way it worked was; when you signed up for telephone service you had a choice of paying a higher rate and receiving a private line, or you could do what so many did, share a party line of four, in order to keep the rates down.
You go to make a phone call. Maybe you just wanted to call and chat with your friend. Maybe it was important, you needed to call your doctor. You pick up the phone receiver and instead of pushing redial or entering the numbers, you listened without speaking.
Yes, you had to listen first. Too many times one of the four parties on your line was a gabber. By this I mean they were not speaking for any other reason than to just chat. You were to quietly place the receiver down on its cradle and go back a few minutes later to see if the line was free.
If the line was still busy you repeated your prior steps. If the jabber-box didn’t hang up and your phone call was of utter importance, you could dial zero and get a live phone operator. You could explain your situation and he/she would listen politely and in that kind voice, would get on your line and let the other party talking know that the line needed to be freed immediately for a very important call.
I sure miss the days where there were live operators to talk to . You know, it sort of made a difference in your day. You could find out what area they were from, ask them about how their weather was that day.
Today I have spent up to twenty minutes or more being transferred from one automated area to the next. Many times I will end up back where I was in the beginning and have to star over or worse yet, hang up the phone and dial back the same number.
Back in those days I did use the operator once in a while as I needed to get through to my own call. But then there were other times that I just turned in to a crabby old woman. I would listen just long enough to hear the other party say, ” Is there someone listening in on my conversation?” I would then quietly place the phone down on its cradle and wait.
Other times I would answer with a yes. I am trying to get through but I could expect to hear well missy, you have to wait your turn. I am on the phone now. Oh this used to burn me up. No wonder I got gray hairs earlier than the normal time.
I also remember being the proud owner of the new six-foot plus phone cords. Easy to use. Each end plugged into the two pieces of phone. This enabled you to take your land line phone with you to several rooms. But I laugh as I remember that as the new cords wore down, they twisted.
Sometimes I spent several minutes untwisting the mass of curls in order to use the phone. The phones were heavy. They had big plastic phone rings that you inserted your finger in on the appropriate number and then held it in place until the number touched the silver piece letting you know you had done it correctly.
Now today I am not sure if there are party lines still. I know I don’t have to click on that big dial. I don’t have to listen to see if anyone else is talking first. I never slam the phone down in the cradle.
No, today I have to worry more about cell calls being dropped. Worry about if going over alloted minutes has been happening. Losing or breaking phones, carrying insurance, having my own personality being as my phone cover. What color and size of cell phone do I want to carry. What am I willing to pay for in order to have the most conveniences.
The world of technology has certainly changed. We never miss a call anymore. We don’t have answering machines. We have voice mail. We even get to pick our own ring tones. Do any of you miss the good old days of live operators and party lines?