“Who Ever Heard of Such a Thing?”
My little family is well connected to each other. Besides our house phone (landline) My Beautiful Wife and I both have cell phones. Our three oldest children, who don’t live at home anymore, all have their own cell phones. And our next two oldest, who still live at home also have their own cell phones. One, two, three… yes that’s right, not counting our landline, my own little family carries around seven different phones.
And now Brittany, my oldest child who doesn’t have a cell phone has secured a job and steady income. The number one thing on her “Got to have list” is…. Orlando Bloom. Well, her dishwashing job won’t do much for that dream, but the next thing on her list is a cell phone. My Beautiful Wife, who is also a very nice mommy, has helped her go shopping online (the only real option in Delta) for her new phone. That will be EIGHT cell phones in just my own little family. Isn’t there a limit to how many can sign up on the family share plan?
I think back to the stories told by my own parents. When they married in 1950, they built a small house on the farm. It was next to Grandpa and Grandma’s home. My dad had graduated with a degree in Agriculture. He planned to bring new ideas to the family farm and help move it into the future. A few years later, my parents felt they needed a phone installed in their home, instead of having to go over to Grandpa’s house to make phone calls. At just the suggestion of it, Grandpa Haroldsen hit the roof.
“TWO PHONES ON THE SAME FARM? WHO EVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING?”
What would my Grandpa think of us now? Besides the constant work related phone calls I get, I use my cell phone while I’m out and about for just about everything. While running errands, it’s quite a handy tool…
“Honey, was that whipping cream or sour cream that you wanted? What kind of bread do you want? They don’t have that video in stock… this is what I’ve found so far…”
While in the big stores and malls, our cell phones work like walkie talkies…
“Where are you?”
“I’m over here in electronics.”
“Meet me up at checkout by the drinking fountains.”
I also use my cell phone to make frequent visits with my parents who live almost 400 miles away. My children, who are depending on me for transportation can find me anywhere to ask for a ride. So that frees me up to hang out at my Beautiful Wife’s work at night or just about anywhere else while waiting for the “I need a ride” call.
And that’s just how I use my basic, no frills phone. The other cell phones in our family are much fancier. They can do almost everything except put you to sleep at night. Oh, wait a minute. Brittany’s new phone is like an ipod. So it can sing you to sleep at night as well.
Last week a Canadian blogging friend, Carol, told of working as a telephone operator. Telephones have a rich history in Canada. In fact the telephone was conceived in Canada the by Brantford, Ontario resident Alexander Graham Bell. Before the start of World War 2, Canadians made more phone calls per capita then the citizens of any other country including the United States. Even the first long distance call ever made was placed in Canada.
So all this history got me thinking about the stories of when my mom was a telephone operator. It was back in the late 1940’s. She lived in Vancouver, B.C. and a friend told her that B.C. Telephone always had openings. So my mom went in and applied for the job and was hired.
First she had to go through three weeks of training. Before a new hire could be trusted to deal with the public, they had to learn what they could say to them. No conversations were allowed. The learned responses were phrases like, “Number Please? Thank-you.” One moment please.” These learned phrases were the only words allowed from an operator.
Also, the new operator had to learn how to physically make all the phone line connections. Every phone in the system had a number which would light up when the caller picked up their receiver. In a large city like Vancouver, that meant thousands of lighted numbers flashing at the operators. The new recruit needed to practice spotting the customer’s numbered light, asking for the number to be connected to with only the approved phrases, and then making the connection by plugging the two cords into the correct sockets. If the line being called was busy, the operator would know because she would touch the end of the plug to the socket before plugging it in all the way. If the line was busy she would hear a noise. The operator then had to manually ring the number being called. Since this was done manually by the operator, she had to remember to keep ringing until someone answered, even while fielding another call. When someone made a payphone call, the operator would ask the customer to put the correct change into the payphone. Then she listened and counted the “Dongs” as the coins went in. When the correct number of “dongs” came through her ear phone, the operator would then say to the pay phone customer, “Go ahead.”
This was back before any uniform numbering system was implemented, and B. C. Telephone numbers included a community or area name, followed by a four digit number and ending with an R for right or an L for left. My mom’s home phone number back then was Dexter2831R. There were hundreds of telephone operators who worked for B. C. Telephone alone. Vancouver alone had a dozen telephone offices and there were about 30 operators who worked each shift in each office.
Imagine all the work it would be to manually take and switch all the calls today. My family alone would require a dedicated operator.
In the only pre 911 call my mother ever received, a very panicked woman told her that there was a dead man in her basement. Of course my mom couldn’t actually talk to the lady, so she replied as trained, “One moment Please.” She then referred the call to her supervisor who could get the lady some help.
As the telephone has evolved, so has our culture because of it. For example, 100 years ago when phones weren’t common in every home, the suitor made formal visits to a young lady’s home. Under the scrutiny of her parents, the young couple sat in the parlor to do their visiting. Then along came the telephone. Now the parents could only hear her side of the conversation as the two young folks got to know each other. Innovation made phone cords long enough that they could stretch around and hide the caller in the closet. Then only the partyline of neighbors could eaves drop.
Now my children have camera phones with text messaging. They can communicate almost anywhere or anytime. Our dating culture and social interaction don’t even resemble what it was like in my youth. What would my ancestors think? If my Grandpa Haroldsen saw all of this, he would hit the roof as he snorts, “WHO EVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING?”