Ok – Gonna age myself here. When I was growing up the phones we had were always connected to the wall. We didn’t have cordless and we were lucky if we had a long cord connected from the handset to the phone. We didn’t know any better so it was ok. Plus we always knew where the phone was – not like today. When the phone rings now I go looking all over the house for the cordless – God forbid I should answer the phone on the kitchen wall!
Another issue we had were these “Party lines.” We would pick up the phone to make a call and instead of hearing a dial tone we would hear a conversation going on. It was wild and a lot of times they were able to hear me as well.
With the old phone system there were no “Call waiting” features. So a lot of times when you went to call someone, the line could be busy or as they would say in an earlier time, “Engaged.” It always worked out that way when I went to make my first phone call to a girl that I liked. And I liked them all. They might have thought that I agreed that we were friends, but I can say without a doubt – I had a crush on all of them. So the phone call was not an easy one to make. The brother could answer and act like a jerk on the phone, the mother could answer and be too inquisitive or the father would answer and simply say, “she is busy.” But like I said most of the time the line was busy. So I would push down on the hang up buttons, and dial once again on a rotary dial. Busy signal, dial again, busy signal, dial again.
There was also the “forever ringing.” Most homes did not have answering machines, so you would let the phone ring, but not too many times – you didn’t want to come off as too desperate. Yes there were protocols involved. If you let it ring too long and then an angry person answered the phone, I would panic and i would hang up abruptly. Then you would have to wait a minimum of ten minutes before you called back. The worst situation was when that same person answered;
“Hello?” In an angry voice.
“Hello, can I please speak to Diana?” In a meek voice.
“Who is this?” Very strong and annoyed voice.
“Its Freddy Zalta, I am a friend of-“
“Did you call before and let it ring a thousand times only to hang up when I answered?” He was pretty heated. There was no caller I.D. Back then thank God – this dude was livid!
“No why would I let it ring more then 3 or 4 times? Its not an emergency. Ha.” The “ha” sealed it for me.
“Ok, well who is this again?”
“Freddy Zalta, I am-“
“Diane! Phone call!”
A soft voice in the background. “Coming.” After what seemed like an hour she picked up the phone.
“Hey Diana its Freddy.”
“Freddy, Freddy Zalta? I sit next to you in science? I sing a lot and talk to myself?”
Silence. Maybe ten seconds of silence that felt like ten years. Why had I called her? Could I just hang up? Could I just make believe the line was cut off? The sirens were going off inside of me.
“I, I just wanted to say hi.”
“My father is calling me to hang up, he said he is expecting a call from work. I’ll see you tomorrow at school.” She hung up.
Oh those old phones! It turns out she tried calling me back but the line was busy. The next day in the lunchroom she apologized to me for being so rude on the phone. We became good friends after that – we never did speak on the phone again, but we have stayed friends over the years.
These days with all the cell phones, smart phones and emails – the kids dont know how easy it is for them to get in touch. There is a level of instant gratification that is expected and when its not fulfilled – it can really blow their mind. They don’t know what it feels like to not have someones phone number, to try and call someone but never get through and then once you do – to feel tongue tied and lost for words. In a way – it takes a lot of the mystery out of the world but it does open the world to unlimited possibilities.
The lesson to be taught here? Always make the call. Take chances. You may feel stupid at times, but at least you are making the call.