Remember the old days, telephones in the house attached to the wall, answering machines that were plugged in with flashing lights for message notifications, long distance charges, no texting, you actually had to call someone and listen to their voice! You actually had to answer the phone to see who was calling! Our phone numbers were 7 digits and the first two were often referred to by words. Ours began with a 3-4 so it was called Diamond. Mattoon had a 2-3 prefix and theirs was called Adams. These numbers had alphabet letters on them. The number 2 had abc, the number 3 had def, the number 4 had ghi, etc. Therefore ours was 3,4 and that had a D and I so we had Diamond. Get it? Below is a photo of the rotary dial.
There were party lines. I think these were only for the people who lived in the country. We had 8 people on our party line. We had a different ring to let us know which call was for our home. There was a long ring, a short ring, two long rings, etc. You would listen in hopes it was your ring and there was a call for you! You would pick up the phone to call someone and hear other people talking and would have to hang up….unless….you were quiet and were not heard and could eavesdrop!
A friend and I were on one party line together and our other friend was on a different one. We were able to call the one and then have the other pick up and have our own three way calling! This was great fun! Of course, you could not talk for long as others may have wanted the phone. It was sort of an unspoken rule that if someone picked up the phone, you tried to make your call short and hang up. That was the courteous thing to do. We had some we called “the clickers”. They would repeatedly click in your ear until you hung up the phone. Sometimes it made you feel like never hanging up just to get back at them.
Party lines became a thing of the past and then we got call waiting! Back in the day….my niece and I were very close. She called frequently, but there was that long distance charge. Call waiting beeped in and no one could stand to wonder who might be on the other end, even though it meant putting you on hold and perhaps paying more in long distance fees. You see, there was no caller id or anything then. It happened, she had to put me on hold. She was gone for a long time and I was thinking I should hang up and let her call me back so that it would save her some money. We all know what happens when the one on hold hangs up!
Yep! She clicked over to tell me something and I was gone so she was, therefore, still connected with the other person! She said “Aunt Debbie, I am so sorry. I am hurrying but there is this stupid cable guy on the phone and he just won’t shut up no matter what I say! He just keeps going on and on and nothing I say is getting through to him. I am so sorry. I will have to call you back!” I guess there was a long pause and she says “Aunt Debbie?” She hears a quiet little hesitant voice saying, “uh…this IS the stupid cable guy!!!!” She, at this point, fell all over herself in apologies that will have absolutely no meaning. There will be no way out of this for her. Haha. When I got my return call from her it was such a delight. I have never laughed so hard. This has been a story that has brought great laughter and has resurfaced so often. I am sure all of you have a story like this to tell. It is a famous call waiting problem!
The answering machine — Remember that time you called someone and they didn’t answer and you hung up…or so you thought… and proceeded to talk terribly about them? Yep! The answering machine caught it all! That phone call you got back saying, “you know we heard everything you said and have it on our machine.” There is no hole big enough or deep enough to crawl into!!!!
The pranks –I had a nephew who always had great ideas with answering machines. He came to visit once and his friend was not home. Let’s say his friend’s name was Dave. He had all of us here call and ask for Mike. We all called in our different voices and left Mike a message. Lastly my nephew called Dave and said Hi, this is Mike, are there any messages for me? We had a great time with that one. Of course there are all of the old tricks like calling stores and asking if you had Dr. Pepper in a case, Mr. Clean in a drum or King Edward in a box. Then you would tell them to let him out and laugh like crazy. There were the tricks of calling people and saying that their cat is your garden and of course they would say that they did not have a cat. You would laugh and say that you did not have a garden! You would ask if their refrigerator was running and then tell them to go catch it!
First cell phone — My boss got a motorola bag phone. It was pretty awesome. We were all so impressed with this invention. We were out of town at a meeting and my boss asked if I would like to try the phone and call my mother. I was excited and knew she would like to hear when I would be home, anyway. They dialed the number and handed me the phone in a bag! I was yelling and yelling that I could barely hear her and she was yelling back. The boss says, “we can all hear her!!” Turns out I had the phone backward all of the time. I was talking and listening into the back side! Haha. It was really neat talking to my mom while riding in a car going down the road though! Impressive.
My boss often would call me from the road to get his messages, have me do things, etc. One time he called and was angry about something. I started telling him there was so much static, something must be wrong. Then I started saying his name over and over like I could not hear him and hung up the phone. He called back about 25 minutes later or so and told me it was a good try, but he knew I could hear him. Then he started saying oh no, oh no! Kids are throwing bricks off that overpass and almost hit me! I, without missing a beat, said, you mean they missed?? No pay for them! He then apologized. Ha. Ha.
All of this is in the past now that we have cell phones, but there is still fun to be had. Now it turns out that you can randomly text the wrong person. Sometimes this is not a good thing at all! I won’t go into the details of those texts! It actually happens to a friend of mine more than it does to me. It can be even worse when you pocket dial someone. They get to hear everything and anything you are saying!
There are so many solicitations now. I just answer and have fun with them. The ones from Microsoft are always good. They say they are calling about my windows. I cheerily tell them I have all new windows because my husband is a carpenter. I thank them for their call and sometimes I hang up after that. Other times I go ahead and listen to their frustration with me as I keep talking about my windows and go on to say I have new siding as well!
I like the ones that tell you to turn on your computer because they see that you have a virus. My husband may have heard it on a radio program or saw it on you tube or something, but he suggested I tell them the following. They say we are calling because we see issues with your computer. I ask them if they can see my computer and have access to it. They tell me they do. I proceed to tell them that my computer has been stolen and the police are working on it would they mind telling me just where it is and I ask for their phone number. They hang up somewhere along the way and never answer me. Amazing! Another good thing to do is to interrupt them and start asking them questions. I ask where they are from, do they have children, etc.
Wrong numbers are fun too. I have had some nice conversations with people who have called in error. No need to get angry with callers, have fun with it. My husband’s name is, of course, Wes. Every year this lady would call him and she was calling for a Wes. How unusual that was, because there are not many named Wes. She would call and say Happy Birthday, Wes. It was not his birthday. Wes being nice, went on to talk with her. She said it was her brother and it was his birthday. Every year she always called my Wes. My Wes would explain it to her and then they would have a nice conversation. This went on for years. She lived in California and he would ask her how the weather was because it was always in the winter. She has stopped calling but we often wonder about her.
I will end with a story that I was told that I did when I was about 3 years old. It seems I was a very shy little girl and hardly talked to anyone. They say that when company would come over I would hide behind a chair or the couch and would break out in a sweat. They had no idea why I was so shy. That is why mom found this story a little unusual that I am about to tell. My mother said she would hear me talking in another room every evening when she was fixing dinner. She said I would be laughing and having all sorts of conversation with myself. She decided one night to see what exactly I was doing because I was so happy. To her surprise, I was talking on the phone. At first she thought I was just playing and then she realized it seemed I was waiting for a response. She took the phone from me and said hello. A couple was listening together on the phone. Mom apologized for my call and said she was sorry I bothered them. To her amazement, the couple told her to please not stop me. I had been calling them every night at the same time and would talk and tell them stories. They said they loved my calls and waited for them every night. Mom was amazed at how I could call that same number over and over every night and even more stunned that I was talking so much. I always liked hearing that story when I was a child. I would smile and ask everyone, “See how smart I was?” When I heard the story, even I was impressed that I would call the same number every night at the same time! I was told that after she took the phone that night, I never called those people again. That sort of makes me sad. I wonder who they were?