Party Line


Old School Communication Device

I had a party line growing up. Almost everyone in the community did, except for the cranky old miser at the edge of civilization. He didn’t want a phone. A party line sounds swaggy, like an invitation to bring your squad, and get your Sledge Hammer Shake on. It represents, like the party line is GOAT (greatest of all time).

In reality, the party line was a communication device. It was two steps above a string and two cups. They were shared phone lines, one household had two rings, and another had one ring. If you were really unfortunate, you had a third family on the party line, a short ring followed by two quick ones. We had the pleasure of the double ring for years.

In a household of three girls, we took turns getting on the phone to express our traumatic Judy Blume life moments to our friends. We had big issues then. We could hold the phone line hostage for hours. The following scenario was commonplace in our home.

It was finally my turn to use the phone. Cheryl had been on it forever. I needed to call Sarah, she had been home sick today. I had to fill her in on the days top event,  “You should have seen the look on Mrs. Fanchuck’s face!” I exclaimed, tingling with pleasure at spreading the news, “When she sat on that tack? Nelson is so—”

“Get the hell off the phone!” interrupts an angry voice. It was our neighbour, in full blown frustration. Needless to say, our parents received more than one complaint about their female children with verbal diarrhea.

The party line had zero privacy protection. It was easy peasy for nosy neighbors’ to listen in on phone conversations. All you had to do, was carefully lift the receiver, “—John came out of the closet.”

The nosy neighbour waits until both parties hang up. She calls her other neighbour from down the road, “Did you hear? Little John is gay. I heard it from his own Mother.”

In 1972 being gay was a big deal. The rumor had teeth.

The full sentence, which the neighbour missed by eavesdropping, went like this—“Thank you so much for the gift. Frank and I were able to watch Archie Bunker without interruption. John is positively addicted to sticking his little pieces in, and out of those holes. He just loves to play his new Lite-Brite Easy Push and Plug in the dark. It’s been hours since John came out of the closet.”

Party lines were the 1970’s version of reality TV.

Fast-forward to 2017 where we have fingerprint enabled phones. These days, I have unlimited private minutes to chat about each, and every, body part I may, or may not, have waxed today. I could even video the action in slow-mo. I could take pictures, zoom in, zoom out or even take a panoramic view of my overgrown— pansies. I like flowers.

Yesterday, I made a FaceTime call to my sister in Australia. We had a chat as she walked home from the beach. I viewed her lovely smile. I saw, and chatted with her beautiful girls, and nobody interrupted me with a “Get the hell off the phone!” If technology can eradicate the mess of wires in a house, and underground wires in the earth, while still enabling people to connect around the planet, almost in person. Technology should be able to figure out how to clean up the planet too.

Go— Go— Gadget technology.

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