Friday, August 11, 2006

Life of the Party...Line!

Does anyone else remember having a party line? Or were we just rural?

Looking back, party lines were so inconvenient, but at the time, I suppose we never thought anything of it as it was just how it was. But I do remember the serious inconvenience of being eleven and NEEDING to call Cristen and picking up the phone just to hear, not a dialtone, but two old ladies discussing vacuum cleaners. I suppose it could not have been very convenient for those old ladies to have to share a party line with a chatty eleven year old, but that hardly came to my mind.

I remember the odd times when someone on the party line would interrupt a conversation because of an emergency call needing to be made. I don't recall my ever having that problem, since I only had to dial 911 in my life and I'm pretty sure I got straight through without having to interrrupt someone's burnt carrot cake disaster story, but I do seem to recall my conversations being interrupted once or twice. Could it be because I'd been on the phone for four hours talking to Cristen, or Lane, or Joey about Lane?

(And it only got worse when Cristen's family got three-way calling installed. Now me, Cristen AND Kristy could all talk at once. And when others started getting three-way, we realised we could link up a call to an expotential number! I think our record was nine people together on the phone at once.)

With a party line, you could never be sure your conversation was completely private. More than once I'd pick up the phone, hear chatter instead of a dialtone and press 'mute' to listen in for a few minutes to see how close they were to ending their conversation about their nephews' new track lighting before hanging up. I also recall people listening in on my conversations. This always annoyed me because HELLOOOO this is an A B conversation so C your way out of it! This is private! Once, in an effort to get a nosey old woman off the phone, I dredged up the most controversial topic I could think of and asked Cristen, "So what do you think of gays in the military?" Click. Somehow it worked. The lady must've been pretty annoyed and uninterested in two eleven year olds' thoughts on politics. Heck, I didn't even know what 'gays in the military' meant, but I'd heard Dad talking about it and it sounded pretty intense.

I've never really understood how the party line thing worked. I used to try and think it through. We all clearly had different phone numbers, but we all shared the same phone line. How? And even now, thinking about it, how did that work? Did we share a phone bill? Did they divvy (sp?) up the charges by phone number? Did the party liners live in the same general vicinity? Did we share a power line? I can understand two different numbers being at the same address but not two different numbers sharing the same line. It's baffling. I'm gonna go google it.

It was such a liberating day the day we got our very own telephone line. I bet the old ladies felt exactly the same.

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