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It’s A Party Line

It’s A Party Line

Quite some time ago I was a young child living with my parents in a four room apartment, on the sixth floor of a tenement in East Harlem. I was perhaps four or five years of age, but I remember clearly the excitement on the day we got our first telephone.,

For a short period of time we had what was called a party line, meaning two, three, or four families shared one line even though the phones were in different homes. I don’t know why the phone company offered this service. Perhaps they didn’t have the equipment to issue each home their own line, or it was a cheaper for the consumer. In any case it was a source of many hours of entertainment, and not a few arguments among strangers.

In today’s world where everyone, even children, has one, two, three or more phones, or other means of communication, it’s difficult to imagine people having a party line.

You didn’t need to watch soap operas in order to learn about the dramatics of others.  All you needed to do was lift that receiver very quietly and listen in.  On occasion you might even offer advice on a difficulty being discussed, if you didn’t mind getting found out that you were eavesdropping.  There was an art to listening in.  Depending on who was sharing your line they might be thankful or really, really mad for your joining in their conversation and tell you off in spades.

Sometimes people were not considerate and would not monitor the time they were using the phone.  They would visit and gossip with friends for long periods and tie up the line so that others who shared could not receive or make a call.  I am reminded of one time when my mother was good and fed up.  She blasted the people using the phone because she could not make a call for several hours.  Naturally, this is an emergency, was an excuse you could only use once or perhaps twice.  Remember, the other party could always pick up and listen in.

Shortly after this episode we got a single line.  My mother didn’t let any grass grow under her feet.  We got that  private line as soon as it was made available.  Now she was able to call Her girlfriend, Mary Amondo, and gossip to her heart’s content.  What luxury!

While in some ways I would like to revisit a simpler life, going back to the days of a party line is not one of them.

Happy Mother’s Day In Heaven, Mom.  Call me in my dreams.  Its a private line.

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Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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“Robert, Ma Bell and Me” a work of fiction or is it?


Some years ago, the telephone company was affectionately refered to as Ma Bell.  This in an era without caller ID, screening, or *69,  The following event would not have occurred had the tools of privacy been in effect.  I hope you enjoy the tale and I would love your comments on it.  I am sharing for your pleasure and for the memories it evokes of my early writings, and………………

Robert, Ma Bell and Me

     I just couldn’t let it keep ringing.  Damning the caller every inch of the way, I dripped from the patio, through the carpeted den, into the kitchen.  Even as I lifted the receiver a puddle began to form at my feet

“Hello.”  I said pleasantly, because I always liked to be pleasant when answering the phone.

“Talk to me.” 

The voice was a frantic whisper.  I could barely make out the words.  My heart did a funny little rat-a-tat and I threw a dish towel under my feet.

“What did you say?  I can hardly hear you.”  Instinctively, my own speech became throaty.

“Please ……………………… talk to me.”

Common sense dawned and I realized this must be a put on.  The racquet my husband and kids were making in the pool drifted through the kitchen window.

“Who is this?  Tony, is it you?”  I thought how to make my neighbor, Tony, laugh and give himself away at the same time.  “OK Tony, I want your fabulous body.”

No laugh from the caller in response to my joking offer.

“I love you,”  he said softly.

My heart stopped beating altogether and I became a little frightened.

“Look, since you’re not going to tell me who you are I’m hanging up.”

“No, don’t hang up.  Please don’t.”

I clicked the receiver down and stared at the phone for perhaps a full minute.  He didn’t call back.  Suddenly, I realized I was cold.  It had to be twenty degrees cooler in the house than out in the sun. Almost an hour later I had forgotten about the caller, having dismissed him as a chance weirdo.

 

    It was getting harder and harder to make ends meet.  If I held off the electric bill I could pay the telephone company, VISA, and send the twenty-third payment to the dentist.  In the midst of my deliberation the intrusion sounded.

“Will somebody get that?

The ring trembled two more times before I slid my chair backward.  The house was unusually quiet.  I peeked into the living room and caught my husband asleep on the couch.  The phone rang once again.  I answered.

“City morgue.  You stab ’em, we slab ’em.  Hello.”  It was my poor attempt to lighten someone’s day.

“I love you.”

I recognized his husky whisper at once and knew I should hang up, but I didn’t.

“Who is this?”  I finally said.

“Will you talk to me?  I’ve missed you.”

My pulse began to pick up speed.  The caller sounded young.  Not boyish, but definitely not a mature man.

“Why do you want me to talk to you?”  I figured this was noncommittal.  I wasn’t actually talking to the telephone freak, I was asking questions.  Wasn’t that totally different?”

“Will you talk to me?  Are you busy?  Tell me what you’re doing.”  He pleaded.

I  relaxed and a warm feeling came over me.  This was getting interesting.  The high point of a dull day.

“I am kind of busy writing out checks.  Bill day always depresses me.  What are you doing?”

“I’m wishing I was there with you, kissing your soft full lips.  Would you like that?”

His words took me aback.  I don’t mind kidding around some, but he had to be put in his place.

“That depends on whose doing the kissing.  Look, do you know me?”  My voice had now become no-nonsense, and snappish.

“No, I don’t know you and you don’t know me.  It’s perfectly safe.  We could become lovers.”

I hung up.  This guy was a nutty as a Watergate salad.  I’m thirty-six years old, and have been married forever.  In all that time I’ve had a few offers, but always ran like a duck at the pillow factory when it got down to the real thing.

Not that I haven’t been tempted.  When they were building the house next door, oh that tractor driver?  He was prime male.  Direct too.  Came right out and asked if I cheated.

Alas, I’ve been content with my fantasies.  Attaching them to this good-looking male, or that, depending on my mood, or how strong they’ve come on.  But the lovemaking had always been in my own head.  The caller was suggesting something else, and I was running again.

I thought about him almost constantly for two days.

 

——-To Be Continued—–                                           all rights reserved

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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