It may sound political, but it’s not. Far from it, in fact. Indulge me for a bit of Hunterdon County local color. Let’s say the year is 1960.
The subject is telephony. That’s right, the telephones that we all used 60 some years ago. That isn’t so many years, well within my own recollection, at least.
No, smart Alec. It wasn’t as though, when I was calling someone, I picked up the receiver and said, “Thelma, get me Harold.”
A few years had gone by since those days, but not really that many. Phones still had those circular dials . We were not yet a “push button society”. It was, in fact, still the era of the “party line”.
“What’s that?”, you younger ones might ask.
Well, a wire still made the singular connection between the phone that you were using in your house and the phones in 1,or 2, or 6 other nearby homes. All of the phones in those homes were on the same circuit. That made the set-up easier, the closer together the homes were, the better (for the phone company).
What did that mean? It was simple. If you and one other of the 6 happened to be using the phone simultaneously, you then heard their conversation as well.
Now, let’s attempt to fathom the unlikely incident when 6 Harolds were simultaneously attempting to call 6 different Thelmas . Remember, they were all on the same circuit. Can you begin to see the complications here ?
Another problem: Enter the love struck teenager. Vacuous lulls in their conversations were quizzical. Stone silence would persist on the line for untold lengths of time. They just couldn’t find the words or whatever the HELL they wanted to say. So they didn’t say anything. It was the proverbial game of chicken. All of this while a neighbor might well have been waiting to use the phone. Dad used to get pissed.
Lucky for us, over time phone service improved. Party lines faded to obscurity. Most of us are versed in the leaps and bounds of technology that have improved the way we communicate. Comparison to the old school is stark. Surely Thelma no longer has to get Harold !