Friday, 7 February 2014

It's 1979 Calling... Will You Accept the Charges?

It is the first anniversary of my ongoing relationship with the love of my life.  As we continue to grow, I discover new and exciting things each day.  What was once just an affair of convenience has become an extension of my very being.  I almost can't remember just how I got along before my Iphone 5.

The Original Phone from Derek's home
Back in the day, my phone was connected to the wall of my home.  At 314 Mill, when the telephone rang, no one knew who was calling.  There was often a mad dash to answer with the ever famous "I'll get it!!!".   If it was for me, someone screamed my name.  If someone was mad at me, they would tell the person that I was in the bathroom.  If it was a personal call, I would whisper and talk in code.  If it was a fight, I would sit silently on my end of the phone.  If someone else needed the phone there could be blood.  When someone called and the "desired" Wells was not at home, a message would be taken.  In a perfect world this was in the form of a note. It could however be relayed verbally, but more often than not, it was just forgotten.  It was a great source of tension, with 4 teenage girls.  Does anyone know if G#$%y called?  Anyone could call and if no one was home, no one would ever know that the call had been made.  People could say they called, even if they didn't and no one would be the wiser.  Conversely, if I called someone, to see if they were home, and then hung up, they would not know that it was me.  It was a wildly mysterious time, back in the day.

I was asked by my daughter, when she was at school, to proof-read an essay for her which discussed the changes in modes of communication (the transmission of ideas or events) over the course of time and the impact of these innovations.  Time stretched from cave drawings and smoke signals, to telegrams and letter writing.  Phones evolved from switchboard operators connecting party lines bringing everyone so much closer and making the world a smaller place.  Eventually most people had a telephone in their home.  This is where my story began.  In my lifetime I saw a relatively progressive change from a home with 1 rotary dial land line in the kitchen, to a second line, to a push button phone.  When away from home it was necessary to find a phone. It was important to always have a dime in case one needed to make a call. It was cheap"mad money".  Phone booths were not just for Superman.  They were however, disgusting.

The limitations of the landline became evident to me in my early married life.  At 1365 Rock Court, in the late 1980s. it was becoming apparent that a more portable form of communication might have its place.  As we were expecting our first baby, being able to reach in the Baby Daddy became vitally important.  Derek worked on construction sites at that time and , like every other responsible, new-to-be father, he strapped on a "beeper" and waited for the beep.  It was even a high tech pager, which VIBRATED when it rang, in case the construction equipment drowned out the closely anticipated beep.  We hoped so much to use it.  The plan was that when I called Derek's office, they would then page him on site.  He would then go somewhere to find a pay phone to call into his office to get a message with a location where he might then call me.  It was so smooth and efficient.  our daughter was 2, by the time he found us.
Outdoor Phone Booth - A challenge for Barbados Superman

Guess Who is Here?
In the 90"s, things were not all that different at 26 Elm Ave except that we had a few more phones floating around, some of which were becoming very high tech and did not require a cord.  Oh the freedom to fold laundry and chat at the same time.  By the mid 90's we had 3 kids who fought to answer the phone and  to talk regardless of their speaking ability.  Calls were the way of communicating births and deaths and any other life event.  There were calls to ask whereabouts and ETAs for dinner.  There were calls to arrange playtimes and babysitters. Calls were made for rain out games.   Long distance calls were made at certain "off-times".  Day time calls were very expensive.  Long-distance calls could also be made "collect", where there was a request to distance "accept the charges".  This confused a child or 2. There were long distance calls to grandparents.  There were calls to report that we had arrived to destinations safely with the "let it ring 2x and then hang up" frugal way of getting a message across without long distance charges. There were the ever-popular calls "A student in your household named ..... was absent on ..... for periods 1,2,3,4"  There was still an element of surprise to telephone calls in the 1990's.  Unless there was state of the art equipment, we still didn't know who was calling when the telephone rang and we still had the ever popular question:  Any messages?

Early in the new millenium,we started to get a glimpse of portable communication and what it might mean for our young family. The kids had grown up with tin cans and strings.  Ok, they had grown up with Fischer Price Walkie Talkies.  They were heard to utter "are you there Dad?  Can I read you?".  Then
Walkie Talkie's became more sophisticated.  High Tech Walkie Talkies showed us a glimpse of the ability to have constant contact. We had a pair of Walkie Talkies on a ski hill in Quebec.  Actually, every parent had a set and most were on the same frequency.  It became evident when a child jokingly reported "Mom, Dad, I broke my leg" and every parent started looking around at all the other terrified faces and that was the end of that.

Something better was yet to come.  Although it seemed that communication was becoming simpler and easier to maintain, were we ever truly ready for the exponential take-off that was yet to come?

                            Would 2014 even know how to Accept the Charges?

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