This is the week we spend our annual family vacation at the beach. While I have enjoyed the ocean and sand, I took some time to complete an assignment. One of my stories had been accepted by Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine, a digital journal. It could be published as soon as this Friday if I could make changes suggested by the editorial staff. And I did.
While most of the edits added clarity and a deeper texture to my story, one area of discussion initially seemed mundane. However, on reflection, I came to realize how important it is to add the actual time period of a story. In this case the mid ’80s.
An intern who had the lead editing assignment probably was born into the cell phone era and never experienced a “desk” phone that, in most cases, was immovable from its position unless you added an additional cord.
For example, in order to move about room, you had to add a long extension cord from the outlet in the wall to the base phone, then hold the base with one hand and with the other clutch the receiver to one’s ear. This way you could walk away from the desk and check for a report in the near-by file cabinet. (I won’t go into the fact we had hard copies of all our documents).
If you chose to add a long line from the phone base to the receiver so you didn’t have to carry the phone base with you, you would have to scurry back to the base phone to hang up.
Plus that cord was coiled and most often became so tangled that you had to dangle the receiver until it spun and untangled. You had to plan ahead to add the cords. If, as the young intern suggested, you added an extension cord while talking to someone, the call would be disconnected.
This is probably more than you ever cared to know about old-fashioned phones. However, I learned a lesson that sometimes we know something so intimately that we assume all others share our experiences.
Check this site: Pulse Friday or next Friday to see if my story made it.
Oh the memories! You never got calls or texts from work either.
Yes when one left work, one left work. Those were the good ol’ days!
Those “old fashioned” phones really don’t seem that far away to me. I can date myself even more. I grew up on a farm in western Iowa. Back in the 50’s and early 60’s we had a “party line”—one phone line that was shared with a number of other neighboring farm families. You could pick up the phone receiver and listen to others’ conversations. Perhaps an early form of conference calling? Of course there were those who tended to monopolize the phone line and sometimes my mother had to politely ask to have a turn in making a call. Anyway…thanks for the memories!
I remember the party lines, too. You had to be careful what you said while talking to someone just in case one of the other people on the party line were listening in. I don’t think we ever knew who the other folks were who shared our line.
The telephone in our OR call room looked exactly like your illustration of the red desk phone. When it rang in the middle of the night I always jumped up as if shot from a cannon – trouble was on the way!
Thanks for sharing your memory even though it sounds like it isn’t the most pleasant one.