Operatoooor – Number Pleeyazz




That’s what she would say.  As I remember it from my years as a really short person, after you had cranked the handle and lifted up the receiver, you’d hear this female voice down at the telephone office say “Operatooor.  Number pleeyazz.”  (I think that’s how they were taught to say it.)  Then you’d give her the number you wanted to call – usually something complicated like “Hi Shirley - 671, please”  (or even “Doc Wykoff’s office, please”…) – and she’d move a plug to the right hole on the switchboard and do whatever she had to do to make Doc’s telephone ring.  That is unless she knew that Doc had gone out to the Strauss’s for a house call, then she’d let you know that she could connect you there or that if you wanted, you could just wait about a half an hour until he got back to the office and try again then.  Talk about personalized service…


Those were the days of the party line.  You’d have several – maybe even up to twenty or so – families sharing a single phone line.  You’d know when you got a call by the number and length of rings you heard coming from the telephone. Ours was two short rings if I remember correctly.  You’d always know who was getting a call on your party line by the number of rings.  And of course, if you wanted to be just a little snoopy, you could quietly pick up the receiver on your phone and “rubber”.  Yep, that’s what they called eavesdropping back then.  Sort of tacky but actually a lot of folks did it and nobody seemed to care all that much.  Except for old Mrs. Snyder, that is.  She could get downright snotty about it at times.


Gosh, we’ve come a long way, haven’t we?  Now we can call just about anybody we want anytime we want from anywhere we want.  Have an urge to talk with your neighbor’s second cousin Doris who is vacationing on Isolation Beach, Florida while you’re zipping down the freeway at a breakneck 7 mph?  Just do it.  Want to check the current status of your investment in Ear Hair Removal Cream stock while you’re canoeing leisurely down the North Fork River?  Just do it.  Want to… well, you get the idea. 


Yep, life is good.  We’re on top of everything.  We’re in constant touch with the rest of mankind 24/7.  There’s nothing we don’t know or can’t find out.  Anyone can reach us at anytime – anywhere.  We’re always available to answer questions, pass on helpful information, make appointments, change schedules, rearrange priorities, relay juicy gossip, report problems, broadcast dissatisfaction, and assimilate an encyclopedia’s worth of pseudo-critical input with the push of a button or two.  Twenty-four hours a day.  Seven days a week. Fifty-two weeks…


yeah  we’ve sure come a loooong way, haven’t we?  No, really.  This IS better, right?  I mean, if we weren’t able to have this immediate contact with the rest of the world, everything would crumble, right?  Our lives would disintegrate. Our family relationships would be shattered.  Our friendships would vanish.  Our businesses would vaporize.  We would self-destruct.  Right?


Seriously, now.  Can you even imagine what it would be like to have to step back into the dark ages of communication?  Those unnerving times – when you could just think or do what you needed to do without constant interruption?  When you could cruise down the highway without the nagging thought that just talking on the cell phone substantially increases your chances of being in an accident?  When you could call a business (during normal working hours of course) and immediately talk to a real person?  When you actually looked forward to getting a call because you knew for certain that it would be someone who you wanted to talk with?  When you could go for hours and hours out of contact with anyone other than the people who were the foundation of your life?  Your family and friends?  When life was quieter, more relaxed and more satisfying?


Now really, I know that there can be a bunch of advantages to our modern communications systems but sometimes I think that perhaps “progress” may not necessarily be as wonderful as we tend to believe it is.


Number pleeyazz



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