Friday, June 7, 2013

Party Line Time

I don't know why everyone is getting all bent-outa-shape about the National Security Agency keeping a record of all phone calls made in this country.  Everyone is screaming bloody murder about loosing their right to privacy and the government has no right to do what they're doing.  

Well folks, just thank your lucky stars you didn't grow up in rural American back in the 1950's and 60's like I did.  Back then we had what was called a "Party Line" phone system.  Simply put, our phone and the several people living in our neighborhood shared the same copper wire that connected all the houses on our road.  Each person on the party line had their own number consisting of short and long "rings".  To talk to a neighbor you picked up the receiver on the old crank phone and cranked the sequence of rings for that neighbor.  The problem was "everyone" on the party line heard the ringing and if they wanted to hear what you and your neighbor were talking about they simple picked up their receiver and "listened in".  "Doris" was the little old lady that was on our party line that always listened in on calls.  She lived alone and had nothing to do all day except listen in on other people's conversations.  I remember many a time my mother yelling into the phone, "Doris, get off the line".  

Also, if you wanted to make a call outside your neighborhood party line, you had to "ring" one long long continuous ring which was heard  by the "operator" in our small town who had a "switchboard" usually located right in the home where she lived.  The operator heard you ringing the switchboard and she would plug a small cable into a hole in the switchboard which would connect her to you.  By the way, I never heard of a "he" switchboard operator.  Anyway, she would ask who you wanted to talk to and then plug a different small cable into a different hole in the switchboard and "ring up" the person you wanted.  Once she heard you and the other person talking she switched her headphones off so that you could have a private conversation.  Yea, right.  I heard my mother complain many a time about the phone conversation she had the night before being talked about all over town the next day.

One other inconvenience of the party line was that only one person at a time could talk.  If you wanted to make a call and someone else was on the line, you had to wait until they hung up before you could make a call.  If it happened to be an emergency you had to break into the conversation and tell the other two people to hang up.  One time my dad was real sick and my mother had to break in and tell a neighbor to hang up so she could call old Doc Higgins to come make a house call.

Speaking of old Doc Higgins.  If you ever went to his office for a visit his nurse Miss Daisy made sure everyone in town knew what ailed you by the end of the day.

So folks.  Suck it up.  Your personal privacy ends as soon as you have any form of communication with any other person.  You may wish that anything you say will be held in confidence, but in this digital age of cell phones and internet it ain't gonna happen.  And if you ain't got nothing to hide, what's the big deal?    

No comments: