It’s Long Distance!


Photo courtesy Wikipedia

One of my favorite movie scenes is from a movie whose name I don’t even remember. It’s one of those ancient black and white movies that show on PBS in the middle of the night. It takes place in the early 1930’s, in a beautiful mansion. The matron of the house, dressed for dinner in a flowing dress, rushes to answer the phone. It’s an ornate Art Deco contraption. She answers with a most welcoming “Hello,” listens briefly, then, putting her hand over the mouthpiece, she turns and calls out to her husband in the next room “Honey, it’s long distance!” in a voice that expresses wonderful amazement at something marvelous and unusual.

When I was growing up telephones were different from today. They were clunky, generally quite ugly, and depended on qualified operators, and in later years, thick books of names and numbers. When we lived at the pink house I would occasionally call my best friend Mark. We didn’t push a few buttons on a tiny box from our pocket, I had to go to the northeast corner of the living room, pick up the handset and listen for the operator to say “Number please.” Mark’s number was 3024.

One more thing about that number, it was for a specific phone nailed to the wall at their house. I wasn’t calling Mark, I was calling his house. When someone from the house answered, they would go find Mark, if he was in the house.

Let’s compare that to today. I call Mark’s personal phone. He answers. Unlike in the past when I would ask for a person, Mark in this case, today only Mark will answer the phone, and I ask him where he is. Back in the day a phone had a specific place in the home, today it’s closely held to his person.

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