I remember having a party line, just briefly, when we first moved into this house, in 1959. Mother and Daddy probably had a party line, at some earlier point, but it must have been when I was too short to be able to answer the phone that was in the phone niche.
When we moved into this house, construction was booming and the phone lines were being laid as quickly as they could be, but not fast enough. We had our same phone number that we used in the other house, and when people called our number, the phones (oh, yes, we had two phones!) both rang in our house and no one else’s. And I guess they would get a busy signal if someone else was on the party line. But, when we picked up our phone to call someone, there might be another person, a neighbor, talking on it. And we would have to wait a bit, then pick up the phone and try again, hoping that the line would be free for us. And, good manners dictated that you make your phone call and talk quickly, so that others along the street would also be able to use the phone in a reasonable amount of time. And good manners certainly forbade you from actually listening to a neighbor’s private conversation. (Ah, the manners of yesteryear.) I don’t think it took too many weeks for all the phones to have their own lines, but I do remember the party line.
After the party line era, you knew that, when the phone rang at your house, it was almost always for someone who lived in your house. There might be a wrong number on occasion, but total strangers were unlikely to dial you up (here’s what a dial used to look like). Unlike today.
We have a land line. Still. I’ll wait a moment while you compose your face from the expression of astonishment. And on that landline phone, we get maaaaany phone calls that aren’t really for us.
As this is an election year, we’re getting lots of political phone calls. I’m going to start making a list of the politicians that call us with recorded messages. I’m taking that list with me to the polls in November. I don’t plan to vote for those folks. The way things have been going up til now, I may not have to go to the polls at all, as everyone running for office might have dialed themselves out of the running, as far as I’m concerned.
We get phone calls about our PC computers. (We don’t have PC computers.) I’ve gotten a little testy with those guys, as in: “WHERE DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER?” Sometimes they hang up. I often ask to speak to their supervisor. Sometimes they hang up then. If I do get to a person who says they’re the supervisor, I sternly ask to be removed immediately and permanently from their list.
I’ve answered the ringing phone to a recorded voice. Could be a politician. Could be wanting me to buy something, donate something, or something else. Recorded messages have gotten sophisticated. When I say hello, a voice gives me some sort of information that includes a question. When I respond, the recording goes on and talks some more, then waits for another response. This also irritates me, as their responses don’t mesh with the things I say.
But, I’ve developed a new system for irritating phone calls. I answer the phone and say, “Hello.” If it’s not a real person that I know and like, I listen to what they say and, at the pause, say, in my most-recording-like voice, “Hello.” If it’s a real person, they often repeat what they said the first time. When they pause, I say, “Hello.” Sometimes they keep talking and pausing and I keep saying, “Hello.” Like a recording. Eventually they hang up. And I feel lots better than I used to.
A couple of weeks ago, I answered the phone and said “Hello” (the first time, waiting for a conversation), and there was what sounded like a recording. Whenever there was a pause, I said “Hello.” After three or four “Hellos,” the recorded voice said, in a voice that was a little miffed, “This is my business. It sounds like you do not want to answer questions. Goodbye.” And she was right, I did not want to participate in a pretend conversation.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6 (New International Version)
Okay, maybe my new system isn’t exactly full of grace. But it truly is better than yelling at phone solicitors. At least it seems so to me. Maybe I should pray harder about this. And possibly stop answering the phone altogether. So, if you need me, text me. Then I can text back; and maybe use a cute emoticon. And try to be patient and kind.