How is it we remember our first telephone number, but can’t remember our spouse’s and/or children’s and/or best friend’s number now? We’ve come a long way, baby, in the telephone world.
284W was a party line. You could pick up the handset and hear your “other party” talking away. Proper etiquette was to not listen in. However, the early simple game called “Gossip” was a take off on hearing a phone conversation and repeating it in the next person’s ear. The last person spoke what he/she heard and everyone roared with laughter at how butchered the original message got by the last person in the circle.
My first phone with a seven-digit number was 222-0915 and remained with my parents for years beyond. I begged for a Princess phone as a teenager, but my spendthrift, hard-working father was not going to foot the bill for another phone in the house, let alone a Princess phone. So, all my phone conversations took place in the living room in the middle of the house where you couldn’t speak “sweet nothings” low enough to not be heard by the rest of the family.
Phones were always an expense as Ma Bell grew into a monopoly. For many years, the phones belonged to the Bell System and there was a monthly rental fee to use their phones. (Princess phones cost more!) Every physical move required a complicated returning of the phone(s) and acquiring new ones. Then in 1982, the monopoly that the Bell System had built was broken up into “Baby Bells.”
The first I heard of having to purchase a phone was a shock, especially on a pauper’s budget. But, with no choice, everyone acquiesced and starting buying phones. Years went by with that system. Then came a thing called Caller ID. Wow! Now we knew who was calling before answering. That seemed like a godsend to parents of teenagers. The “call and let me know where you are” command became hard to get around because the call home revealed the kid’s location. Gotcha! Of course, as with everything with teenagers, there was always a “work around.”
Soon after Caller ID, along came the first cell phones that were called “bricks” because they were bulky and heavy, but had some newfound advantages. One could notify the waiting party if they were going to be late. It gave an easy out for those who were notoriously late. The calls were expensive and service unreliable.
Fast forward. We now pay hundreds of dollars for cell phones that become outdated before they are even fired up. Everyone from Grandma to fifth-graders have their own phone. The hunch and stare at the little device has become ubiquitous. As landlines have commonly been disconnected, cell phones have become lifelines. (Just feel the panic when the cell phone is lost or won’t work for whatever reason – like being waterlogged.)
Here in the Methow, most everyone has become dependent on the cell phone especially during fire season. Residents in Mazama know where there is no cell service and that Verizon is the carrier most likely to have “bars.” Recently, though, something has happened to the reception and “Can you hear me now?” has come back.
I’ve been informed that service from Mazama Bible Church to the Weeman Bridge has become extremely inconsistent. Sometimes the little icon reads “1x,” sometimes “3g,” sometimes texts go through, sometimes phone rings. The rest of the time: crickets. Residents from Edelweiss, Kumm Road and Highway 20 have literally spent hours on hold trying to get through to the correct Verizon Tier 2 specialists. The Black Hole of “please hold” has left paying customers frustrated and angry.
Betsy Cassell-Thomas, who works from home at her business Intertwined Designs and relies on phone and internet services, created a thread on Methow Bulletin Board asking for others to call in, as Verizon has suggested that they need more people to call in about the problem in order to fix it (?). Many have called and gotten a similar runaround.
Betsy asks anyone with an idea, solution, comment or just thoughts to go to “Please Call Verizon” on the Bulletin Board and comment there. Verizon’s network was awarded best overall network performance and reliability for the 16th consecutive time this year by RootMetrics, the most rigorous and scientific network tester in the US. Help us out, Verizon!