Saturday, September 26, 2009

Party Line...Number, Please?

Oh, dear Alexander Graham Bell, with Mr. Watson willingly in tow; what magic hath you conjured upon the hapless unsuspecting masses? Had you known the telephone would inure creation of "The Operator and Party Line"? Shall we thank you or be thankless to you for these by-products of your invention?! In truth and summary, kind sirs, many are the benefits to which we hold ourselves benefactor of your invention. Ever intangible and wondrous strange it be to engage the telephone handset, and discover "long awaited, instantaneous cracker jack surpise, hold to thine bosom friends" emerging as if occupants in the very room we ourselves occupy!


"Number Please?" spills forth from mouthpiece, in droning cacophony at yonder fevered pitch. Soothing to the ear, such sounds of this sweet soliloquy emerge, from a faceless operator audibly "clear as the school yard bell, yet ever so tinny".

Operator, my nameless friend, you are so rare and true as to count on one appendage, unfailingly dependable.  A friend you are, who will so endure, faithfully and honorably, awaiting your distant call of duty. Despite the unspeakable torrid dust that fans and fumes its exhaust through the mid-west Dust Bowl- the operator is there! Laughingly mocking and defiant in the face of virulent influenza raging as an infernal wildfire snakes through the dank and humid south- the operator is there! While she pantomimes a feign of annoyance, braving the most fierce of blizzards that rage through the eastern seaboard from nor'easter stirring a mighty brew- the operator is there!

Ceaslessly routing and re-routing, connecting and unconnecting RI-3601 to RI-9802 with earnest endeavor, the operator flawlessly performs as her day is painted before her.  Eyes fixed in focused tunnel vision,  the operator is as wary and vigiliant as the lioness stalking her prey; the panel of myriad plugs, the holy of holy! 

                                         Party Line

Money barren shall not be a clueless fellow who resists temptation to bet the last dollar lying fallow in worn thin, thread bare, clothing pocket.  A bet issued  forth through the thin mocking lips and mottled, yellowed tobacco stained teeth of a guffawing onlooker, more the wise, for a clueless fellow to defy, with proof , that no less than four neighbors be listening 'round the clock on the Party Line buffet!  Alas, no bet turned aside nor challenged could dispel, as myth, a truth.  The profoundly exacting truth of the neighbor to yonder left, the neighbor to stage right, revered great Aunt Eunice and more often than not, the dependable town barber (may he rest in hair raising peace) each were party to the party line! And doubly so their worth, each held willing captive in their own share of party line Tom Foolery and trickery!

Pray, do not allow this erring of frank and certainly justifiable behavior, a forgivable flaw in human nature, riddle or perplex! These friendly neighbors, good do left and finer do right, revered great Aunt Eunice and dependable town barber (may he rest in hair raising peace) be honest, stand-up right square and staunch fair-minded and most good citizens! These friendly neighbors, they merely fulfill a destiny of engagement,though avowedly discreet, to which they answer the call.

Time before times and then again more, the party line inhabitants could be identified, while in supine repose, as hosts to many the conversation!   By a peculiar and quickened inhalation of awed breathiness, brought on by age and lesions, rasping and curling heard through the party line, quickly and surreptitiously snuffed; party line hanger-oners made themselves known! Why, even before the Mister had barely pressed the gas pedal, on his homeward  bound '41 smooth gliding Plymouth Cruiser, talk had it from the party line that the Missus was in the "genteel way"; enceinte.

If listening yet closer and equally more vigilant, a distinct rustle of chocolate bon bons (rare but special treatise for the party line goers) unnested from tissue trappings, could be distinguishable proof, self-evident, one from another, on the party line circuit.

Barely and no sooner had the night folded her darkened silent doors upon the tired day, had a peevish night owl, still  wrapped in his silken red and white smoking jacket,  heard nee rather overheard, a most urgently vital message sent screaming to the local parish and sheriff through party line siren!  Hushed silent was the intruding listener, with mortification at the indecency that the Plimpton fellow on Jay Street, (the very same) waddled an unsteady gait  home again from another rousing night at the USO club, stinking drunk!  Rather, shall we say, smellingly inebriated and uttering such discourse as only could be known to his lowly self?!  Rumor had it that the Plimpton never could recover from the mortifying fact that his "flat as mothers ironing board"  feet kept him, mores the pity, drilling away at a hoped for, longed for anticipated "new" miracle arch at dance recitals far too long as a child.  The final blow of  insult to humiliation further rumored and tossed about idle minds of party line mentality, fully and sadly to him, was rejection from "doing what a guys gotta do" combat in WWII.

What now of  the forever chagrined, poor Edgar who had only just recently been plagued with a curse worse than death?! Edgar suffered the indignities and inequities of a bothersome leg fracture which rendered him bed bound, all as to the stricture of a downed tree on Electric Boulevard! Had poor Edgar only known, beforehand, that his inadvertent, unpropitious omission through lack of etiquette in engaging the party line "buffet" of gossip would have averted this miserable happenstance of events on Electric Boulevard, he most certainly would have crossed over the intolerable bans of party lines! By informing and forewarning himself of his present malady, through partaking of the bounteous providence of party lines, he most certainly and indubitably would have been rescued from the pendulous jaws of his freakish accident!

Oh, the party line, to be sure, worked with far more efficiency than even the raucous, rat-a-tat hammering of cylinders neath the shining hood of  a fathers pride and joy; Oldsmobile! Indeed, the party line emerged consistently, unerringly faster and more reliable than the drying stamp of ink spots hot off the presses when it came to neighborhood events!

Friends be the Operator and Party Line!

Memoir of Le Brigand, Operator
Brooklyn, NY 1944 (or not!)