Long ago—well not that long ago, really—the only way to reach someone on the phone was through the operator.
“What city, please?” she (they were mostly all women back in the days when my Mom was a telephone operator) would ask. They were the “smarts” of the phone.
You could even call someone, long distance, and get them to pay for it. Many a time I found myself telling the operator “I’d like to make a collect call, please…” A teenager far from home, I knew my parents would accept the charges. What a bargain!
And if you were paying for the call with a pocketful of change, you’d better talk fast. The operator would interrupt the conversation, when your credit ran out, and ask you to put more coins to continue the call: “$2.00 for three minutes.” Sad time when your last nickel clanked with this dreary metallic sound as it hit the bottom of the pay phone coin box.
Although it was strictly forbidden to eavesdrop on conversations, I’m sure a little “snooping” only added spice to an otherwise long day, maybe, as long as the supervisor didn’t find out. Some callers even had longer conversations with the operator than with the person they were calling. Jim Croce sure did and wrote a song about it. Something about a faded number on a matchbook, and a girl living with an “ex” friend. That’s just the way it goes…
You can keep the dime.