Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Calling Phone Booths For Fun

When I was aged about 11 to 14 years old my brother Nik and cousin Andreas did this strange almost social media like thing - we called phones booths.

We initially tried dialing random numbers to see who we would get but that was mostly a waste of time and we often got a guy we called "filmy" - Andreas named him that.  "Filmy" was the recording you got when you called a number that was not in service.  It was a deep and articulate voice like a film star, hence the name.  The random dialing was borrowing so we wanted some more interesting way to play with the telephone.  One day I realized that all the phone booths had numbers we could call, we just needed the numbers.

When we were out and about in the city I would write down the phone numbers in phone booths and later when we were at home we would call them.   The most common one we called was at Kootenay Loop.  We called it the most because there was a bank of phones so at least one would be free and there were always a lot of people hanging around waiting for a bus.

We did most of our calling from my aunt Nata's place in the evening while watching bad late 70s TV because she did not see to care that we were doing this and my parents would likely told us to quit using the phone for a "prank".

We would dial the numbers we had until we got one that was not busy.   We would then let it ring till someone picked it up.  Sometimes they would just pick it up and hang it up right away.  Often people would say "Do you know you are calling a phone booth?"  to which we answered yes.  Finally, a few people just answered the phone and said hello.

We had some interesting conversations with people on the phone.  We would ask people what bus they were waiting for, where they were headed, what was going on with their lives, and whatever else came up.  We also told people about what was on TV and about us and where we lived.   They were random connections with people across the city from us.

Sometimes people would stay on the phone for more than half an hour.   We had all the numbers at Kootenay Loop because we asked one woman on the phone to get us all the rest of the numbers, she had nothing better to and seemed to want to help us.  Some of the people seemed to be very happy to have someone to talk to kill some time while waiting in the rain and cold for the #14 bus.

The weird little thing we did seems to be completely from another age - there were no mobile phones, no answering machines, no caller ID, and no social media.   What we did in 1979 had more in common with 1919 than 2012.


ps  Nik or Andreas, feel free to comment with your memories

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