For instance, there was the three-minute limit on long distance calls. You could talk longer, but Ma Bell charged a lot extra for going over. My daddy put an old-style, hourglass egg-timer on the table by our wall phone. If I called somebody long distance, I had to turn it upside down and pace my call so that the last drop of sand fell through a split second after I hung up the receiver. It was a major effort in the art of synchronization, and if I failed in the endeavor, I’d hear about it when the bill came, and I use “hear” in its most frightening and loudest sense.
As you might expect, this was a great obstacle to a long-distance romance, which was what the Goat and I had during summers and long holidays away from college. We switched days calling each other, and on my days this is how things generally went. I dialed his number, somebody in his house (never him) answered, and the countdown began: twenty seconds for the person answering the ring (usually the little brother) to find him and get him to the phone, five seconds for me to remind him I had only three minutes, ten seconds for him to get the little brother to leave the room, fifteen seconds while little sisters moseyed in looking for some “lost object” and another ten while they moseyed out, five for me to reassure my daddy I wouldn’t talk longer than three minutes, and another five while the Goat-to-Be reassured his daddy that the phone call was not on his dime. Our time was practically half up, and we’d barely said “hello.”
In today’s world where every other six-year-old and 90% of ten-year-olds seem to have a cell phone, this seems positively prehistoric, perhaps unbelievable. I’d wager our ten-year-old grandson spends more time playing games on his phone in three days than his grandpa and I actually talked on the phone the whole time we were dating. I won’t even mention his teenaged sister.
But I’ve decided our telephone challenges made us a little tougher, a little more discerning, and, most important, a lot more committed. Maybe that’s why the Goat and I have been together going on forty-six years. What’s a few failed recipes or dirty socks on the floor or toilet paper rolls put on backwards compared to the commotion of two daddies yelling in tandem for their lovesick offspring to get off the phone when we’d barely got on?
Hmmm, daddies can be pretty smart. Maybe that’s what they intended all along.