Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis

Long Distance Information

I wonder how many people heard the news about Chuck Berry's death behind the lyrics to one of his best songs "Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee. Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me."

And wondered WTF??

In the olden days, you could go to the hallway of your home (cause that's where everyone had their phone) and pick up the telephone and dial (yes, poke your finger in the hole and move the dial) 0 and get an operator. Depending on your system, you might get the local operator by default and you'd have to request the long distance operator.

And then she'd (and, yep, they were always of the female persuasion) patch you through to the operator for Memphis or where ever you wanted. And then you'd give her the info to the get the phone number. And then she would connect you. If you were cheap, you'd ask for station-to-station. That meant special long distance rates would start the minute anyone answered the phone. If you paid more you could get person to person and that meant the extra charges wouldn't kick in until you were talking to the person you wanted to call.

Information operators were kind of notorious for NOT providing info based on requests like Chuck Berry's. They'd want more than just the name Marie in Memphis.

But, one time, in the early 80's when operators were getting less and less helpful, I got one that went the extra mile when I really needed it.

My BFF Heather had gone to Lake Tahoe with her new-ish boyfriend to visit his family and while she was there, her grandfather died. Her sister called me asking if I knew how to get in touch with her to let her know. I happened to know her boyfriend's last name (which her family did not) and the Lake Tahoe clue so I got on the horn to Long Distance Information right away.

The operator could not find any Lidicoates in Lake Tahoe. I was getting panicky. I explained (with out the music ala Chuck Berry) the situation. I knew nothing about that section of the country so I asked if there were maybe nearby towns that people thought of as Lake Tahoe. And she said not really but then said 'you meant Lake Tahoe, Nevada, right? Did you try Lake Tahoe, California?' ??? No! It was in another phone district (handy) so she patched through and found the number in that second Lake Tahoe and within minutes I had my friend on the phone. I was so grateful and have never heard that Chuck Berry song the same way again...

This message has been brought to you by old people.
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