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Pull it. . .NOW!

August 1, 2013

It was his own fault. He was already talking on borrowed time.

My introduction to computers actually traces its path through telephony. (Back To Where It All Began) But, before I worked for WordPerfect, I worked for BYU’s telephone office. This was before the days of cell phones. Our telephone system was what today we’d call POTS: Plain Old Telephone System. It wasn’t even digital. It was all analog.

During the semester my job was to install the occasional phone for some professor changing offices, or solve a problem when someone kicked a plug out of the wall. But at the end of each semester, we had to go through and disconnect the phones in the student dorms.

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The switch room was a room about 30 feet long, 8 feet high and 4 feet wide. One entire wall was covered with telephone punch blocks. There was a terminating connection for every dorm room on campus. There were also lines that connected up to the PBX, the (very simple computer) that generated the hundreds of phone numbers that would get assigned to a student for the semester and then get recycled over the summer.

On this one day, we had a list of about 100 numbers to disconnect. The end date of the phone contract period had come and gone about a week earlier. So, the phones still worked, but students were no longer paying for them.

We tried to not cut people off in the middle of a call. I mean, we could. The phones were scheduled to be off already, but we tended to get fewer complaints if we disconnected them while no one was using them. So, we’d use a butt-set to check each line before pulling the jumpers.

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We were making pretty good progress. After disconnecting a couple dozen without a problem, we found a line that was in use. A guy was talking to a girl. I stayed on the line just long enough to figure out there was a conversation and then we marked it and continued on. Every 10 minutes or so, I’d check back. Still same guy and same girl. An hour later we were finally done with all of the other numbers. We just needed to disconnect this last line and we could go. I checked again and I could hear the guy still talking to the same girl.

The ethics of eavesdropping on a private conversation didn’t concern me as much at the time as they do now. Besides the phone was supposed to be turned off already.

Rodney? What’s the hold up?

Bill wanted to be done and head back to the office. The switch room was not the most comfortable place to hang out.

This guy’s still on the phone. Find the jumpers for this line, but don’t pull them yet. I’ll let you know.

The conversation was typical of a college guy who likes a girl, but is too shy to let her know, but is just happy that she’ll talk to him. . . for hours apparently. They had been on the call for 90 minutes that we knew of and probably longer.

I could see that Bill was set to pull the jumpers as soon as I said the word. On the phone I heard,

It’s been great talking to you. What I really called to ask you was. . .

PULL IT NOW!

I’ve often wondered over the years if he ever got to tell her what he really called to ask her. It was BYU after all, it might have been a marriage proposal.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, blogger and IT Consultant. He no longer eavesdrops on phone conversations. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and 13 children.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or contact him at (rbliss at msn dot com)

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