The term, wrong number, makes me nostalgic.
Recently an astronaut on the space station, ISS, tried to call his home from the ISS, and uttered the famous words, “Hello, is this planet earth” , and put the fear of aliens in the lady, who happened to be at the other end of the wrong number.
At the end of the day, he did apologise to the lady saying it was a wrong number, that too, by posting the apology on Twitter. This episode made me wonder about the huge progress made by the human race in, first putting a permanent space station in an orbit around the earth, and then establishing communication between the space station and earth, where an astronaut can easily reach out to his parents by just picking up the phone and calling them.
But alas! The humans have not been able to resolve the age old problem of wrong numbers. And this is what made me nostalgic.
Just remember the black phone which was a permanent fixture in almost all homes, once upon a time.
In the time, before the introduction of mobiles in the 90’s, and many years after that too, black phone with the circular dial, was the preferred instrument for communication between families and friends.
And the wrong numbers during that era were unbelievable. Once a man, who had gone to Nainital for the first time, excitedly called his parents from there and exclaimed over the phone, “Mom, I have now reached. It feels like heaven and I am literally walking through the clouds”.
Now, it so happened that, the call was wrongly placed to a family, who had recently lost their son and were grieving. When the mother heard this message, she fainted.
These type of dramas played out many times during those days, all thanks to the telephone and the telephone operators, who literally had the strings of fate of many people, in their hands.
The telephone department was very important, or rather, the demand for the telephone was so great, and the supply was so poor, that the people in the department had a superior air about them, since people used to give them that importance. I have seen people begging for a telephone line to be allotted to their home.
Another common ritual was placing of a trunk call.
You gave a call to the telephone operator, told the city name and the phone number, where the call was to be placed and were invariably told that the lines are very busy, and the waiting time will be high, and you were given a trunk call code number.
Once a trunk call was placed, you could not then go out, since you never knew when you’re call would get connected. I remember, once we waited for 1 and a half day for the call to be connected to our aunt, who used to stay in Indore.
Of course, there were options available, where, if you placed an emergency call, the connection time was shortened, but such calls also used to take at least 2-3 hours to get connected, and were comparatively expensive.
Another service was ‘PP’ , where you had the option of calling a particular person only. In which case, the operator would call the number, call for the particular person, and once that person came on line, then only the operator connected the two calls.
And in spite of so many hurdles, the businesses were conducted successfully and relationships became stronger. Today, when any person is just a call away, the relationships suffer, since no one wants to talk, in this age of WhatsApp and Facebook.
Those were the days!!