Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Year with No Phone

The fall of 1967 was my second year of teaching at the old Aurora Middle School.  I had survived, somehow, Year One, and the School Board had invited me back for another try.  My salary had soared.  That first year I'd made $5100.  And now--a seasoned (one-year) veteran--I was earning $6014.  (Almost a 20% raise!  So why complain?)  My first year, my paycheck (the 1st and the 15th of each month) was $168.42, a number I will not soon forget.  But I have forgotten my second year's take-home, but I'm guessing it was in the $190 range?

That year--that second year--I'd made arrangements to share a place with a colleague (male--don't get excited), but after only a couple of weeks with him, I realized I had to move or one of us would murder the other.  It was a classic "odd couple" pairing (I was the slob).  One Sunday afternoon, for example, watching the Browns together on TV, I went out to the kitchen, got a Pepsi from the fridge, popped off the cap (no twist-offs in those days), went back to watch.  My roomie promptly got up, marched out to the kitchen, and threw the cap in the trash.  Out in the kitchen I could hear his deep sigh.

I moved out the next week.

I took the first place I could find, really, in a new apartment complex that, incredibly, still stands on Fishcreek Road in the Stow/Kent area, near the bowling alley.  It's now called Country Manor--and neither of its names is especially accurate.  But, as I said, when I lived there, it was new.  I was the first to live in my apartment (whose number I've forgotten).  And it was Heaven.  Bedroom, bath (with shower!), half-kitchen, living room.  New (green) carpet.  Air and heat were "free."  I had to pay the electric.  I think the rent was $157.  I also had a car payment of about $100.  So ... if you can do simple math (subtraction), you can see that I had very little disposable income each month.  Money for gasoline, say.  And food.

Among my many austerity measures--no telephone.  I could not afford the installation charge.  The monthly fee.  So there I sat, watching an old black-and-white TV (with rabbit ears) my parents had left me when they moved to Iowa (sometimes it needed a good right hook to its ribs), eating peanut butter and boiled potatoes (smashed with butter), out of contact with the world.  I knew no one else in the complex; I met no one else there, not the entire year.  I also graded papers, planned lessons, slept all weekend, felt sorry for myself always.  But never once wondered if I ought to think about another career, one that paid a salary.

When I needed to call anyone (family--I had no lovers, actual or potential), I used the phone at school--or at a friend's house--and called collect.  That, of course, made hearing from me something less of a pleasure for everyone.  Phones, BTW, were, in 1967-1968, still mostly dial phones around Portage County.  Portable phones and cellphones were far in the future, the kind of thing you'd see on that TV show Get Smart, which was popular at the time.  Agent Maxwell Smart (played by Don Adams) had to dial the number on that shoe-phone.

When we got our first portable extension phone we didn't know how to act.  Here's a silly example: Joyce had inherited from her family a telephone chair, exactly like the one in the picture.  Before phones were portable, you would sit in that chair to talk, the phone living on the little arm-resty thingy.  Well, for a long time--and I mean a long time--when one of us would answer the portable extension in the other room, we would walk with it to the telephone chair, sit, and talk.  (Who says humans aren't trained animals?)

Our son had the first cellphone in the family.  He was using his Tufts education at the time to help him deliver pizza in Boston, and he found it very useful, especially in rough neighborhoods, to call when he was moments away so the customers would be waiting for him.  His plan was not flawless, however.  On 20 December 1994 he was mugged and ended up in the ER.  Back in Ohio, Joyce and I were annoyed that he hadn't called us that day, our 25th anniversary.  Then we learned ...

We eventually got a cellphone a few years later--1995 or 1996--but kept it in the car for emergencies.  We rarely used it.  I thought it was useless, an affectation.  Yuppie.  Evanescent.  A fad.  Now, of course, both Joyce and I have phones we keep with us at all times.  Can't live without them ... you know.

But Joyce still lingers in the past a bit.  Her phone is never on except when she's making a call.  And if she doesn't get her party, she turns it off.  Immediately.  Oh, the times she's called me, I've scrambled to answer, just missed her, called her back instantly, heard Hello, this is Joyce Dyer.  Please leave a message ...

But in such cases, I never say bad words.  Never, never never.

Oh--BTW: The year  after my phoneless year of 1967-1968 I found a little apartment in Aurora on South Chillicothe Road.  $110/month.  Telephone!

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