The subject of telephone party lines came up at the office this week and, of course, I was one of the few old enough to remember them well.
Party lines involved a group of neighbors who were all on the same telephone line.
When my family lived on the farm we always had a party line. To us kids a private line was only for the rich. Kids thought party lines were great. TV wasn’t as prolific as today, so a party line offered a situation comedy by phone.
I remember hearing of adults getting mad because someone on the party line gabbed for too long. I think everyone had tricks to clear the line, like clicking the receiver repeatedly or singing Roy Rogers’ ballads with a fake German accent.
Those were the days.
It occurred to me that party lines were not much different than Facebook and Twitter are today. We often hear about the great and wonderful new world created by social media, bringing us all together in a wet, messy pool of hand-holding kumbayah.
I maintain the world of Facebook and Twitter is neither new, nor wonderful. Like most stuff done by folks – a lot of it is whacky and at times very weird.
We always want to believe our world is radically different from the past, but history teaches us people have been loony for a long, long time. Posting on Facebook, Twitter and listening in on party lines have been around in different forms as long as gossip and gabbing over the fence.
Layers of ancient writing have been found on parchment or animal skins, many with striking illustrations. These animal skins have proven to be very durable through the centuries.
At times one layer was scraped off so a younger monk could write down his post. The younger monk probably thought the old guy was a knucklehead in a funny-looking robe and his modern writing was the truth critical for the new world of 613.
It may have been slower to scribble on parchment then to post to Facebook, but the need and desire comes from the same place.
Maybe it is for the best that most Facebook posts disappear quickly into the ether. I am sure there are plenty of nutty parchments posts best undiscovered.
In a certain way it’s as if we are living in one long party line stretching over thousands of years.