Who remembers 10–10-220? Or maybe 10–10-321? Or 10–10-987? Anybody who watched television in the late 90’s should have at least a vague memory of that. It was a way of making discounted long-distance calls from a carrier other than the one you had a contract with. Huh? Long-distance call? It’s amazing, absolutely amazing, how phones have changed in just a few decades.
In my day, phones were things people had in their houses. I was born too late for the party-line phenomenon, but I certainly remember growing up knowing that telephones were attached to the walls via cords. I remember when we got our first push-button phone, but we did not yet have touchtone calling (which carried an extra monthly fee). So instead of hearing “beep-boop-beep” when you pressed the buttons, you heard the “ratatatata-ratatat-ratatatatatata” of a virtual rotary phone within the handset. I remember when my sister and I succeeded in getting a phone installed in the hallway between our bedrooms, with a 25-foot line cord so that either of us could take it into our room. I remember the days before we had call-waiting, when I had to make sure to be off the phone for at least ten minutes every hour, just in case someone was trying to call with an emergency.
I remember using pay phones to call my parents collect, trying to get the message through as quickly as possible. (“This is a collect call from MomImReadyPickMeUp. Will you accept the charges?”) And boy do I remember long-distance phone bills. I made a lot of friends at Lutheran Synod youth events, most of whom did not live locally. I had several girlfriends who did not live locally. I needed to talk with them sometimes. So, every time the phone bill came, my mother would give it to me. I would look through it, and mark off all the calls that were mine. I think they would add up to anywhere between $30 and $150 a month. I have this memory of paying for them each month, but I have no idea where the money came from to do so. I did have a paper route for six months, but that doesn’t sound like it covered them all. Maybe I still owe my parents for that. I’ll have to ask them not to read this post.
It’s amazing how much has changed. My kids will never go through the long-distance bill with me. Instead, we’ll just have to determine who pays the access fee for their smartphones. My kids will never use a pay phone. They’ll never call collect. They’ll never understand what “to hang up on someone” really meant. That will become one of those idioms whose literal meaning has been lost to the ages.
And they will certainly never be tempted by ALF to use 10-10-220.