Where My Father Worked
When the timing is right, even old buildings have a ghost.
Dad worked for the Telephone Company, Northwestern Bell to be exact. That was back in the days before the breakup. Some folks remember those days; one phone company, reasonable long distance rates that you didn’t have to sign up for or have a secret code to use. Back when every other person wasn’t walking around with a phone plastered to their ear yammering on about God knows what.
But I digress.
Dad worked in the building that used to stand where the empty lot is. The building that’s left was newer and housed the rows of mechanical relays that routed your phone call. They kept it after all of the cut backs in man power that the digital age brought. The rows of relays and other assorted gear have long since been replaced by a PC and some gigs of memory. No more clatter of relays to listen to on a Sunday afternoon while Dad was manning the test board. Gone are the punch cards that printed out when a phone line had a problem and the ticker tape they used to send inter company mail.
And no more building, the one my Father worked in. The one my brother and I would travel to on the odd Sunday when he had to man the test board in case any trouble calls came in. The test board had real lights, switches that clicked and the cables to make connections. No mother boards or chips or PC’s, just Dad and a headset and a big piece of machinery. That was back in the day when you could actually call someone about phone trouble and expect to see them the same day.
The building where my Father worked had high ceilings and huge timbers for floor joists painted white to form the ceiling. You gained entrance at first by dialing a rotary telephone mounted outside the door with the current code to unlock it. Later that was replaced by a key pad that silently translated the code. No swoosh, click, click, click of a rotary dial. After which you climbed the long stairs to the second floor and the “room”; home to the test board and desks and barely used carbon paper in the waste baskets, certainly a rare find to a 12 year old, sometimes even in red.
But the best were the rolls of used ticker tape to roll up and push in the center to create ever longer tapered tubes until you pushed just a bit to far and the whole thing unraveled, only to be re-rolled and tested for length again.
That was the building where my Father worked, the place that is now just an empty lot, that when the time is right reveals the ghost of the building that was. A building long gone that is still full of a 12 year olds memories.