Friday, August 31, 2007

Hung Up On Time

#288 Hung Up on Time

The Frommeyer Apartments on E. 79th Street has finally come into the 21st century. As of now, every apartment has its very own telephone. This was forbidden until now. If you needed to speak with someone who lives in The Frommeyer, you had to dial the building and the lobby operator would plug you in and ring the phone upstairs.

They started that in 1907 when the place was built. And now, at age 100, they’ve finally given up.

The Frommeyer was said to be the last apartment house in all of New York that had that kind of privacy, though it was common in earlier times.

So was this: You wanted to know the time, you called MEridian 7-1212. The recorded voice would read you the time, followed by a beep-tone every ten seconds.

Haven’t thought of that in years, have you.

Well, apparently, not many others did, either. And state by state, the phone companies discontinued the service. The next-to-last was California with service stopping in September, 2007.

That means there’s only one state in the entire union that still has a call-up time service. The state is Nevada.

Now, there may be a good reason for this. After all, Nevada may have fewer clocks per capita than any other state. There are none, for example, in any of the casinos, where they have a big interest in your forgetting how long you’ve been at the table.

In a brilliant journalistic move, the Los Angeles Times asked the wing of ATT that serves Nevada how much longer they’d keep the service going there.

In an equally brilliant publicist-for-hire response, the company said “until we can no longer repair the equipment if it breaks down.”

Which is another way of saying that they’ve downsized so much that all the guys who know how that stuff works don’t work there anymore. And no one has the wiring diagram. And the woman who modeled the automated voice died 50 years ago. And besides, who can get parts for those old things.

Must be the service is still making money in the State of Few Clocks. Those calls weren’t free. And you could never worm a time-check out of anyone who’s calls ARE free, like the operator or the repair service or the billing office.

Back at the Frommeyer, you couldn’t make that call to MEridian 7 1212. You’d pick up the phone, the lobby operator would come on and you’d ask her (and during the late night hours, him,) for the time. The operator would look at the wall clock and tell you what it said. Those lobby operators also knew the weather report and the temperature. And they’d tell you THAT, too, if you wanted them to. All part of the service.

So, most of the residents now have computers, their own clocks, televisions with the Clock Channel pre-programmed into their HDTV “Favorites.” And they have their Rolexes.

As for the rest of us, we’ll have to face facts: we’ve been hung up on.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

(Parts of this item were first aired on my WBLF radio program.)

1 comment: said...


I tried to call yesterday but did not know the number.

Topic Windmills:

Please discuss on your radio show the idea of placing windmills in appropriate locations on median strips on interstate highways in PA. The environmental mess has already been done and the profits could be used to fix bridges and roads and not toll I-80. You could dumb the electricity at apporpriate exits into the system.

Thank you

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