As I listed jobs in my work history this week, I wondered if some of my college work study jobs were hints of my future and my fascination with some of the tools currently available in my life. This picture of phone evolution did not include the wall party line phone that I remember from my childhood. More recently I do remember the various iterations of “cell phones” from bag phones that remained in the car to cell phones that fit into my pocket.
One work study job was a favorite because I could literally work in my pajamas. No one saw me especially on weekends. Quiet, peaceful weekends. I could literally go from my dorm room to work in less than a minute without leaving the building. My travel path meant walking down one hall, going downstairs and across the hall. Convenient!
Does this picture look familiar? What do you think of when you see this image?
A search of Google Images found this picture above of a 1970s switchboard. Physically connecting phones by plugging in the connections. My switchboard did not look like that! But I find the picture fascinating as this would have required fine motor skills and memory far beyond my capabilities.
I don’t find actual pictures of the switchboard in my college pictures. At the time the job was important for covering costs of college. I’m sure that I didn’t think it “newsworthy” to capture this job setting. Switchboard operator was just one of my three work study jobs. The device we used was similar to this because it sat on a desk and was about this size to the best of my recollection.
The buttons lit up when the phone rang. I had lists of extensions to transfer calls to specific offices. I had a specific protocol to respond to calls.
Good morning, this is Ottumwa Heights College. How may I direct your call?
No voice mail. Nada. I wrote messages on pink message slips put into mailboxes that resided in an office that I accessed at the end of my shift through a door on the south wall. A switchboard sitting on a desk in a room barely bigger than a closet. A phone system that distributed calls to college offices. No phones in the dorm rooms.
How did we ever survive?
I remember that I was paid to talk. To communicate clearly. To be polite. To match “customer” requests with their needs. Sometimes the caller would not know the specific office that they needed. Being helpful meant that I would listen to their brief request or story and match it with the corresponding number/office to provide answers.
Precursor to googling for answers?
A search for solutions?
A job in comfy clothes?
All of those factors played into my college work study job of switchboard operator.
What “interesting” jobs have you had?
Did the skills required for your job relate to or impact your current job/work?
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum in March. Check out the writers and readers here.