On May 5, 1988, I wrote a letter to the CBC Radio morning show Morningside. At the time I was seven months pregnant, working as a temp at the reception desk of the Canadian Aviation Safety Board.
Two or three weeks later, Morningside’s host, Peter Gzowski, read my letter on air. I wasn’t listening when he did, but a couple of my friends were, and they told me about it.
When I rediscovered the letter among my files, I realized that it’s a bit of a peek into the technology of the times. Also instructive about the times is the fact that letters to radio shows took weeks to be read, because it took about a week for them to even get there.
Here is my letter to Morningside:
Several weeks ago, I listened with interest and amusement as, on your show, three professional people criticized their new phones. I thought about writing to you then but did not. This morning, I heard you say that of all the letters you have received, no one has said: “newfangled phones are wonderful!”. Well, the challenge has been given, so let me say it now: I think that newfangled phones are wonderful!
As a receptionist, I may be more biased in my opinion than others; and I must say that I had some fears when the small government agency I work for decided to switch from a fairly ordinary phone system to a brand new, super-duper ultra-efficient system. Learning how to use the new phone did require a bit of mind-stretching, but now that I have grasped it, I am delighted with it. Not only is it more fun to use (infinitely more buttons to push), but it also makes my job more impressive! My phone is no longer a telephone, it is a “console”; and I am no longer a receptionist, but a “console operator”. No longer does a caller hang up on me, but rather the “source disconnects”. Those who loiter about my desk are more easily awed by my abilities, as my fingers dance over the myriad mysterious lights and buttons that make up the console layout. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to know that I have mastered a piece of equipment that strikes fear into the hearts of everyone else! This new- fangled phone has done wonderful things to my self-esteem!!
Aside from what it does to my ego, this phone system does make my job a lot easier; and it is really quite simple, once all the concepts have been grasped. I am sure that the telephones of your three professional friends cannot be more complicated than mine. I have a very simple, low-tech solution for your friend who cannot remember to take her phone off “call forward” when she returns to her office: write yourself a large reminder note and leave it on your desk!