11.21.2005

On Feeling Old

Okay, not really.

But I was recently reminded of the Sesame Street skit where a bunch of Muppets are singing in a rocking telephone booth, and when I went to look up the lyrics (God bless Google), I discovered (a) that it was called "Telephone Rock" and (b) just how much has changed since I watched Sesame Street (1982-1985, I think, and longer if you count watching it with younger siblings or while babysitting). Before I even get to deconstructing the lyrics, there are a few obvious differences:

(1) There are very few telephone boothes these days. Most people use cell phones.

(2) When there are phone boothes, they do not have accordion-fold doors. I thought this was to deter homeless people from sleeping in them, but someone else wisely pointed out that this is also an ADA issue. People in wheelchairs can't get into phone boothes with doors.

And now, on to the lyrics!
(lead singer picks up phone in phone booth)

Operator: Number please


I'm saying hey operator, please give us a hand
Ya gotta help us out 'cause we're the telephone band
We're calling all people that are sittin' at home
With some rocking and rolling on the telephone
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah....
(3) There is no more picking up the phone and reaching an operator immediately. I don't think there was in 1980, either. I don't know what happens if you pick up the phone and press "0" now, but I doubt a person (i.e., "operator") answers. A computer probably answers.
Please operator, please give us a chance
The people are waiting so please dial us this dance
They want to hear our music yeah they want us to sing
So operator please make their telephone ring.
(4) There's no more dialing. This doesn't really count, though, since I think people still refer to "dialing" in connection with a telephone. Even though they mean "pressing little buttons."
Rock rock rock
The telephone rock
Let's hear it one more time
Rock rock rock
The telephone rock
You know it only costs a dime yeah
Rock rock rock
The telephone rock
(5) It does not only "cost a dime." It costs at least 50 cents, I think. Although, really, it's been years since I've made a call from a public payphone with actual coins. Before I had a cell phone I used a calling card, because it was cheaper. But still not ten cents for the whole call.

Note: Originally released on the album Signs (1977), Children's Television Workshop.

Signs!

Which raises the question--did operators "pick up the phone" and place calls for people in 1977?

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