by Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Back when I was a kid, telephones had a party line, that is, you shared the connection with another customer, usually someone in the same neighborhood. It was how residential phone service was provided back then.

What a pain in the ass it was. Anytime you picked up the phone, night or day, someone you didn’t even know could be yakking away like there was no tomorrow. Sometimes for hours. It was especially awful when I reached my teens and wanted privacy while talking to friends. Forget it. At any moment, I would hear a woman’s voice interrupting my conversation: “I need to use the phone.”

Whoever she was, the woman was always insistent. No “please” or “I’m sorry to break into your call.” Simply, get the hell off the line.

Mama referred to her as that “damn woman.” Sometimes she snapped at her: “Get the hell off the phone, would ya? Give someone else a chance ta talk.” The woman would answer back in a tone of voice thick with entitlement, and they’d fight it out for a few moments before Mama let out some nasty southern Italian curse and slammed down the phone.

I suspect that “damn woman” listened in to a lot of our calls and maybe even took notes. In my neighborhood, it was customary to bring bits of gossip to the butcher shop on the corner. Who knows how much of our lives was distributed for entertainment while waiting for pork chops or ground meat?

Thankfully, party lines went the way of the dinosaur by the time I was an adult. 

These days, that “damn woman” runs the NSA, the FBI and various and sundry other outfits that not only listen into, but also collect data about, our every phone call. Privacy is not even an option. These snoops consider it their patriotic duty to know who we call, when we call them, and why we call them. We don’t even have to be suspected of donating to the Bin Laden Memorial Library. We’re all treated the same.

Supposedly, the eavesdropping is to protect us from attacks, though all the surveillance in the universe and then some didn’t stop the recent Boston Marathon bombing. I wonder if it’s stopped any attacks at all.

I never voted on surrendering my right to privacy when I pick up the landline or punch in a number on my cell. Those who purport to represent me in Congress surrendered it for me. The president who was elected to “change” the ways things are, continues to support the dubious right of our government to know what I dish about with my friends.

Which is why Edward Snowden, the former NSA and CIA technical contractor who blew the whistle big time on American and British surveillance programs that are vacuuming up data on the lives of citizens in their nations, is a hero in my eyes -- and ears.

He exposed the party line from hell.

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Comment by Phyllis on June 30, 2013 at 2:43am
My Grandpa & his brothers spoke Bohemian to foil the neighbors. That would probably work today, too, since it's a dead language but they refused to teach it to their kids.

I'm glad Snowden blabbed, too.

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