Friday, August 18, 2006

Switchboard Operator

Even though I think memes are a little like the chain mail I used to receive when I was at school - I never replied to them then and I'm not indulging now - a recent question I received did inspire me to revisit my first real job, (not counting the paper run I had delivering the Mataura Ensign).

In between leaving secondary school and going to Otago Uni I trained and worked as a Telephone Switchboard Operator. Just like these ladies I sat in front of a bank of 'plugs', 'jacks' and 'ports' and switched people's toll calls, answered emergency 111 calls and tapped out Party Line codes.

This was in the Gore Post Office, a large concrete bunker of a building in which my Aunt Valerie and Uncle Fred worked for most of their lives. About 20 women sat in this room (no men of course - this was womens' work) with the Supervisors sitting at a desk behind listening in to ensure we used the correct phrasing, "Tolls Here" "Whom do you wish to call?" and that we didn't 'monitor' the conversations for too long.

It was shift work, and because I had no family commitments I was often rostered on all the unsocial evenings shifts and Christmas Day. The skills I learnt then served me well into my present occupation. Really, nothing has changed - I still work unsocial hours and I'm still a 'switchboard' operator (lighting).


M-H said...

When I was a little girl (maybe about 8) I read a book about a girl who became a switchboard operator (one of a series of English 'novels' about career choices) and it seemed like the most glamorous thing! To my mother's consternation I built a 'switchboard' from pegboard, chinese checkers pegs and string. I used to happily connect imaginary callers and deal with imaginary crises etc for hours on end. Was I weird or what?

metal and knit said...

Gee I work the modern directory assistance and well love my afternoon/night shift I work perm. I dont mind doing christmas day either to allow those with kiddies to enjoy