Tales from the Business Office

I began to work for Southeastern Telephone Company in 1935 as their first engineer. Not long after I started work, I was assigned to handle the business office while the person in charge was on medical leave.

Well, one day, an elderly gentleman came in and asked if we had a phone he could use to make a phone call. I pointed to a small table nearby, and said, “Sure. On the table. Help yourself.” He walked over to the table, looked around, and spotted a pencil sharpener mounted on a rather low windowsill.

He walked over to the sharpener and gave the handle a twist. Then he went back to the handset, lifted the receiver, the operator answered, and he reached his party. On completion of his call, he hung up, walked over to the pencil sharpener, gave the handle another twist, looked at me and said “Thank you, sir” and walked out of the office.

On another occasion, a middle-aged man came into the office, obviously enraged. He walked up to the counter, slammed a bill down and yelled at me, “You’ve got me charged a call to New York. I’ve never called New York!” I asked for his telephone number and he yelled it to me so I opened the desk drawer and found a toll ticket billed to that number for a call to New York.

I looked up at him and asked, “Mr. Jones?” He replied, “Yes,” in a rather gruff tone. Looking at the ticket, I said, “according to this ticket, you talked to Mrs. Brown at 11:45pm for 45 minutes.” Then I looked up at him. “Would you like for me to repeat what you said?” He barked at me, “No, I’ll pay my bill.” Of course, I did’nt know what he had said, but he thought I did.

Ernest M. Menendez