The phone rang. I ignored it. It kept on ringing, that infamous old phone connected to a party line with upwards of eighteen other households. My mother, washing out back with her wringer washing machine ignored the phone. The phone was far beyond my reach, but its insistent ringing required me to do something.
I crawled into the armchair that sat below it. I stood up, regaining my balance by holding onto the back of the chair. I’d never talked on a phone before, never held the cupped receiver to one ear, never talked into the mouthpiece sticking out of the wooden rectangular box. On tiptoes I managed to take the receiver from its hook. Mimicking adults I’d seen, I held it to my ear and listened in amazement. I could hear people talking. I didn’t recognize the voices, and before I could figure out what was being said the receiver was suddenly snatched from my fingers and put back down into place.
“And don’t ever do that again,” rang in my ears. “You don’t listen to other people’s private conversations.” I didn’t understand the workings of a phone, but that day I learned the workings of telephone etiquette.