By Dick Pence
This story appeared in The Washington Post in 1991, shortly after a computer glitch caused a “long-distance blackout” on the East Coast.
Those big phone outages of the past couple of weeks have had me feeling a bit guilty over what’s been happening. You see, I remember exactly how all this started.
Back in 1950 I was a novice seahand aboard a cruiser based in Philadelphia, barely six months out of high school and fresh from the plains of South Dakota. One Friday night in November, we were granted shore leave at the end of a two-week training cruise. Homesick and seasick, I headed immediately for the row of pay phones that lined the dock.
Depositing a carefully preserved nickel (remember?), I dialed “O.” The following is a roughly verbatim account of what transpired after the Philadelphia operator answered.