Telephone companies often advertise their services in emotional terms. From their saccharine commercials, it seems as if the corporation sponsoring it has only benevolent motives. Back when Alberta Government Telephones was owned by the province, they often coaxed subscribers to call long distance, promising they’d get the feeling of a visit from home. In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I wrote of the time when I surprised my Mom on Mother’s Day in 1968. It felt like a visit from home then but subsequent calls were far from pleasant. Here’s how I experienced that other “long distance feeling.”
By the middle of May, I became extremely homesick. A powerful longing to hear Mom’s voice and to learn what was happening back in Fort Saskatchewan burdened my heart. “Why don’t you just make a collect call to your parents?” Geoffrey asked me one evening. “How do I do that?” I asked. “Just ask the operator to place a collect call to your number.”
On Mother’s Day, I felt surprised that calling collect was such an easy process. I picked up the receiver of the pay phone in the visitors area and nervously recited the words Geoffrey told me. To my delight, Mom accepted the charges. She and I had a wonderful but short conversation. As we spoke, I felt the same sensation of contentment and belonging as I did when I was home. After wishing Mom a happy Mother’s Day one more time, I hung up the receiver. For a brief moment, I experienced that warm feeling of being with my family.
The initial euphoria wore off quickly as the realities of Jericho pressed down around me. A week later, when the temptation grew too strong, I called her again. Mom sounded displeased but she accepted the charges. “There’s a really cool AM and FM radio I saw in a store here. Could you please send me some money so I can buy it?” It’s only thirty-six dollars,” I coaxed.
“You already have my radio. What do you need another one for?”
“This one has FM and Neddie says it’s much better than AM.”
“That’s a lot of money you know. I can’t afford that much.” As we were getting nowhere, Mom said good-bye. After I hung up the phone, I felt frustrated and depressed because Mom didn’t understand technology and how much superior this new receiver was.
A week passed as the thought of that dream radio played on my mind. The third time, when my longings and desires grew too powerful, I called home again. Mom refused to accept the charges. I felt immensely forsaken and rejected. I stopped calling home after that.
Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback, containing 6 black and white photos, sells for $25.00 through the PayPal-equipped www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison website. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or if you don’t have PayPal but still wish to place an order.