Old Phones Remembered
by P.G. Meier
I just read your new section on Ladatel calling cards in Mexico. It's very helpful. I've used these calling cards in Oaxaca to make local and in-country long-distance calls. They are really life savers. I too remember the nightmare of making long-distance calls.
In 1974 I was trying to make a call to Mexico City from Oaxaca. Every time I tried I was told the circuits were busy. My frustration hit its peak when I went into the small telephone office on the North side of the zocalo. The operator could not be distracted from the conversation she was having with a friend who was sitting next to her booth. I finally interrupted the conversation and asked if she could make a call for me. She looked at the switchboard and said "No sirve." She then dismissed me by turning to her friend and saying "¿Entonces?" I left dejected.
Since 1974, that side of the zocalo has gone through a number of remodelings. The space that was the telephone office is now a take-out pizza place. One night during Semana Santa in 1999 my wife and I sat down next to a woman who was sitting on a bench in the zocalo facing the pizza place. We fell into a conversation with the woman about Oaxaca. We talked about how much Oaxaca had changed.
She said "See that pizzeria? That used to be a telephone office. I was an operator there."
I looked at her and, sure enough, it was "¿Entonces?" albeit 25 years and 4 kids later. I told her that I remembered the phone office and that with Ladatel cards making calls was one of the good changes that had happened.
She said "You're right. I just sat there most of the time because the damn thing never was working." Asi es la vida . . .