You know how you’ll hear a song on the radio and remember some specific event in your life from years earlier? (Of course you do.) Well, here’s a memory I have whenever I hear Genesis’ Turn It on Again: I was going into 7th grade, so… 12-1/2 years old. At that time, the kids at school had discovered that if you dialed your own phone number (land lines, not cell), you could get a busy signal that had a pause in the middle of it. We referred to it as “the party line”… (you would have to call yourself a couple times in a row until the crossed lines kicked in). Someone had found out that between the busy tones, you could speak in the pause. This news spread around to kids all over the area. A conversation would go something like this:
YOU: [tone] Is [tone] anyone [tone] on [tone] the [tone] line? [tone] SOMEONE ELSE: [tone] Yes. [tone] Who [tone] is [tone] this? [tone] And you’d continue to chat between the beeps until you exchanged actual phone numbers (should you so desire) so you could have a non-beeping chat with the person. I met one nice boy on the line. But, umm… he was 16… and in high school… and did I already mention I was only 12 going on 13? Looking back, it was (very) vaguely like the made-for-TV movie, Sooner or Later, in which 13-year-old Jessie falls for 17-year-old Michael (Rex Smith), lead singer of “The Skye Band”. I blame this movie for inspiring me to think that someday a handsome rock star would write a song for me… and that makeup would make me look older and, therefore, more date-able by the aforementioned rock star. 🙂
ANYWAY… the reason that Genesis song (and the brown plaid sofa in my parents’ den downstairs) reminds me of the party line is because I remember having a few extended phone conversations with this older boy (I forget his name)… over the course of a couple of weeks… and that song was playing on the radio during one of them. He wasn’t sure if he knew the song, so I sang a part of it to remind him, and we talked about other music we liked… he said something about “Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult… and then he asked me to meet him at the roller rink one night! Agh. I told him that I thought it would be more appropriate for him to meet my older sister there… since she was closer to his age. He was confused… because he wanted to see who he’d been talking to. Eventually, my sisters and I did go to the rink one night when he was planning to be there with his friends. I had asked him what he would be wearing. He told me “a black shirt and white pants”. But I only saw a boy wearing the opposite — black pants and a white shirt. I presumed it was him anyway when I saw someone I imagined would be him sitting in a booth in the cafe area with three other guys. Throughout the night, he slightly acknowledged me as I would skate past his booth trying to get a better look at him. Finally, I worked up the courage to approach him. I rolled over to him and asked, “Are you [What’s-His-Name]?” He nodded, acting totally cool to me, and I introduced myself. He nodded again and asked if I wanted to skate. I told him, “Well, you kinda need to go skate with my sister because you told her you would. So… can you please go do that?” The night was coming to a close, you see… so time was of the essence. He wanted to know why he couldn’t skate with me. (By the way, he was quite good-looking, darn it!) I reminded him of our age difference, “I’m not old enough for you.” He looked away from me, making eye contact with his friends in a way I didn’t know how to interpret back then… and I skated off away from him. My courage to speak to him had run out. Not long after, I noticed that he did keep his word. I watched him skate a couple of laps holding my older sister’s hand for the final “couples” songs of the evening. I thanked him from across the rink… and then we never saw or spoke to each other again… … which is why the song No Reply At All also reminds me of that time in my life. I think my sister kept in touch with him for a while… but I never asked. Not much later, the phone company fixed the crossed wires problem and the party line disappeared.