24 September 2005

Intercontinental Telecommunications

Brazil
France
Canada
Slovenia
Sweden
Pakistan
Saudi Arabia
Belgium
Peru
Denmark
Finland
Germany
Australia
Ireland
Qatar
Japan
Switzerland
Ukraine
Costa Rica
Iran, Islamic Republic of
Iceland
Mexico
Thailand
Afghanistan
India
Greece
Hungary
Vatican City
Lithuania
Papua New Guinea
Netherlands
Portugal
Singapore
Belarus
Italy
Egypt
Malaysia
Tanzania
Bulgaria
Taiwan
Spain
Philippines
Poland
Argentina.

As a teenager in Liverpool in the early 80s, there was no prospect of me ever sating my incipient wanderlust, and I struggled to keep it in check. Through no fault of their own, my parents had neither the means nor the inclination to travel abroad. My Dad was a very inquisitive type, nose always in a book or eyes glued to a documentary. But holidays were taken in the Isle of Man, mostly, or sundry destinations in North Wales. The extent of my solo travels were the occasional trip to Chester, and a tumultuously exciting trip to London with the art class, led by the phenomenally busty Miss __. (It seemed somehow fitting that the only female teacher we ever had was a blonde version of Betty Page.)

In the days before the internet or the Travel Channel, I had recourse to the telephone directory to provide stimuli for my globetrotting fantasies. I would scan the page in the Useful Information section, entitled INTERNATIONAL DIALLING CODES, and run down the list of extraordinary places, the colossally important UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (all the city codes, too: New York, Boston, Los Angeles), the impossibly
exotic colonial outposts like HONG KONG, the FALKLAND ISLANDS, and the downright alien, such as UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, or NEPAL. And each entry helpfully told you the time difference from the UK, the deviation from GMT, and this would provide further day-dreaming fuel. Imagine. it's 8 o'clock in the morning in AUSTRALIA! They'll be just getting ready for school!

I would lie awake sometimes, overdosed on these solipsistic games, finally gloomy at the sheer enormity of the world and the impossibility of my exploring it. I had an image to focus the frustration, a mental picture of a cornfield in Argentina that stood for all the places I would never see.

The idea of calling random numbers in very remote places (CHILE, SOLOMON ISLANDS) was at times almost irresistible, until I was sobered by the thought of my Dad's face reading the phone bill. What if I just dialled, let the bell ring once, then hung up? I would have made something happen, I would have had an auditory impact, thousands of miles away. But no. They might pick up, Dad would be billed, and that would be that.

Then this week, and I find myself quietly ecstatic at the idea - the world has come to me. In all the countries named above, people have looked in at Bob Crusoe, thanks to the link in the BBC Magazine.

For a couple of days, visitors poured in from all over the planet.

I was beside myself.

And in my imagination, someone sitting in a cornfield in Argentina (do they even have cornfields?) cranked up their laptop, logged onto the BBC, and read my stupid little piece about the silly season. Yaaahoo!

5 comments:

Ova Girl said...

Yeah! That's a great post sbs. Congrats on touching the world. (Or at least on the world reaching over and touching you...ewww, global germs no returns!)

Love the image of you wondering about ringing random international numbers and hanging up just to make an auditory impression on the other side of the world.

In fact...if you don't use that in something, I may just steal it.

sbs said...

now hold on there just a cottonpickin minute.

actually I put in a proposal for a radio play in which the main character makes bells ring round the world. there wasn't much else to it though. maybe I'll come back to it, work on it. so hands off! I'll sue your Ozzie ass!

x

Ova Girl said...

Aha!Thought that might raise a response!

Actually I knew you WOULD use it, it's too good an image/symbol...


Bloody writers eh? Can't tell 'em anything...

Yidchick said...

Just got an email from a friend of mine who lives in a cornfield in Argentina (incidentally, the only cornfield). He loves your work. Keep it up!

sbs said...

Okay, you're pulling my leg now, right?

I so want that to be true.

Damn.

You got me.