World Traveler Girl Style

airmail, letter
When I was a girl, I dreamed of becoming a world traveler, which in my child mind consisted of Europe, preferably English speaking countries like England. Places that I often visited in the romance novels that I devoured like a carton of Whoppers. Or other equally exotic places like Colorado and Oregon (I was a SoCal girl back then).

At the tender age of 13, I had a part-time job in a doctors' office (family connections and a bit of nepotism played a part), so I had a dependable flow of cash to feed my literary cravings and travel research.

To better reach out into the world, I signed up for pen-pals through an organization I no longer remember but filling out those orange and white order forms are part of my best memories. Simply check the country, gender and age group, send in your postal money order and in about three months, you'd get the particulars of a similar minded pen pal.

It was exciting stuff.

I believe this is when I developed my affinity for letter writing and how the post office became my second favorite place after the library (actually, they still are). Even today, getting stuff in the mail is like having Christmas throughout the year, especially since we are such a digitized society now.

I wrote regularly to Pekka in Finland, Isabella in France, and Dagmar in Germany, but the one who developed into a longtime friendship was Cathy in England. Through the years, I'd send stuffed animals on holidays, and she'd mail me homemade cassette tapes of Abba.

Eventually, I wanted to up the ante. Letters took so long to cross the pond. Why couldn't I just call her like my other school chums?

Making a long-distance call was a mystery, but with the help of the phone book, that massive reference for global connectivity, I lined up what I needed:
  • country code
  • city code (I had to call the operator for this obscure info)
  • phone number (from a previous letter)
  • time zone chart
  • estimated cost of call per minute
And of course mom's permission. How else could I explain an expense like that on the phone bill? Promising to pay for it from my job money clinched the deal.

Excitement buzzing in my veins, I punched those numbers (having a push-button phone brought my family out of the dark ages) and held my breath as I listened to the various clicks, and finally the weirdly hollow, double buzz of an international ring. I squealed. This was actually happening!

Who knows what Cathy and I talked about for almost an hour that early Saturday afternoon? I do remember lots of disbelief on her end and talking around echoes. And maybe there were even a few awkward silences. But I couldn't have been happier spending the sixty bucks it cost to connect with a friend whom I couldn't even see (Skype wasn't even a blip on the radar yet).

For a magical, handful of minutes, I had touched the other side of the world in real time.


2 comments

  1. thomaslindac@gmail.com

    Regina, what sweet charming story. So much youthful innocence. Keep writing and sharing your lovely memories. Wow, sixty dollars for a one-hour phone call. That definitely wouldn't have happened in my household.
    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, right? If I didn't have that job, it wasn't gonna happen. Thanks for chiming in.

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