David E. Steiner

Retired USAF, Teacher, Dad, Grandfather, Curmudgeon

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A Whine About Telephone Service [1991]


It seems to me I spend quite a bit of time complaining about various services in this space. I’ve complained about the rise in postal rates, garbage disposal, electricity, road maintenance. Like most of us up here, I think it’s my constitutional right to whine, and I like to take full advantage of it. It should be noted, however, that I’ve never whined about our splendid fire department or the Boulder County Sheriff. I like to whine, but I’m not stupid.

I suppose, over the years, I’ve whined most about the phone, and if this bores you just skip the rest of this and get on with reading about Grandma Cat.

My mother, when I became too exasperating, used to say to me, “You make me tired.” Apparently not terminally tired, since she turns 83 this month. But I understand how she felt, because the phone company makes me tired.

This month I got my bill from what some of my friends like to call “Useless West,” and it included some $30.00 in long distance calls to people I don’t know and whose telephone numbers I don’t recognize.

After a few minutes of sleuthing on my own, I discovered the reason. Two months ago, the phone company got rid of the operator intercept on the party lines, and they installed some little computer cards in the boxes outside our home to tell the wonderful new computerized system in Allenspark what numbers we were calling. But they forgot some, including mine. And if you’re still talking to an operator, then they haven’t gotten around to yours, either. But when they do it, if they don’t install that little card, you’re going to get, as I did, the bill for your party line’s calls. And I did find out that my party line is very faithful about calling her mother.

One of the calls was billed to AT & T, so I had to call them, too. “I have a charge from my party line I’d like to have removed,” I said.

“Oh, you must be in Colorado,” said the operator. “Yes,” I said. “How did you know?” “Oh,” she said, “that’s the only place in the country that still has party lines.”

The operator is in Arizona, and she tells me that her parents live 20 miles from the nearest town in Montana and have a private line. When I told her I live 30 feet from a trunk line and the phone company wants $500 to let me have a private line, she said, “Yes, I know. Somebody else told me that, and I didn’t believe them, so I called U.S. West, and sure enough, that was the price. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t.”

Well, neither can I. Not only is Longmont a long distance call, but we were supposed to be included in the Rural Telephone Improvement Plan but “for some reason” we weren’t. So we now have fiber optics in a cable as big as your leg running along the highway, and four-party lines that don’t work much of the time. When I pick up the phone after I’ve been gone a week, it’s a crap shoot whether there’ll be a dial tone. And when I call the repair service, I get, “You know, sir, you don’t have a service contract, so if the problem’s with your phone there will be a substantial service charge.” So I tell her, “I’ve been reporting phone trouble up here for more than 30 years and it’s never been my equipment.” They make me tired.

We need to do something about this, friends. If we don’t, Charles Kuralt is going to be along to do a piece about “the last place in America with four party lines.” I don’t want to be quaint. I want to plug in my modem and not have to fight with teenage girls over the use of the phone lines. They think I’m an old jerk and I think they’re insensitive. So we’re complaining about each other when the real villain is U.S. West.

It makes me tired.




© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner

Allenspark Wind Columns:


Why Allenspark?

Going Riding [August, 1985]


Used Cars

Peace and Quiet [1986]

Liberals & Conservatives

Going to the Movies

The Screened Porch

The Beginning of The Season

The Weather

The Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The End of The Season

The Gift of Time

The Beavers

Addresses [1987]


Watching the Trees Grow

Postal Rates

Changes in Estes Park

Square Dancing at the Pow Wow

Back to the Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The Solstices

Bird Feeders


The Estes Park Hardware Store [1988]


Limousine Service

A Memorial Service

A Hummingbird


A Hiking Trip

The Estes Park Public Library

Wild Life

Riparian Rights [1989]




Mountain Friendliness

A Motorcycle Trip

Satellite Television

“Weaving Mountain Memories”

Hotel Rates in the Old Days

The Price of Propane [1990]

The Front Range Almanac


Modes of Transportation

Miller Moths

My 50th Column

Modern Conveniences

Rock Climbing

On the Death of Otto Walter, Postmaster

Otto’s Memorial Service

A Big Owl Pot-Luck Dinner

A Whine About Telephone Service [1991]

After the Persian Gulf War

Some Changes in the WIND

The Trip to the Mountains

The Mountains in the Summer


Of Dogs, Music, and Children

Muhlenburg County

To My Grandson

The Sale of Longs Peak Inn

World War II  [1992]

Murphy’s Law and the Computer

The South St. Vrain Canyon


The Hazards of Volunteering

Crime in Our Valley


On the Death of Charles Eagle Plume

Can We All Get Along?

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Lost Horizon [1993]


Rumors About a Visit by the Pope


More About Fences


The Visit of Pope John Paul II

Forest Fires

The New Sewage System

The Snow Pool

The Good Old Days [1994]

The WIND’s 20th Anniversary

The Bunce School

The Shooting Gallery

The Estes Park Museum

Our Government

U.S. West Takes a Hit

The Year of the Hummingbirds

A New “Yield” Sign

Growth in Allenspark

Private Telephones?

The Salvation Army

Creation Science [1995]

Devolutionizing Big Government



Fort D.A. Russell

Domestic Terrorism

Old and New

Barney Graves

Life in the Wilderness

What’s In a Name?

Arthur C. Clarke


The Estes Park Trail-Gazette Columns:

July 1983


Estes Cone

Johnny Grant

Observations in Estes Park

The Bath House


The Sutherland’s Ice House

How Old is Charles Eagle Plume?


Christmas Trees

Tree Murder

Mountain Driving


Mail Boxes

More About Mail Boxes

“Are you related to ....?”


An Accident

The Wild Cat

A July Reunion

A Visit to Baldpate Inn

Opening Cabins


The Times, They Have Changed

Death and Transfiguration

The Population Explosion

The March of Time

Faith-Based Social Services

Looking for Pitch

Recent Writings I

Recent Writings II

Recent Writings III

Recent Writings IV

Recent Writings V

Recent Writings VI



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