David E. Steiner

Retired USAF, Teacher, Dad, Grandfather, Curmudgeon

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 Private Telephones?


We got a letter the other day. I don’t like letters from US West. It’s got to the point where I check to see my wallet’s still there every time I see the name. Anyway, US West sent this letter to all of us who have party  lines. It starts off cheerfully enough: “Dear David & Mary.” Heck, I hardly know these folks. They sure are friendly. I relax my grip on my wallet. So I look to see who signed it. Nobody. No signature at all. Pretty rude for a letter that begins “Dear David & Mary.” I check my wallet again.

It’s also pretty demanding: “YOUR RESPONSE IS NECESSARY BY OCTOBER 17, 1994.” Bold faced, yet. Right away I have a question. What’s the hurry? My private line is still just a stub of wire sticking up out of the ground, not connected to anything. And I bet it’ll be that way until the spring thaw and maybe later. If it had been in by the 17th I don’t know what I would have done. Let’s just say I’d have been damned surprised. Then it goes on to say things like “You are required…” When I retired from the USAF I made a promise to myself that I was never going to blindly obey another order. These sound pretty much like orders to me.

Then the letter talks about options. I like options; they aren’t orders.


Option 1: “One” Party Flat Rated Service

 “Fixed monthly rate of $14.79 includes one party service, TouchTone Service and unlimited local calling privileges.”

Right away, I’m suspicious. Why is that “One” in quotation marks? Is it really one, or is it something else. If it isn’t something else, why is it in quotation marks? And then there’s that “Rated.” What’s that about? A flat rate I understand, but what’s the past tense about, anyway? And why is TouchTone all one word with a capital letter in the middle? Am I getting defensive about this?


Option 2: “One” Party Measured Service

 “Fixed monthly rate of $9.39 includes one party service and TouchTone Service. Each outgoing local call is a charge of 5 cents for the first minute  and 2 cents for each additional minute.”

Hang on while I whip out my calculator. Let’s see, I could make 49 four minute calls for $5.39, plus $9.39 equals ---$14.78. Not bad. Still, if I’m going to make more than two calls a day, I might as well go for the “flat rated.” And I don’t like being charged by the minute; I don’t want to keep track of it, and some of my friends are pretty long winded. Some even say that about me.


Option 3: “One” Party Message Service

 “Fixed monthly rate of $9.39 includes one party service and TouchTone Service and a call allowance of 50 free local calls. There is a charge of 11 cents for every local call over 50.”


Lets, see. If I pay $9.39 and get 50 free local calls, then I could make 98 unlimited length local calls every month for the same price as “flat rated” Option 1. If I make fewer than 50 calls it’s the same price and maybe a bunch less than Option 2. Option 2 is beginning to look really bizarre. Now we’re talkin’. But what about that “Message Service?” What’s that about? It doesn’t say anything about messages

Finally, the letter says my Rural Zone Increment charge will increase. There are three zones, and the Zone 1 rate will increase from $3 to $5, Zone 2 from $7.20 to $12.00 and Zone 3 from $12 to $20! Some increase. I hope like hell I’m not in Zone 3. But I don’t know. This person who knows me well enough to call me Dear David and doesn’t sign his/her name apparently doesn’t know what zone I’m in. The mail-merge program apparently doesn’t have that information.

Down at the bottom, however, is a phone number I can call if I have any questions. Do I have questions?! But it takes me three days of sporadic dialing to reach a Business Office Representative. Why have they told me, a rural person, to call a Business Office Representative? I have no idea.

Anyway, I talk to this nice young woman who tells me I’m in Zone 1, thank God, and she doesn’t know why Option 2 is there, because she has never talked to anyone dumb enough to select it. As for “Message Service,” she has no clue. “It’s just a name,” she says.

So I tell her I’d like Option 3, please, even though that “Message” thing still worries me. She says I don’t need to send in the postcard with my choice, and she sound very reassuring. Maybe too reassuring. I check; my wallet’s still there. I decide I’d better send the postcard anyway. With US West, you can never be too careful.



© 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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