Almon Brown Strowger was an undertaker, born in New York state in 1839, but he’s best known for something else altogether. You see, he discovered that a rival of his was stealing all the local funeral business because his wife worked as a telephone operator, and would manually connect calls meant for other undertakers to her husband’s office. Crafty. Dead crafty.
Our Mr Strowger was something of an inventor, however, and believing that it should be the subscriber who determined where a call should go rather than the operator, he set about creating and patenting an automatic electro-mechanical telephone exchange. When I began working in advertising in the mid-1980s, with British Telecom as a client, many of BT’s exchanges still contained what was referred to as Strowger equipment.
Nowadays, of course, phone calls are switched electronically by computer, but there was something quite magical (and clatteringly noisy) about those old exchanges in which you could quite literally see the connections being made.
I think we all go through periods when, perhaps, we don’t connect as much as we might. I’m not talking necessarily about electronic connections, although there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with those, more about any and all human contact we have with others, especially when the communication is on more than a mere surface level.
I wonder if there’s a correlation between your mood and the amount of social contact you have each day? If so, it may not be easy to determine what is cause and effect (do you feel better because you’ve spent time with others, or do you spend time with them because you’re feeling good?) but there does appear to be sense in trying to increase your connections whenever you can.
Those old-fashioned telephone exchanges seemed to be at their best when they were working hard, and didn’t always do so well if they sat idle. They’d seize up and break down. Maybe your mood is a bit like this?
And perhaps today is a good one to get those dials whirring?