Phonemanship

Cabbages & Kings

"Innocent as you are, Socrates, you must see that a just man always has the worst of it . . . when people denounce injustice, it is because they are afraid of suffering wrong, not of doing it." Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic

Plagued by the waspish attacks of government and religion; that is, Senator McCarthy and Father Fcency, Harvard has so far managed to salvage a semblance of morality. But a new and potent enemy, the telephone, has now reared its ugly, two pronged head. In a terse, hard bitting statement, an employee of the Cambridge office of the Telephone Company explained why some students are being charged several times too much on their bills. Citing the fact that some students wire their phones so that message units are charged to other numbers, she commented, "It's not the phone company's fault we can't trace these people. It's the fault of the professors. They ought to teach you boys some morals. Harvard ought to patrol your rooms in order to make sure you aren't making calls on other people's numbers."

The room patrol is an interesting thought, but hardly feasible because there are so many other ways to cheat the Company.

The first method is what one might call the "Old Guts" technique. In this case the entrepreneur must procure the insides of a pay telephone--the bells especially--and must carry this with him at all times. When it is necessary for him to make a phone call from a pay booth, he and his guts go in together. Dropping a nickel into the guts, the little bells clatter, and the bodied phone begins to work. Simple.

But "Old Guts" strategy is sometimes impracticable because of the size of the apparatus. A less strenuous type of phonemanship is the "Bell Method." In this ploy, one need only carry with him a set of bells. After having mastered the different sound combinations by which the operator can tell how much is put into the machine, the phonester merely taps his bells in the proper rhythm and places his call.

But these former methods lack widespread appeal in that they only cheat the Telephone Company of a few nickels. Because a good crook gets more pleasure out of ruining his friends, the "Crossed Wires" gag provides lots of laughs for those who know its secrets. By crossing the wires inside a phone in a special way, one can charge his long distance calls to the other person on the party line.

Then again, there is the "Penny Just SO Saves Nine" technique, but this is entirely restricted to real artists. By casting a penny down a nickel slot so that it hits on an angle roughly corresponding to ten o'clock on the coin, the dime bell will ring. Tricky.

Another droll one is "The Old School Special." Usually left to parental supervision, it is perfected from early childhood. When a specialist in this field travels away from home, and wishes to assure his family that he reached his destination, he makes a person-to-person call to himself at home. This, of course, is rewarding to all concerned, save one.

The Telephone Company does not know how to stop these injustices. What of the creeping immorality? Some suggest room inspections and moral instruction. But there is a clearer course. Every last one of those shrill little black monsters should be destroyed.