switchboard operator. Generally, I worked really boring shifts (Sunday mornings, Monday nights), where I might get maybe five to ten calls per hour on a busy day.
A shame, too. With two banks of twenty connections each, I was loaded for bear--especially on a tiny campus with a live-in population of about 800.
One Monday night, I had settled in with a good book, anticipating yet one more shift of tedium. And for the most part, that’s exactly what I got, until suddenly, almost all eight hundred spaces lit up at once. I first thought that something had gone wrong with the console. Worse, I feared getting the blame for it. But when randomly plugging a connection into one of the calls, a terse, feminine voice from one dorm asked me to plug her into the room of another. I then fielded a call from an outside line. Another voice, another request. Time and again, I plugged in to find that someone urgently wanted to talk to someone else. Within a couple of minutes, I’d used up all forty connections, and still hadn’t made an appreciable dent in accommodating the traffic. I took my own, dedicated operator’s line. Starting from the top left, and working my way down, I plugged in, explained that I had maxed out my lines. I asked the party to call again in a few minutes, and pulled the plug out again without waiting for a response, all the while patching in fresh calls as old ones terminated.
It didn’t take me long to realize that nothing was wrong with that console. Something really big had happened. Alone at the front desk, I couldn’t even guess. Half an hour, forty-five minutes later, things had quieted down some, although I still frantically pulled and plugged.
One of the dorm head residents dropped by the office to complete some paperwork and turn it in. I didn’t have time to talk to him for at first, but eventually I got a short breather.
“What’s happened?” I asked.
The HR, looking down on his paperwork, calmly, emotionlessly said, “John Lennon’s been shot.”