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Edward Southerland: Line 72
By Edward Southerland
Mar 10, 2017
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Years ago when I lived in Atlanta, I worked for a big, national insurance company. Although the regional office was in a modern office high rise, the office telephone system was not the most up-to-date. It was my understanding that the company got the system shortly after Don Ameche invented the telephone.

When I first started work there, you still picked up the receiver, gave the box a crank and said, “Hello, Central, hello Central, give me 603,” or words to that effect, and I was there for a while before my extension changed from three shorts, two longs and a short to numbers.

Most of the time the system worked, but occasionally when you picked up the telephone and hit nine to get an outside line, you got nothing. No dial tone, nothing. Eventually I learned that the problem might be with Line 72.

“My phone’s not working again,” I said to one of my co-workers. “Does yours work?”

“It’s Line 72,” came the reply. “If you get Line 72, you can’t get a dial tone.”

“Why don’t they fix it?”

“Because there isn’t any Line 72 in the first place,” was the answer.

OK, for a recap, when you punched nine and the telephone croupier inside the phone spins the little roulette wheel and the ball happens to land on Line 72 you lose. I don’t know who wins, but you lose.

The next obvious question was, how does one avoid Line 72 and get Line 39 or Line 76 or Line 1776?

The answer was simple. One doesn’t avoid Line 72. One just gets lucky. Unlucky in love, lucky in line selection, as the old saying goes.

Moving on. If you are unlucky and hook up to the nonexistent Line 72, what do you do?

Now this is where it gets a little tricky and takes help. If you get Line 72, you embrace it. You then hang up and pick another phone across the room, or have someone do it for you, and then they’re the one stuck with Line 72 (Which as you will recall from the previous comment, does not exist, or if it does exist it has an unlisted number.)

Where were we, oh yes, you’ve now foisted Line 72 off on your somebody else, and you can try for Line 73 or whatever. This used to be called passing the buck.

It’s so simple, a four year old could understand it, and to borrow from Groucho Marx, “Go out and find me a four-year-old. I can’t make heads or tails of this.”

I’m with Groucho. All this Line 72 and Line 36 and Line 127b business sounded a lot like an IRS form to me and I don’t want to go there.