There was a wall-mounted, black rotary phone in our "den" when I was growing up. The den was a tiny room at the front of the house that was eight square feet, at the most. It contained the shotgun cabinet, a drop-front secretary desk, a door to the outside, an arched entrance into the dining room and that rotary phone. In fact, it still has all of those items in it. The only change that’s been made is it’s been painted a couple of times and new carpet. To make a phone call, you simple picked up the phone, listed to the handset to make sure the family you didn’t share it with (a "party" line) wasn’t already using it, and then you stuck your finger – or a pencil, if you were feeling fancy – into the hole with the corresponding number and rotated it clockwise until it hit the stopper. Then you lifted your finger out and went to the next number. Repeat six more times.
If I got in a hurry and put my finger in the 4 instead of the 3 and moved it even slightly, I had just fucked up everything. I have to start over. Waiting for the rotary to return from the stop was eternal. Especially if was a zero, which required a nearly 170 degree rotation. 1 was the closest to the dial and therefore the shortest to wait for. Our prefix was 337. Every number we ever dialed started with 337. After that, each phone in the community was numerically assigned. Apparently our family’s was the 865th phone number assigned.
When I needed a phone number of a friend, I could simply dial -0- and ask the live operator. If you picked up the handset and your party line was in use, we had three options: 1) listen in on their conversation until they were done; 2) hang up loud enough so they knew someone else wanted the line; or 3) ask them if you could use the phone quickly and then they could have it back.
I frequently have nightmares about being unable to use my phone or repeatedly dialing the wrong number. It might be a throw back to all those years using a rotary and knowing precious seconds could tick away if there was a fire or someone cut off their finger if I mis-dialed 9-1-1. Why they ever assigned emergency services 9-1-1- back in the days of rotary phones, I will never understand considering 9 is just next to the zero.