This page documents some of the oddities I've encountered with technological infrastructure that is generally taken for granted to work flawlessly.
Hearing other people's calls
This has happened to me twice and I have found no explaination for it. The first time it happened was in the early 90s. I had just gotten finished with a call to a friend. He hung up first and I stayed on the line for a moment, only to hear the line start ringing. Soon after I heard someone on the other end pick up to answer. To my surprise, the person placing the call started talking. I was somehow listening to another person's call. This went on for about a minute and then it switched to another line, and then another, and then another. The most memorable call was some old talking about going bowling. After a few calls I decided to see if these people could hear me. So I started talking. Nothing. Then I thought that maybe I was in some kind of operator mode and maybe the operator could hear me. So I stayed on the line for about 20 minutes trying to communicate with whoever might be along with me. Nothing was successful. I eventually hung up and called my friend back, who of course didn't believe that it had happened.
Around 2000, this same thing happened to me again when I was living in my apartment. This time I was only able to listen for a couple minutes before it cut me off to a dial tone.
If anyone knows why this happens, I'd be very interested in hearing an explaination. And no, we didn't have a party line.
One time back in the mid 90s I was driving up to a stop light that was green. It changed to yellow and then suddenly changed to red after only a split second. This wasn't a case of me blinking or "losing time". The system failed to keep the yellow light on for the normal few seconds. Fortunately I was far enough away that it didn't really matter.
Phreaked calls or major billing error?
Sometime in the late 80s I remember my mom going through a telephone bill that had hundreds of calls of various lengths to various long distance numbers. My mom knew that it was not us doing it because several of the calls where made while we were away on vacation. AFAIK, the phone company "dropped the charges". I always wondered if those calls where the result of some telephone phreaker.
Ok, stop recording
You know those interception messages you receive when you misdial a number? Well I have a friend who lives in Seattle and back in the 90s when I would call him I would often let it ring for a while. After about 2 minutes of ringing, I would get this operator message saying "Your party is not answering, please try your call again later... 4091T...................What was it th [indistinquishable talking]." The recording hadn't been properly reviewed and there was some extra background talking in it. Sometimes I'd call just to listen to that recording. I think I have it recorded somewhere.