What did we do before we had the feature on our telephones that allows us to switch over to pick up another call? We got a busy signal.

What did we do before we had the feature on our telephones that allows us to switch over to pick up another call?  We got a busy signal.  Those were the good old days I suppose.

“Call Waiting” is one of those features that you are doomed if you do and doomed if you don’t use it. The person you are talking to will more than likely be annoyed when you say, “Hang on a minute, I have to answer this call.”  The person calling in might think you are just not answering the phone because they get a ringing sound, rather than a busy signal.

Maybe things were easier with a party line when you could all talk together.  Older folks still remember party lines where phone customers were sharing phone service lines.  In other words folks had the same line.  The way you knew the call was for you was by the pattern of the ring.

However, if it wasn’t for you, you could still listen in.  I’m not going to get into the possibility that we still do have “party lines.”

The Call Waiting feature, along with Caller ID, the portable fax machine, touch tone telephones, solar cells and fiber optic cables are attributable to important research of an African-American woman.  This lady, Dr. Shirley Jackson was the first African-American woman to earn her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I’m a scientist and I just found that out.  Dr. Jackson, who is now in her late 60’s, is the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, another university known for its excellence in science and engineering.

Now I know… It is interesting to me that an African-American woman invented call waiting.


As I have written before, my godmother, Phyllis, is a 93 year-old African-American.  It’s been about two years now since she called me by mistake and has continued to call me three to five times a week.  When my mother passed away, Phyllis and I decided that she should be my godmother.

It has been a wonderful relationship, though I have never met her in person.  I’m a white guy who grew up in Alabama whose godmother is a 93 year-old African-American, with a little bit of Chickahominy Indian in her, who looks Puerto Rican.   Those are almost the words she uses.  Phyllis says, “I’m part Black, part Chickahominy Indian, but I have curly hair like a Puerto Rican.

There was no menu to pick godmothers from when I needed one, but I’m pretty sure I got the best one.

When she calls, she asks about the children, she asks how I’m doing, and then she prays.  There is no preacher, pastor or priest that can come even close to what comes out of Phyllis’ mouth.

She quotes the Bible; she covers everything in “The Blood.”  I enjoy listening to her.  She tells me that she has some relatives who have told her to stop calling if all she is going to do is “preach and pray.”  I tell her to, “Bring it on, I want to hear it.”  She laughs and says, “Precious Be His Name.”

This last weekend, Phyllis broke into an old hymn, “There Is Power in the Blood.”  I sang with her.  We laughed and talked about how we would make a good duet.

Then Phyllis started praying, I could tell by the sound and tone and rhythm of her voice that I was in for a long one.  It didn’t bother me, when she does this, I just ask myself, “Why me Lord, what have I ever done to deserve someone so wonderful.”

Well, about five minutes into Phyllis’ prayer, I could hear the clicking on her line notifying her that someone was calling in.  Quickly, I wondered, “Will she take the other call in the middle of this long prayer?”

She did.

She stopped right in the middle of her prayer, and said, “Excuse me, I have take this call.”

While I waited, I thought about how she was going to come back in the middle of her prayer.  Would she start right in?  Would she forget she was praying?

About three minutes later, the line clicked back over and Phyllis came back.

There was a silence, and then Phyllis spoke.

“Pardon the interruption, Lord, I had to take that call.”

She then continued for another five or so minutes right where she left off.

I find it interesting that an African-American woman invented Call Waiting, I find it amazing that my godmother can put God on hold and come right back.

I’m pretty sure He didn’t have a problem being put on hold by a 93 year-old African-American woman, who has a little Chickahominy Indian in her, who looks Puerto Rican and quotes the scripture better than any preacher who ever stood in a pulpit.

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