Back in the 1980s, we teens didn't have AOL chat rooms like the 1990s kids. We had what we called party chat lines. Typically the following commercials for a particular teen party line aired during our after school specials. 550-TEEN cost a hefty fee for that very first minute. Why? Because most kids probably panicked and hang up--they needed to nail us within that initial 60-seconds. After the first minute, the call would run about 10 or 20 cents each additional minute.
In 1986 I remember being at the home of a bad girl's house in South Valley Stream, New York. As you know I was kind of a good girl. I don't recall how I actually met this "bad girl" friend. I have a weird feeling it was at Hot Skates, the area roller rink. As a Catholic school kid, I rarely crossed paths with the public school kids. I'll call bad girl "Gina", although I honestly do not remember her name. Our friendship was that short-lived.
That year we loved this new rap/rock group, The Beastie Boys. We'd play their Licensed to Ill tape over and over on her boom box. She was a tough-talking Italian girl with big hair and dressed more grown-up than I did. I was just a silly, goofy, immature Italian kid, nothing like her. I had crushes on boys. She dated boys.
One day, I told her all about a commercial I had seen for a chat line for teens to call and meet boys. She was stoked to try this out and with her hardworking single mom busy at her second job, Gina was up for some chatty chat. Gripping the corded, beige, kitchen phone, I watched as she banged out 5-5-0-T-E-E-N as quickly as her long, hot pink nails could "dial."
We didn't have the speaker phone option on our home phones back then, so she instructed me to pick up the phone in the other room to join the chat. Within several minutes she was connected to a handful of young locals.
Everyone was talking over each other yelling in thick Long Island and Queens accents, "Who are you?" and "Where are you from?" Names flying back and fourth, girls and guys yelling out their numbers "My name is Mike and this is expensive! My dad's gonna kick my ass! Cawl me on my home phone!" or "John, call me, I'm Jenny, 14, from Commack, my numbah is 876-4321."
Long story short ... Thanks to me, Gina became tight with dozens of party line boys and began serial dating. She no longer had time for me and I wasn't really ready or allowed to date, I was barely 13.
Today I tested 550-TEEN and my call could not be completed as dialed. I dialed 516 (the Nassau County, Long Island area code) + 550-TEEN and the number is not in service. To this day, I wonder what my folks thought when they saw the phone bills. I don't recall anyone questioning me.