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Mewes Memories: My brick of a phone for on-call

Reflecting on over 25 years serving the Mid Sussex community as a Vet, I can’t help but laugh when I remember how primitive our means of communication were when I first qualified.

In 1989 I landed my first job, in a practice with a one in three on-call rota. Being on call was nerve racking, and one problem was making sure that I was near a working phone day and night.

The phone I had been presented with was a chunky thing wrapped in red leather. It was so heavy that if a conversation took more than a few seconds I needed both hands to hold it up. This was before text, email and voicemail, and there was barely any signal in many rural parts of Sussex.

But at least I had a mobile. My friend Heather, who qualified with me, got her first job up north and was expected to sit by her phone all evening or all weekend in case she was needed! She wasn’t even permitted to pop out for a pint of milk in case she missed an emergency!

Worse still, her boss thought it a good system to initially accept all calls himself. He then decided which of his vets to send to deal with the problem, and phoned them himself.

So if she failed to answer, he knew at once she wasn’t there. Unsurprisingly, she quickly decided that veterinary general practice wasn’t for her.  

Adventure in on-call

My phone and I had many adventures.

Once I left it on the roof of my car, and set off, only to return and find I had crushed it in my manoeuvres. The next one ended up in the pond at Piltdown when I was trying to stop my terrier from swimming.

But at least I had a boss who allowed me the freedom of a mobile. Hers was an impressive over-the-shoulder model as large as some carry-on airline luggage!

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