♫ Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)♫

I was beginning to think I would have to settle for a redux tonight, for every song that popped into my head was one I had already played here.  So, I pulled up a Jim Croce song I hadn’t played since 2018 and, as I typically do, went back through the comments on that post.  In the comments, our friend Keith had mentioned a couple of songs by Croce that … lo and behold … I hadn’t yet played!  This is one of them …

The story behind the song was inspired during Jim Croce’s military service, during which time he saw lines of soldiers waiting to use the outdoor phone on base, many of them calling their wives or girlfriends to see if their Dear John letter was true.  According to Jim’s wife, Ingrid …

Jim and I had gotten married in 1966, and we had been waiting for him to go in the service. He was a National Guard, which he had joined with the hope that he would not be sent over, and he would be able to continue his education and his music career. So he signed up for the National Guard, and just as soon as we decided to get married – in August of 1966, the week before our little wedding – he got a letter that said that he would be leaving within two weeks for his National Guard duty down in South or North Carolina, so he was leaving with a very heavy heart.

My dad had been very ill and shortly after that passed away. And we had just waited… wanted to get married and have some time to be together after all those years of waiting. All of the sudden here he is the National Guard, and Jim is not very good with authority. And he’s in the South, and they were not very good with making pasta. He was missing good food, he was missing me, he was missing life in general.

He’s one of the few guys I think who went through basic training twice… he really couldn’t follow the system. He’d always find things that were funny, like a handbook that he put together in dealing with the service with a whole bunch of quotes of how to deal with people in the Army.

But anyway, he was standing there in the rain at a payphone. And he was listening to these stories of all these guys, the ‘Dear John’ stories, that were standing in line waiting their turn in the rain with these green rain jackets over their heads – I can just picture it, all of them in line waiting for their 3-minute phone call. Most of them were getting on the phone and they were okay, but some of them were getting these ‘Dear John’ letters, or phone calls. I think that was the most important aspect of the song, because it was just so desperate. You know, ‘I only have a dime’ and ‘You can keep the dime’ because money was very scarce and very precious, and I think if you look at the words to the song there are so many aspects of our generation that are in it.

Jim Croce died in 1973, the year after this song was released, when the chartered plane in which he was a passenger crashed into a tree during takeoff from the Natchitoches Regional Airport in Natchitoches, Louisiana. In 2000, the Martin guitar company produced 73 guitars in honor of Jim Croce. In each of these guitars, an uncirculated 1973 dime was inserted in the third fret fingerboard in honor of this song and the final line, “You can keep the dime.”

This song only charted in Canada (#11) and the U.S. (#17) at the time of its release in 1972.  I found in some of my other Jim Croce postings that he wasn’t widely known outside of North America.  Still … I like this song.

Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels)
Jim Croce

Operator, O could ya help me place this call?
See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded
She’s living in L.A.
With my best old ex-friend, Ray
Guy, she said she knew well and sometimes hated

But isn’t that the way they say it goes?
Well, let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine
And to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels

Operator, O could ya help me place this call?
‘Cause I can’t read the number that you just gave me
There’s something in my eyes
You know it happens every time
I think about a love that I thought would save me

But isn’t that the way they say it goes?
Well, let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine
And to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels
No, no, no, no
That’s not the way it feels

Operator, O let’s forget about this call
There’s no one there I really wanted to talk to
Thank you for your time
Ah, you’ve been so much more than kind
You can keep the dime

But isn’t that the way they say it goes?
Well, let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine
And to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Croce James J
Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels) lyrics © H&r Lastrada Music, R2m Publishing, Wingate-music Corp.

28 thoughts on “♫ Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)♫

  1. This is another song I have used in class occasionally. It gives the older people in the group a chance to explain what an operator was, and what a dime is, and how a pay phone used to work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha … I understand completely! How times have changed, yes? I remember as a child having a party line, and I used to sneak and pick up to listen to other people’s conversations! And well I remember my mother saying to always make sure I had a dime to call home if I needed to. Now, we ask our kids if they have their cell phone as they leave the house … which is really a silly question, for they are attached at the hip to those cell phones! 🙄

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  2. I would never have guessed the story from the lyrics. I thought he was hurting personally, and just wanting to talk to a woman–all operators were women in those days, probably still are–with a kind voice.

    Liked by 1 person

          • Or, if you had Comcast, you might have gotten “me” in Lethbridge, Alberta. I took the training at a call centre to make a few quick bucks, never intending on actually working there. I hated talking to people at call centres, so I just wanted to see it from the inside. (I did a similar thing with the fur industry earlier in my life. I learned more than I ever wanted to know!)
            Anyway, the last day of training, they surprised us with a “live session.” I answered a call about something we never trained for, and I asked for help. The supervisor said, just tell them something that sounds good and move on to the next call. We had five minutes for a call, and I had used 3 minutes trying to figure out what the customer needed. Basically, I was told, “Lie, and hang up.” So I called his supervisor, and she helped me take care of the customer, but after the call was finished she tore a strip off me for not sending it to her right away, and then hanging up and taking the next call. In front of my fellow trainees. She was making an example of me. I got up from my station, told her just as loudly that if time was more important than helping solve a problem, she could **** my **** and I grabbed my jacket and walked out. Like I said, I was just investigating a call centre, but it was worse than even I thought. No idea how the other trainees reacted, but I got what I wanted: a few bucks pay, and a good look inside a cesspool. It is no wonder they now have call centre’s everywhere but North America. They can push foreign workers around and pay them sh*t at the same time.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Wow … what a learning experience! And yet, I am not surprised, for rarely are customer service people I’ve talked to actually helpful. The exception is the Canadian pharmacy where I buy my insulin … they are THE MOST helpful and efficient customer service reps I have ever dealt with in my life. I learned many decades ago that I am not cut out for any job that deals with the public, for I haven’t the patience to put up with what some customers will dish out, so I had a career in accounting where I rarely dealt with the public.

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                • I get it … I guess I was just a hippie wanna-be, for I started working at 13 and rarely had time for anything other than work & school. I learned my strengths and weaknesses pretty quickly, though, and dealing with people definitely is NOT one of my strong suits 😉

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  3. Living in Buffalo, we listened to Canadian radio stations because they were so much better than American radio stations, so I always knew this was a #1 song. I never knew that it didn’t chart #1 on the American charts. Jim Croce was always one of my favorites.

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    • I don’t think I ever listened to Canadian radio as a youngster, though half of my youth was spent in NYC. Interesting, isn’t it, how a song can bomb in one country and be a hit in another, though our tastes and the Canadians are generally pretty similar. Yep, Croce was one of my favourites, too.

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  4. A beautiful song, like so many of his. He may not have been well-known here during his lifetime, but some of us had picked up on him. But he has never had anything in our charts, even posthumously, to our loss and shame.

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  6. Jill, this is an example of Jim Croce at his best. Telling an impactful and all too common story. The lyrics, music, and guitar playing are all exemplary. Many people are less aware his guitarist died with him in the plane crash. Maury Muehleisen was his name and here is a blurb about him: “Jim Croce’s ‘One Man Band’ The heart and soul behind Jim Croce’s music Maury, the quiet friend who was rarely recognized for his influence on the beautiful guitar duets that changed the way many guitarists have played and written songs, a musical Genius with a capital ‘G’.” Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Keith, for telling us about Maury! I did know that 5 others were killed along with Croce, but I was completely unaware of Maury Muehleisen and his contribution to Croce’s music. I like that — Genius with a capital ‘G’!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, the only reason I knew that is I wanted to see who was doing the excellent lead guitar work on Croce’s songs. Was it Croce or someone else? I felt it was someone else as it is hard to play lead and sing at the same time. It is sad when so much talent leaves us too early. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • And see … I never would have thought to even ask that question, always having assumed Croce was playing the guitar as well as singing. Yes, very sad, but we will always have their music!

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