So I have a character trying to place a call out to another city. He's a few blocks away from where the main government building partially collapsed after several explosions, and he really, really, really wants/needs to call another city to 1) make sure the same thing's not happening there and 2) make sure his brother's okay.
Here's some facts:
1) It's 1922. While it's not Earth, it's very comparable to Western Europe/USA around that time era.
2) He's a government official, in a station that used to have a lot more authority than it currently does, and his name is fairly well-known.
3) He's calling from a personal residence approximately 15-30 minutes after the explosions about a block away.
4) The government headquarters building is being evacuated and it's currently mad chaos on the scene.
5) The explosions felt more like an earthquake -- where the character had been about a mile away, it was comparable to a 6.0, due to the size of the building and the weight of the materials involved.
If I recall what I know of phone operation back then, even if you dialed a direct number, the call was often manually routed by an operator at a switchboard, correct? I'm assuming that right now, everyone's trying to make calls, and they're likely overloaded.
What might the character encounter -- what would he hear if he can't get the call through and would he get a chance to speak with an operator to argue for his call to be put through on a higher priority? (xposted to Character and Plot Realism Q&A since it's NaNo-related)