One Ringy Dingy


Remember the operator on Laugh-In?
Back in my Mother's Day that was how you made a call.
You went through Lilly at the switchboard.
My earliest recollection of a phone was a square, black, rotary one, sitting on a stand.
To make a call you had to pick up the mouthpiece very quietly in case the neighbors were on the line. And you could only answer it if it was your special ring.
But the future came flying in fast.
By the time I was in fourth grade we weren't on a party line anymore.
By middle school the curly cord had grown to six feet.
By the time I was out skipping class and shopping for my homecoming dress there were super cool slim lined phones, with push buttons. And they came in all kinds of colors, including turquoise.
But even those fancy designer phones didn't cut it.
They were too restricting for modern times.

Those cords that kept growing in length lost their spirals and got all tangled up after being stretched beyond their limits.
You know how you make a curly-cue ribbon out of a straight ribbon by zipping the blade of a scissors across the little ridges?
One pull is good.
Two pulls leaves a stretched out ribbon without a curl.
I pulled mine all the way down the hall and into the bathroom in a panic that morning my water broke.
Not my ribbon.
My phone.
It was circumstances such as these that caused a bunch of no good, knotted up cords in every home.
This I believe is what drove Martin Cooper right over the edge and that is why he invented the wireless telephone.
It was amazing.
You could walk around your living room and water your plants, dust off your coffee table, and stir your soup on the burner, all the while making plans for the evening.
In some rare instances you could even get all the way to your mailbox.
But, without warning, the trouble began.
You see, without that ball of the knotted up stretched out cord attached to the mouth piece, which was then attached to the receiver, which was then plugged into an outlet in the wall, those wireless phones started disappearing.
I'm not talking about today's smart phones.
That's a different story.
A smartphone isn't lost when you hear that plop inside your stall and it wasn't you.
It's not missing when you drop your best friend on the pavement while tripping over the curb you hadn't noticed you were approaching and you hear that God forsaken spider web crack.
And when you watch the Uber car drive away and remember that you'd been texting just before you'd pulled out your wallet and you'd set your buddy ol' pal down, you know exactly where your smart phone is.
It's not lost.
You are just S.O.L.
But I'm not talking about that.
I am talking about land line telephones.
You see, some of us still own these historical contraptions.
Some of us still live in shacks that are located off the globe uniting grid of satellite signals.
We who live in little pockets of the galaxy where they cannot penetrate are still using our wireless land line telephones.
And these have to be replaced every so often.
About twelve years ago Sven came home from Walmart with a set of three shiny new black handsets, because our last set of three was down to a set of just one and we had to yell over the static on the line.
He put one upstairs.
He put one in the kitchen.
And he put one in the living room.
We were all set.
And over the last twelve years of wedded bliss, we had anywhere from one to three handsets on any given day.
Our longest stretch of being able to locate just two of them was recent.
It lasted a little over a year.
Which was almost as long as the last stretch before that stretch of only being able to locate two phones.
After looking in all the usual places, under the couch, in the closet, under the bed, out in Sven's shop, on the porch, next to the dryer, in the bathroom, on top of the fence post and in the basement, we shrugged our shoulders and gave up.
"Screw it," we said.
"Two is plenty. Nobody really needs three telephones in their house. And if you have two you have a fifty-fifty chance of at least one being charged."
But then Sven ran into that long lost missing phone that had been pictured on milk cartons the day his truck wouldn't start.
He took the jumper cables out and there it was, under the hood where he left it the last time his truck wouldn't start.
That was an exciting day.
Because even though two telephones are plenty for any household, three is always better.
And we are short on excitement.
But then it happened again.
We were back to two.
No big deal.
Three phones are for rich, spoiled, aristocrats.
And then, God forbid, number two went missing about two months ago.
It vanished like Barbara Eden had crossed her arms in front of her chest and nodded her golden ponytail.
That phone was nowhere.
And the last one standing made an annoying, loud, buzzing sound.
So Sven went back to Walmart last week and he came home with a box of three shiny new black phones and he set them up.
One went upstairs.
That is when he yelled, "Hey, I found a missing phone!"
"Where was it?" I hollered up the stairs.
"Behind that little thing I keep the phone on. I can't believe you never saw it there when you were vacuuming."
"There are some places in this house that I do not go near, Sven."
He set one up in the kitchen.
And then he went out to the shop to get a screwdriver and he came back in the door with the other missing phone.
"It was on the table under a little saw dust," he explained.
And then he set the last new phone up in the living room.
That was another very exciting day.
But then all three of the shiny bastards had that loud buzzing sound.
What are the odds?
We had six phones.
They all buzzed.
So my sweet Sven called up the telephone company.
They were courteous enough to send someone to our house.
They gave him am eight AM to five PM window.
That was last Friday.
"Eight to five?" I said.
"Well, they're going to call me a half an hour before they show up," he says.
Sven worked nearby the house that day.
I arrived home at four PM.
"The telephone company came," he says, as I dropped my work week on the island with that lightheartedness that I will someday miss.
"Did they fix the buzzing problem?"
"Yep. And your dog was really good."
"Hunter?" I said, eyes wide. "For real?"
Sven just stared at me.
"What happened?"
"Well, I missed a call on my cell on my way here. I walked in the door and there was a message blinking on the answering machine. So I was bent over trying to listen to it because YOUR dog was barking."
"Oh," I said digging in the fridge looking for anything to stuff in my mouth.
"He was in the kitchen barking and barking," he says.
"What was it? A rabbit out the window?" I said.
"I was yelling, Hunter shut up! God Damn it. I can't hear this message."
"Well, he just kept on barking like he always does."
"So I just kept on yelling, like I always do."
"It turned out that he was barking at the woman who was at the door watching the whole thing."
"There was a woman at the door?"
"Who was she?"
"She was from the telephone company."


"Is this the party to whom I am speaking?"


"Hunter, I can't hear a word she is saying!"

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