Shortly after we moved into our house last fall, a phone rang. Funny, we don’t have a home phone. Turns out there’s a 50s-era phone ringer built in to the wall near the entryway. It has a nice brass plate over it, and sounds just like a phone should sound, a hearty two-bell-Detective-Slade-Bullitt’s-office-with-the-name-stenciled-on-frosted-glass kind of sound. Funny 2, we don’t have home phone service. Since last fall, the home phone has rung, someone in Bangladesh on the other end waiting for the auto-dialer to connect so they can peddle credit-card services. For months we talked about getting a cheap phone, hooking it up, and seeing if we could call out.
Calm, thronging masses, remain calm. Yes, we finally got a phone. Dialing out did nothing—couldn’t get through to 411 or even an operator. “This number requires activation,” the computerized phone lady cheerfully reminded me. Then one night, our phone rang. I raced in and caught it, and it turned out to be a live person asking for Mr. Pettipoon.
“No, you have the wrong number. This is an inactive line. What number did you call?”
And then she gave me the code, the magic code to unlock our world of free incoming long distance. Yes, it works. I called from my cell phone, which still has an East Coast area code. Connected right through and got to talk to myself in stereophonic gassbaggery. Now we can distribute this number to family and have them call us for free! Except when I mentioned this to my sister, she said that since we both have Verizon cell phones, we can talk for free anyway. Well…but…this is free! On a real phone! So I haven’t yet figured out the benefit of it. Also, now our phone will ring at dinnertime and I feel compelled to answer it. But I know there is no chance the call is for me. So why do I go to the ringing phone? This was all much more exciting when it was the wall box ringing, and the ghosts of the previous owners were drumming their skeletal fingers on the other end, wondering if we’d pick up so they could tell us to clean the damn shower tile.