At Least It’s Not a Party Line

Paul Richardson
Guest Columnist

We, and by that, I mean the goodwife and I, still have a landline. It is not because we are holding onto some segment of the past and are refusing to let go, it is due to the irregular and unstable cell phone reception at our home deep in the valley at Sane, Missouri. Attempts to escape the shackles of the landline have been unsuccessful.

There is a certain number of people that we actually want to hear from, and they know the rules. If we are home, call the landline. If it is after 8:00 pm, never call and expect a pleasant greeting. The only exception is an emergency of the order of your pants being on fire. In that case there should be no other single person alive that you can call and our proximity being a minimum of 20 minutes away is going to be of little help, you should probably employ the first rule and don’t call at all!

We have the landline for the benefit of some family members. In the event that we need to be contacted, then they or their caregivers have full authority to call at will. For everyone else this is a hard no!

The goodwife and I have issues about the landline. If and when that line receives a call, the ring is the signal to “let the games begin.” My preference is that the phone is answered quickly, the goodwife, however, insist on waiting until after the second ring. This may be a throw-back to the party line days where confirmation of the ring was necessary to determine if it was your call. Often, I am downstairs, and the goodwife is upstairs reading. Then the phone rings. I can hear her little feet scurrying toward the phone and I just sit and wait. I am almost certain the call is for me, and I even have a handset within reach, but I just wait, it is part of the game. I am quite happy to screen the calls through the answering machine and return those of importance. The goodwife has that impulse that was studied by Pavlov and must answer that phone.

The game runs both ways. No matter how many documents you sign. No matter how many times you tell them to put you on the “no call list”, the unwanted calls just keep coming. The goodwife seems to get a demented sense of pleasure out of answering one of these calls and then handing the phone to me with the lie, “Oh, it’s for you!” Unwittingly I am sucked in for a moment which permits the person on the other end to get in two or more sentences. At this point I don’t have the presence of mind to respond with “take me off of your list”. Those, according to my eccentric daughter are the magic words that will stop the madness. Fortunately, it’s not a party line, so there aren’t any eavesdropping party members exposed to this crazy struggle!