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Posts Tagged ‘telephone’

One of the best things about this move: I FINALLY got rid of the landline. 

I know, right? Why was that anachronism still hanging around, ringing every night at 6 p.m.? 

One word: bundling. 

The cable company had cleverly rolled Internet, phone and cable TV into one package when we moved in some seven years ago. Fair enough: The price for all three together was cheaper than buying Internet and cable separately. Our surfing and TV habits were totally subsidizing the phone line. 

The pricing strategy remained unchanged over the years, but having a home phone became nearly intolerable at times.

Have you ever noticed that hardly anyone with a cell phone actually has the ringer on? No one wants to hear the phone ring. Do we miss calls this way? Yes. Do we care that we miss calls? Sure. And by sure, I mean absolutely not. We look down at some point, realize we missed a call and call back. And by call back, I mean we send a text. Because 2014 means never having to talk on the phone.

But I digress. I was savvy enough to put our home phone number on the Do Not Call list. Unfortunately, this list doesn’t apply to callers with whom I have a “business relationship,” or those representing a charitable organization. So, at 6 p.m. sharp every night, the phone would ring and some form of “unknown caller” would show up on the caller ID. The unknown caller may have been one of our credit card companies trying to “upgrade” us on something. More likely, however, it was some organization selling magazines or otherwise trying to collect money for the firemen, the police or some sort of children in peril. (I’m not a monster – most of these telemarketing shops take way too much profit out of what they collect. If I want to donate to the police department, I’ll speed my way to a ticket.)

Why did I leave the ringer on, you ask? Well, sometimes I didn’t. But the husband’s parents used that number occasionally, and if I turned the ringer off I never remembered to turn it back on. Thus, the nightly fast-walk to the phone for the one-in-a-million chance that the ringing indicated a call we actually were willing to take.

All that is over now. The home phones are packed in a box, awaiting dropoff at the thrift store. The new cable company offered an Internet/TV package at a fair price, no phone required. 

The silence is beautiful. I haven’t heard a phone ring outside the office in nearly four weeks. If my phone buzzes, it’s almost always someone I want to talk to. My only cellular pest is the Red Cross; I made the mistake of giving them my number about five years ago only to discover that they will bother you literally EVERY DAY until you schedule another donation. I always DO schedule another donation, but their efforts are so irritating that I’ve considered changing blood donation entities.

Again, digression. The landline is dead. Long live the silence.

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I’ve been trying to get my mind around murder since I was 10 years old.

We were at my grandmother’s house, about 2.5 hours from our home in Kiln, Miss. The phone in the hallway — the only phone in the house at the time, the phone that, over the years, continually brought horrific news, news of fatal fires, news of shootings — self-inflicted and not — news of heart attacks and cancer diagnoses — the phone rang while we were having breakfast.

It was the principal of the high school where my dad was band director. One of the members of the band’s flag corps had been brutally murdered, along with her mother and father, the night before.

This was in the early 1980s, a time before parents (at least my parents) felt the need to shield their children from bad news. My brother and I were quiet, inquisitive, analytical kids, and we instinctively knew that if we kept our silence and blended into the background we would eventually learn everything there was to know about any topic.

K’s brother had systematically beaten her and her parents to death with a hammer (a sledgehammer, maybe – this detail escapes me). (I call her K because this case is so old that there is no reference to it on the Internet, and I would hate for this to be the only link that shows up in a search.) Another brother survived; he had spent the night at a friend’s house.

I remember being told that the murdering brother had what we would now call a history of mental problems; the term used back then was likely “crazy.” I remember hearing that he had moments when he claimed to be Jesus.

I have long pondered the effect this had on my young psyche, especially when events occur like last week’s shooting at UAHuntsville. Anytime I see news of a multiple slaying, my mind returns to that breakfast phone call and then starts flipping between two questions: How could anyone do this, and how could no one have seen it coming in time to prevent it?

If the multiple murders at K’s home occurred today, there would have been counselors swarming our tiny school the next week. As it was, we were supposed to simply take it to heart that this was an anomaly, something that could not happen to any of us, so long as we didn’t know any crazy people.

The problem that I recognized then and now is that “crazy” is not as easily defined as everyone would have had us think.

I also learned that the “stranger danger” line fed to us after the Atlanta child murders and the murder of Adam Walsh was not the entirety of things we had to worry about. Not that I suspected my 8-year-old brother of murderous intent, but the realization that someone K knew and loved was capable of such atrocity was a game-changer for a pre-teen.

The idea that you might not ever REALLY know someone, that there might always be some part closed off to you, no matter how close you are, was not that foreign to me, but the idea that the closed-off part might harbor such unpredictable anger and violence was alarming.

The world was a little less safe, and for the past three decades it seems to have become a LOT less safe.

School shootings, workplace shootings, murder-suicides … it seems like our closed-off parts are more dangerous than ever.

I couldn’t make sense of it when I was 10, and I’m no closer to understanding it now. I just have to hope that events like this really are anomalies, and that the hidden parts of strangers, friends, associates, and even family members aren’t as dark and dangerous as others have proven to be.

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I’ve been reading about the imminent demise of voicemail, which is quickly being replaced by email and messaging technology. Good riddance, really. There’s little I dislike more than strolling back to my desk to discover a little red light indicating a message.

Luckily, the jobs I’ve had for the last couple of years have required little phone time, so I haven’t seen the little red light very much.

The one thing I will miss about voicemail is a game that I’ve dubbed “Voicemail DJ.” The rules are simple: Identify several songs that annoy your co-workers, or songs that are just outrageously funny. When you hear one of those songs on the radio in the car, gym or mall, you call a co-worker’s voicemail (this game is only played when you’re certain no one will pick up the phone) and let the song leave a message.

Sure, it sounds stupid, but you really haven’t proven your worth until you’ve managed to explain to your company’s CEO why you’re playing “Baby Got Back” on your speakerphone at 8 a.m.

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