29 April 2006


The phone woke me at 5:49 this morning. I don’t keep a bedside phone, but I was alarmed enough by the early hour that I stumbled my way out of bed and to the kitchen to pick it up before the answering machine kicked in. After all, we don’t get that many calls these days on the land line, and it could have been an emergency call from my elderly mother, or my sister ...

“Hello?” rasp I.

And I’ll be damned if there was nothing but shooooshing static on the other end, the dead giveaway of an automatic dialer out there somewhere. It dialed my number, I picked up, and now it was just a matter of waiting for the, ah, friggin’ telemarketer to catch up with the machine and say through the bad connection cracks and whistles, “Hi! I’m Melinda! You’re a valued customer of ABC Mortgage Company. Did you know that right now is a great time to refinance your home?”

Yeah, we’re on the National Do Not Call List – and thank you, gods of earth, air, water and fire for that – but there’s this little catch. If you’re a customer of a particular company, THEY get to call you before the birds wake up and try to pitch you a deal.

I swear, the trials and tribulations of modern life.

I growled something suitably furious into the handset while it was still shoooshing and hung up, turned around to go back to bed, and there was the psycho-dog, blocking my way, tail wagging at light speed, ears pricked, eyes full of hope.

Brekky time!

So I dutifully gave him his morning biscuits, dumped his morning scoop of kibble into his bowl and refilled his water. Then I shambled back to bed, muttering. Dropped back off to sleep almost instantly.

At 6:12 the phone rang again.

Holygods. Maybe it had been a family member after all, and I’d said something ugly and hung up on them, and it had taken them this long to get over the shock and now they were calling back.

Give me a break here. I WAS mostly asleep.

Up I got again, leapt the cat on the way down the hall to the kitchen, and picked it up.

“Hello!” I barked.

“Shooooooooooosh,” said the phone.

This time my comment – I HOPE they record the “shoosh” portion of these autocalls, like they do the rest – was considerably bluer. Obscene, in fact. I hung up again.

I stood there for a moment, looking at the phone. I had no doubt that the moment I dropped back to sleep – and it would be harder to do this time – it would ring again.

Without a qualm, I gently took the handset off the hook and laid it on the old chopping block that serves as a telephone table. By the time I’d fed the cat and turned the faucet in the bathroom to dribble for him, that horrible BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP the phone makes to let you know you’ve left it off the hook had stopped, and I was, yes, wide awake.

I found my slippers and bathrobe, made coffee, watched four Stellar’s jays harass each other at the sunflower seed feeders just outside the kitchen window, and decided to put off taking a shower for a while.

I suffer from a life-long aversion to phones. I’ve never been one of those constant phone-chatters, like some of my friends who can turn a minute-long informational call into a marathon conversation, usually while telling me to hang on while they wrestle the children. And I resisted getting a cell-phone for years. I mean, do I really want to get a phone call as I’m picking over melons at the supermarket? Do I really want to take a work call when I’m not at work?

Actually, I just got one on the cell, just now, from one of my reporters. Should he cover the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, held to support the local women’s shelter, since he happened across it on his way back home from the gym?

Um, yes. Please. Man, I love these guys.

My aversion to phones got much worse when I returned to the US from Germany. Before I left, there was no such thing as a telemarketing call. When I got back, nearly every time the phone rang, it was someone wanting to pitch a sale. Cruises. New roofing. Windshields. Mortgages (of course). Donations to a myriad of causes, most of them good, but who can afford all that?

I got an answering machine (also something I’d never had at home pre-1986). That helped, but caused aggravated sighs from the family.

I think what bothers me about the telephone, particularly at home, is that they interrupt the quiet and intrude into my private ohm-time. Sure, it’s selfish, but so much of my time is given to work already. And I’ve always been a solitary sort by nature. My home is my haven, my retreat from the cacophony of the world. It’s here that I can be creative, that I can write, that I can relax and cook soup and read a book by the fire. I can be real, be me. I don’t mind calls from friends and family, but until the National Do Not Call List was started – one of the few, really GOOD things the federal government has accomplished in the last five years – 95 percent of the calls that rang on my home phone were from telemarketers. I absolutely, without hesitation, hated them.

When they made the list operational, I was one of the first to sign up, even as I felt remorse for the operators that made the telemarketing calls. I know, first-hand, how tough it can be to find a job, and that’s the kind of job that no one wants, not really. Imagine having to make calls all day to people who cuss and hang up on you!

Today’s a spring cleaning day. It’s mild and sunny outside. I’m going to put on some music, leave that phone of the hook, turn off the cell phone and try to achieve some Zenny balance as I do the chores. And later, I’m gonna take a friggin’ nap.

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