Monday, December 1, 2008
Telephones: An Instrument of Satan
I'm not sure when I realized I'd become a zealot for a cell-phone-only existence. Yet not long ago, bit by bit, I reasoned that functioning land lines, cordless phones or answering machines were wholly unnecessary; perhaps such obsequious devices were to be considered actual instruments of self-harm. All these multiple and clingy communication implements were just another way - like email- that crazy people could touch me.
I felt strongly that one reliably sketchy cell phone for a family of two was a perfect, sleek system. It worked well enough (from my viewpoint) until recently, when key persons in my life rose up into a small mob, insisting I arrange for a minimum of one phone to be functional in my life at all times.
Just one phone, they said, faces purple with religion.
I thought and I thought, and then I remembered the 1990 Sanyo Princess.
“Just in case”, I'd long ago retained one "real" landline phone, cached in my garage for Emergencies. It's a quaint, bone-white princess phone with all the modern conveniences of Touch Tone, but it isn't cordless. It's bloody crammed with cords. A vintage electronic, it has a very long cable that plugs right into the wall (!), whereupon something called a Dial Tone always happens; phone calls always go straight through, without going dead, dropping, crackling like an electrical storm, playing hard to get, or coyly dying just at the moment of urgent verbal consummation.
The Princess has a very ornate, curly white cord, which connects the phone itself to the base of the phone. It functions 100% of the time and it is always in plain sight, in the exact same place. Can you imagine? Its very availability and staunch reliance, of course, is what drove it into the garage in the first place. The Princess was too direct, too dangerous and too incriminating to those I was trying to avoid, which was often everyone.
Sadly for the Princess – and for those like me who enjoy frequent, unexpected or expected, passive aggressive and often permanent disconnections - it's not a cell phone, so it has no distorted audio, or go-dead tricks that cell phones delight in doing, at the 'worst possible moment'.
Princess is not a cordless phone, the inexplicable lemon-phone on a worldwide basis.It’s surely no mystery now that cordless phones were designed with profit margins, treachery and ineptitude as Job One. I have two cordless phones, unreliable and moody and useless by design. They need constant electrical charging to function at all - a fact exacerbated by the way they rarely rest in their cradle correctly. They proffer a wheezy, faint and buzzing connection, despite how much one frantically dashes around the house and yard and roof, changing channels. Possessing no cord, they're irresponsible gypsies, malevolent by nature, and are easily misplaced -- being the ideal shape and size to slide between couch cushions, disappear in any garage, drawer, hamper, room or patio, and wedge themselves uncannily into random crevices.
With the Princess I may take phone calls without the prescience of Caller ID, as well. In 2008, the all but extinct element of Surprise now has a home within my Princess phone. When the Princess phone rings, I can look straight at it and have no idea who is on the other line. It’s shocking. And, oddly enough, when the Princess rings forth like a regular old-fashioned telephone, it is also completely terrifying.
I don’t like to be shocked. More and more, I see surprises as a form of violence. But the Princess will surprise me in a shrill, insistent manner – she has her plastic white heart set on it. Childlike, I am once again at the mercy of the telephone, unless I turn the ringer off and leave the answering machine detached, which I have just had the foresight to do. The Princess rang once, last night at 8 32 PM; I didn’t know who it was, and the ring sounded like a scream. That was enough.
Telephone conversations, it is safe to conclude, are vastly overrated. More than one telephone conversation has made me feel as if I needed a .12 guage rifle, or a foolproof suicide plan. The telephone is an instrument of Satan; there are plenty of telephones in Hell, on that we can rely. And they are all land lines.