Our downstairs phone broke.
It hung on the kitchen wall for about five years delivering faithful, reliable service: You spoke into it and you could hear another person speaking back. Mission accomplished.
Then its number two broke. We could still call a lot of friends and family, but only those without a two in their phone number. We could, of course, just drop any two bearing individuals from our social network, but this seemed harsh.
As usual, since I am home, the task fell to me to find a replacement. Kathie’s only criterion was that it had to be a wall phone and hence not take up precious counter space. Buying a phone used to be easy. In fact, you often didn’t have to buy one. A subscription to Sports Illustrated netted you a football shaped phone; an example of which was in my son’s bedroom for years.
When you got your new phone, you plugged the jack into the wall and you were in business.
Not so today. I was greeted at Best Buy with an enormous array of phones. Oddly, most of the true wall units are still corded and you can still attach a 20 foot cord to them and multi-task around the kitchen, as Kathie did twenty years ago, gleefully garroting spouse and children while dicing the carrots.
I decided not to go this retro. The helpful young man who waited on me suggested a model that did what I wanted: mounted on the wall, was cordless, had an extra hand-set, and an answering machine. The best news was that it was under fifty bucks.
As soon as I got home, I started the installation. In no time, it was hanging on the wall ready to go. It looked a little odd since it is not a true wall phone but a desk top model fitted with a wall bracket. It appeared to be emerging from the wall like something out of a Dali painting as it sat there without any visible means of support.
It also didn’t work. A read-out on the hand set said “Connecting……..” Of course, if it had said “this phone doesn’t work and never will”, I would have known right away that it had to go. But no, all those animated little dots implied that important electronic stuff was happening and soon all of the necessary handshakes, protocols, etc. would be completed and communication with the outside world restored.
Three hours later, of course, the same message and busy little dots were still there.
I went to the manual and, sure enough, there was a description of what to do if you got a persistent “connecting” message. I performed the steps as outlined in the book by disconnecting and unplugging the phone, disconnecting the batteries and starting over.
The instructions then threw in the towel and confessed that if this procedure failed, the phone is probably being interfered with by some other electronic devise like a wireless router, TV, or microwave.
Well, this would be the perfect phone if you were a survivalist living in the great north woods who decides it would be nice to check in with mom once in awhile, but in a modern household like ours where the air crackles with every brain damaging wave known to science this phone is not going to hack it.
Although, you could use it like a canary in a coal mine: "Mary, the phone just died we must leave at once before our heads explode."
So back to Best Buy I went where another bright young man discovered that the returned phone was not compatible with my digital phone service. He sold me one that worked with my service and soon all our two bearing relations were back on the A list.
No wonder Sports Illustrated stopped giving out football phones.