Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thank You, Mr. Bell

Once again, we have a wonderful story by a guest writer form my local class in Portland.  You may recognize her from some previous blog posts. Lee adds wonderful humor in her writing and definitely has had some great experiences!  I hope you enjoy this piece.

Thank You, Mr. Bell

            Jerry Seinfeld was ranting about some of the things in everyday life that perplexed him. It’s funny how he makes you think of things that annoy but can make you laugh. It reminded me of some of my life’s funniest moments that have happened on the telephone. Some sad and tragic news has also come along those wires; however, where would we be without it?
            Remember the days of going to the neighbors to use the telephone because it was the only one in the neighborhood? And now I have three in my four room apartment, and, of course, I can never find one when it is ringing. I often wonder if Mr. Bell knows what he started those many years ago.
            It took my mother a while to believe that the phone didn’t ring only in times of disaster. The telephone brought a call to inform my mother of the death of her younger brother. It was a freak accident while he was driving from Pennsylvania to California. Then there was the call from the coast guard to inform us my father and uncle had been rescued at sea. We knew they were late coming home from their fishing trip, but we didn't know they were adrift at sea. However, the telephone could be a very handy thing for my mother. She could call my friends on the phone and tell me it was time to come home.
            As I reached my teenage years I discovered the art of talking endlessly and not saying anything to my friends who did the same. The sole purpose being to irritate my parents, and this I learned when I had teenagers.

            In my later years I found the phone a nuisance but necessary in my business as an interior designer.  I spent most of my days on the phone with clients and vendors. One day a salesperson appeared at my office begging five minutes of my time. “I have the perfect solution for people on the go, you will love this.” was his opening line. He opened his brief case and pulled out a telephone that was at least a foot long and big enough that my hand could barely fit around. It weighed at least two pounds.
“This is a car phone. It will allow you to keep in touch with your office whenever you are on the road. You can conduct business from your car. It’s fantastic!”
            “You’re joking,” I replied. “The only time during the day that I have any peace and quiet and time to think creatively is when I am in my car. Thanks but no thanks!” The look on his face was non-believing. “
“How could I not want the latest thing? Any body who is anybody will have one!”
“I guess I am nobody,” was my reply.
Two day’s later I entered a client’s home with a key. She was at work in the Portland Mayor’s office and had called to say she would not turn on the alarm if I wanted to go in and measure the windows. Of course she forgot and turned on her alarm. It was so loud that it was rattling the windows and hurt my ears. I ran to the neighbors on both sides of the house and across the street, but no one was home. I waited in my car for the police to come, and about twenty of the longest minutes of my life later, a patrol car pulled up. “Should I arrest you for breaking and entering or noise pollution?” he asked with a grin.      
He went in the house, turned off the alarm and explained that he got the code from the alarm company. He told me to finish my business and lock the door on the way out. He also told me that he knew my client well and had responded several times to her alarm. He called her at work, and her office informed him that she was chairing a committee meeting on the escalation of home burglaries in the Portland area. We had a good laugh and then he said, “Too bad you don’t have one of those new car phones, you could have called the police”.

            One night after a dinner out with friends, I came home about 10:00 and since it was too early for bed, I settled on the couch to catch some television. The phone rang and when I answered a quavering voice said, “I would like to make a pledge.” 
            I told her she had the wrong number and we both hung up. I turned to OPB, and sure enough it was pledge week. My phone number was 245-2345. The pledge number was 245-2346, and I usually got a call or two during pledge week. About 10 minutes later the phone rang again. It was the same quivering voice wanting to make a pledge. Again I told her she had the wrong number and this time she apologized profusely, but before hanging up I explained that she wanted a six instead of a five.
            A few minutes later the phone rang again. This time I had pen and paper ready, and I took her pledge information. Then she told me the story of how she had been calling the wrong number and a very nice lady answered and gave her the right number. After we hung up I called in her pledge and mine, and I have been an OPB member ever since.

            It was summer and the weather had been great. I told my crew that I wouldn’t be in the office before 10:00 the next morning because I had client appointment that night and I fully intended to sleep in. My phone rang at 7:30. I answered, “Do you know what time it is?”
            A male voice responded, “Yes gorgeous, I know what time it is, and I know how you look just waking up, and I was wondering why I wasn’t there? But I’m calling to see if you would like to go on a picnic today. The day is beautiful, and I don’t have to be in the office today, so what do you say?”
            By this time I was awake and wondering who on earth this was. I would hate to think I have slept with someone and not recognized his voice…that was just not my style. When I asked who is inviting me to a picnic? He responded, “Come on Sally, don’t kid. You know who this is.  We had dinner last week and a great night and morning in bed.” Evidently Sally had more style than I did, and now I was intrigued.
            “Where did we have dinner?”
            “Zeffiro. Come on, you remember.”
            Wow, I thought, that was the newest restaurant in town and very expensive so Sally did have more style. “Listen to me, we did not have dinner and my name isn’t Sally. You obviously have a wrong number at 7:30 in the morning, and I am not happy.”
            “Are you sure this is not Sally? Is your number 245-2345?”
When I replied, “It seems Sally gave you a wrong number.”
I expected some protests that she wouldn’t do such a thing but without missing a beat he said, “Well, she wasn’t that good in bed anyway. You sound really sexy, would you like to go on a picnic?”
“Well, I would. You sound sexy, too, and I think we could have great fun. I will be honest with you, I have a weight problem, but I am down to 350.” The phone went dead.
Now that I was wide-awake I got ready for work and went to my office. When they asked why I came in so early I told them about my phone call. They all laughed and Helen said, “Lee go write that down and put it in your book.”
I used to say when something crazy happened, “One day I am going to write a book!”

I had been retired for one week and was already bored. My son’s friend was working with a company that did political polling and had just been promoted. One day she called and pleaded for me to help out as they had a rush poll to do and had several people out sick…and two had quit.
I went to the office took a short test, and they hired me. What an experience that was!
I was amazed at the messages people left on their answering machines and the old people who loved answering polls just to have someone to talk to. It was also a confirmation of my opinion that a large percentage of the American people should not be allowed to vote due to stupidity. The call that made me quit was truly funny.
A young man of twenty-eight from Hood River didn’t know the president’s name let alone his congressman or senators. He answered every question with a question. I was thinking, “how does he live, he’s as dumb as a fence post”. At the end of the poll we were supposed to ask, “Do you have any questions?” 
When he answered yeah, I thought maybe he’d taken an interest in his government. Then he asked, “Do you date?”
Flabbergasted, I answered, “Yes, yes I do but I live in San Francisco.”
“Oh damn” was his response and hung up.
The auditor who listened in on phone calls came over to my desk laughing and said, “I could not believe how dumb that guy was but you were great keeping your cool. You deserve a raise”
I said, “Thank you very much but this will be my last week. My frustration factor is full.”

Yes, Mr. Bell you gave the world a great invention, but gone are the days of the polite phone operator; she has been replaced by the frustrating voice mail. Gone is the rotary dial and the ability to connect with people.
Instead we have phones that can answer any question that you ask, take pictures of things that should not be photographed. And now you don’t even have to talk on a phone; you can type out your message in shorthand. But mostly today’s phones keep humans from connecting to humans. I thought it was just desserts when the Japanese government said that the number one accident for teenagers was walking into objects while texting. If I never hear the words selfie and apps again, it will be too soon.
I am hoping that soon texting will be limited to a certain area like smoking. I have banned phones at my dinner table, and if someone has to answer their cell phone they can go into another room. Phones should not be allowed in public places as there are things I have overheard that could get people arrested and things that make me think less of my fellow man. But the lingering question I have Mr. Bell is why does my phone mostly ring when I am in the bathroom?
                                                                                                          Lee V. 
                                                                                                          12 Nov 2014