Commentary
10:50 am
Sun June 26, 2011

Killing Telephones

One of the pleasures of turning 50 is being introduced to a hormonal regime that might have been designed by The Riddler, or the Marquis de Sade. I’m put on draconian sleep schedules that persist for a week at a time. One involves waking up at 2:57 AM, and falling back to sleep around five, for that refreshing extra half-hour before the alarm goes off. I’m a little bleary the next morning, not much good for anything.

And so I decide to do laundry, my default setting. In between, I’d call a couple of girlfriends to whine. I took the cordless phone handset downstairs in the laundry basket. I threw the darks in the machine and came back upstairs. Looked for the phone: not in its cradle. Pushed the PAGE button. No friendly beep in response. Trudged back down the stairs, plunged my arm up to the shoulder in the washing machine, and came up with the cordless handset in one try. Like the Titanic, its lights were still burning down there under the sea.

I had already drowned the other handset late this summer, when I was lowering a heavy potted plant into a bucket of water, phone clamped between my shoulder and ear as I yammered away. Plup. In went the phone, its lighted face smiling as it drowned. It was under for less than two seconds, but that was enough.

But there was still a third phone handset that had yet to go to a watery grave. One evening, I walked outside, enjoying the smell of wet pavement and grass, deep in conversation with my best friend Shila. I heard a little splashing sound from my overflowing rainbarrel, and found a juvenile common yellowthroat about to drown. I hung up, put the phone down, scooped up the bird, photographed it, fed it a mealworm, dried it with paper towels, released it and went inside smiling, leaving the handset out on a bench in the rain overnight. It was lit up, too, when I found it the next morning. It lay in state for a week, all lit up, and then began to decompose.

Now we have no cordless phones at all. This is a problem for a family of hard-bitten multitaskers. Anyone who talks to me for long hears running water, rattling papers, feeders being filled, aquariums being siphoned, onions being sauteed and the like. Being on the corded phone—I call it the tetherphone-- drives me nuts. I called my husband Bill to confess my third serial handset murder—method of choice: drowning-- and he ordered another unit just like it, with three more handsets. Two to drown, I guess, and one to use to call and order three more.

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