Monthly Archives: October 2020

2.18.a My Ode To The Rotary Phone

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Engrossed in my reading (and separated by the kitchen door), the melody of Mercury – The Winged Messenger by Gustav Holst, only registered in the back of my brain because it proved an odd counterpoint to KARB’s current music selection, Cat and Mouse by Aaron Copland. 

(If The Witchdoctor by Alvin and the Chipmunks, had sounded I would have paid more attention since Wood rarely calls anyone at this hour. If you’re wondering, my assigned ringtone is Queen’s A Kind of Magic.) 

My ears did perk when the cadence of Beatrice’s voice changed from cordiality to open animosity when she figured out exactly who was on the other end of the line. It also didn’t hurt that her voice grew significantly louder due to an increase in volume and a decrease in proximity.

“How did you get this number?….That’s not an answer…Why are you calling me? No, I’m not interested in having lunch with you….I said no…” 

Looking up from my study materials strewn over the kitchen table, I watched her march into the kitchen, over to the alcohol cupboard, and yank it open. “Why do you think I can help? You told everyone I was a liar and a thief.” Pouring a substantial amount of Bourbon into a glass, from the good bottle, she slugged the entire thing back like water whilst listening to the tap-dancing someone was doing on the other end of the line.

Then she poured a refill.

“Since when? We haven’t spoken in fifteen, sixteen years. He’s never even let me lay eyes on her, said I was a bad influence. Which, by the way, is the nicest thing any of you have ever called me, and now you’re asking me out to lunch?”

Spitting out my highlighter cap, I got up from the kitchen table and started putting together a plate of snacks; smoked cheddar, crackers, apple wedges, and dark chocolate. Beatrice needed something in her to keep the acid and alcohol from punching a hole through her stomach lining.

“…What, so you can shift the blame onto me? No thanks. I’m not interested.” Without another word, she jabbed her phone with her forefinger and simply stared unseeingly at the screen.

Waiting a beat, “Don’t you miss rotary telephones?” 

Watching Beatrice quirk an eyebrow in my direction, I continued on using my sunniest debate club tone. 

“Pressing a glowing red dot on a screen doesn’t convey the same sense of ire, or frankly feel as satisfying, as hanging up on someone using a rotary telephone. Don’t you think? Back in the day, when the receiver slammed against the cradle, the person on the other end knew, without a shadow of a doubt, exactly how irked you were.

You never worried about shattering the glass or smashing the case because the suckers were virtually indestructible. 

Yeah, they took an absolute age to dial, but this was an unintended feature. Those old phones made you stop and think – while dialing – if you really wanted to call the other person back and apologize or continue fighting. They were simply the perfect phone! Aunt Pearl staunchly refuses to give hers up, despite the fact its older than all us kids, and no one under the age of thirty knows how to use it.” 

(True story. I had to teach Robbie’s date how to dial the phone a few weeks back. It didn’t make me feel ancient at all…)

Lips tipping slightly upwards, Beatrice tossed her cell next to the plate of nibbles I set in one of the few paper-free spots on the kitchen table.  

Me (resuming my spot): “Eat, you’ll feel better.”

Dropping into the chair opposite, looking unhappy but less angry, she chose an apple wedge to toy with rather than eat. Waiting for her to break the silence, which wasn’t really very quiet as KARB was now playing Thelonious Monk’s version of Round Midnight (they broadcast one version or another of this song every day at this hour), I resumed my reading.

Beatrice (tapping the back of her phone absently): “So, no more funk?”

Me (looking up from a Nevermore’s new ad campaign): “No more funk. It took two showers and half my stash of Wayward Witch bath products, but Muck Duck Pond’s stench is a distant memory.”

Clearly still troubled, and close to finishing her second tumbler of bourbon without having eaten a bite, I decided to address the elephant pirouetting in a pink tutu around the room.

Me (setting down my pen): “You want to talk about it?”