Courtesy calls by Trevor Plumbly


As befits an old geezer, I’ve stuck to the landline telephone. There are reasons for hanging on to this ancient means of communication: I’m a fully paid up ‘blindy’, so grubbing round for a trilling bit of plastic half the size of a fag packet held little joy for me.

Unlike the mobile, the landline is a single entity, it has a dignified ring as opposed to a semi-musical demand for attention, it does all it’s required to do without torturing me with ‘additional features’, it has a tactile reliable feel and above all it’s a fixture, secure from my and others’ absentminded displacement. I’ve always regarded it as a serious piece of kit; there as a link to the meaningful stuff of life, as opposed to the trivia streaming from the squawkboxes most folk seem surgically attached to. Sadly though, I’m having doubts, it seems that nothing is immune from invasion these days and, whilst I’ve avoided the barrage of automated crap via cellphone thus far, the parasites have decided that home invasion is their best bet.

New friends?

The trouble for me with a ringing phone is that it provokes curiosity, my natural instinct is to rush to answer, in the belief that it’s someone I know or a message of importance. Having risked injury to answer the thing, I feel it’s churlish not to chat, after all, they’d made the effort to ring, so why not? They were jolly, matey types and they all wanted to do me a favour! However, the relationship cooled once I’d made it clear that I didn’t need a house repaint, or a free property valuation. The rejection caused me to wonder about my ex-buddies: were they just poor sods condemned through circumstance to spend their days straining other folks’ tolerance, or battle worn opportunists who don’t give a toss whether my dinner’s getting cold.

Anonymous enemies

My complacency at outlasting the sales-folk and all manner of pollsters faded when the dark side attacked. These guys are bloody good, capable of changing the once-friendly phone into a verbal stress point. One caller, in much the same manner as a doctor might tell a patient that his/her essential bits are going to conk out, will gently inform you that your Internet access will crash in the next 24 hours unless you provide the keys to prevent this. There are, of course, variations on the theme; my personal favourite is the ‘virus alert’. Not for him the bedside manner, this guy is a champion of the technologically downtrodden, armed only with my password he will defend my Toshiba as if it were a medieval maiden. Bollywood missed out on this boy: his voice is well modulated, yet carries enough gravitas to scare the bejasus out of techno innocents. My problem is how to deal with these guys. Reasoned discussion is patently out of the question, as is any attempt to introduce sideline topics such as the impact of fast food on the obesity rate in urban areas. I’m also pretty sure they treat open rudeness as an essential, a bit like an athlete’s warm-up.

Together again

Wrestling to regain control is still a work in progress: ignoring the thing altogether cedes victory, cutting the call on the first chirpy ‘Hello my name is…’ provides a bit of childish satisfaction but little else, caller ID? yeah right, like he’s going to warn me and make a fair fight of it. My latest strategy is voicemail, I leave a simple message to say that I’m having trouble getting to the phone on time, but please leave your details and I’ll get back to you. Thus far it’s working, the pedlars of piffle aren’t responding. Despite the handicap of advanced years, I’ve managed to fight in their playground; the landline and I are once again in meaningful communication. I feel like a winner! My dinner stays hot and my Toshiba stays unsullied. Technology? Bloody marvellous!

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