January 15, 2002
Futzing


I hate telephones.

I hate the way they look. I hate the way they sound (especially when they're ringing at 2 a.m.).  I hate the smell of them, I hate the feel of them pressed against my chin, I hate the weight of them in my hand, I hate the way they randomly intrude on life.

Ironically, I make my living answering telephones, nine hours a day/five days a week.  I'm really good at it, too.  But when I get home from work at night, frankly, the very last thing in the world I feel like doing is picking up the phone and making pleasant chit-chat with The Capital One Lady. (Think about it. If you boiled steer carcasses at the gelatin factory for a living, nine hours every day, five days a week,  would you want to come home and immediately fix yourself a nice refreshing bowl of Jell-O? I don't think so.)  In fact the only time I don't wish that telephones  --  those vile, heckling creations of Satan himself  --  had never been invented in the first place is when I don't HAVE one.

Like today.

When our ancient Sony 2-Channel began spitting and sputtering and cutting out in earnest, sometime last fall, we knew it was going to require more than the quick-fix of a battery change, this time around. We knew we would probably have to replace the phone altogether. But that was OK. For me, the process seemed pretty straightforward:

  • Go to store.
  • Buy phone.

For David, however, any potential household purchase  --  large or small, significant or insignificant, inexpensive or "Your firstborn or mine?"  --  requires this ridiculously complex, drawn-out process of research and contemplation and general guy-like futzing around:

  • Unplug and disassemble broken vacuum cleaner/computer/car stereo/toilet valve unit.
  • Spread broken vacuum cleaner/computer/car stereo/toilet valve unit parts on newspaper in middle of kitchen floor.
  • Tinker uselessly with broken vacuum cleaner/computer/car stereo/toilet valve unit for most of a Saturday afternoon, then go lay on the bed and play guitar for three hours.
  • Reassemble broken vacuum cleaner/computer/car stereo/toilet valve unit and shove it into corner of living room.
  • Announce that we need a new vacuum cleaner/computer/car stereo/toilet valve unit.
  • Research vacuum cleaners/computers/car stereos/toilet valve units on Internet for five or six months.
  • Call Dad and ask for advice on new vacuum cleaners/computers/car stereos/toilet valve units.
  • Write to Better Business Bureau for advice on purchasing new vacuum cleaners/computers/car stereos/toilet valve units.
  • Lay on bed and play guitar some more.
  • Draw up a detailed list: "Pros and Cons of Purchasing New Vacuum Cleaner/Computer/Car Stereo/Toilet Valve Unit."
  • Present detailed "Pros and Cons of Purchasing New Vacuum Cleaner/Computer/Car Stereo/Toilet Valve Unit" list to murderously disinterested wife.
  • Go to store.
  • Buy new vacuum cleaner/computer/car stereo/toilet valve unit.

It's like that with everything. This time was no exception.

While the phone continued its descent into total inoperability, David researched and contemplated and futzed around. Weeks passed. Arteries hardened. Dynasties rose and fell. By New Years Day, the phone was routinely dying fifteen seconds into any phone conversation.  (Fine when The Capital One Lady called: not-so-fine when it was long-distance from TicTac.)  I was beginning to think I would have to take matters into my own hands and order the damn thing online  --  I knew that *I* could research, contemplate, futz around and have a new phone ordered in less time than it took for David to tune his Rickenbacker  --  the only downside being, of course, that *I* would end up paying for it  --  when a miracle occurred. 

David came home on Sunday night carrying a Fry's bag. 

"I bought a phone," he said nonchalantly, as though the idea had spontaneously occurred to him ("Hey! I think I'll buy a PHONE today!") as he was driving down the freeway.

And that was that. Problem solved.

We immediately yanked the decrepit Sony from the wall and swapped it out with the groovy new Bell phone. As soon as we had it assembled and plugged it into the wall socket, however, the new phone began to emit a bloodcurdling, earsplitting beeping noise ... like a smoke alarm, amplified through a VOX 7120 Super Stack.

Whut the hell??

"I think that's the noise it makes when it's charging for the first time," I shouted above the din. According to the instruction manual, it needed to charge for fourteen hours before you use it for the first time.

Jesus. Fourteen hours of THIS?

We wrapped a couple of blankets around the shrieking telephone, like new parents swaddling their collicky baby (although perhaps a tad less affectionately).  That helped to muffle the sound a little bit: otherwise no one in our building would have gotten any sleep that night. (Although I was awake all night long ANYWAY, straining to see if I could hear the beep-beep-beep noise through the blankets ... which I could, if I listened hard enough, which is what I was doing instead of SLEEPING.)  In the morning the phone was still beeping, albeit more slowly and anemically. We figured we would let it beep itself out all day, while we were at work, and by the time we got home it would surely be up and running.

That was the plan, anyhow.

When we got home, we unwrapped the blanket and peered anxiously at the phone. It lay there innocently in its cradle, smiling up at us. The hellacious beeping had stopped, thank god, but the little red *charging* light was still ablaze. Plus there was no dial tone. 

"HOW long is it supposed to charge, exactly?" David asked.  So we consulted the manual again and verified that it was, in fact, supposed to be fully operational after fourteen hours of initial charge. By this point it had been more than twenty-four hours.

"Let's give it overnight," we sighed, and we rolled it up in blankets again, just in case it decided to start up with the beep-beep-beep stuff again.

This morning -- thirty-six hours after we first plugged it in for recharging -- the *charging* light was still lit and the phone was still completely useless. No amount of tweaking, twiddling, rearranging the cord alignment or consulting the manual seemed to make a bit of difference.

It was deader than Grandpa Ted.

"I think it's defective," David said sadly. Knowing what a difficult admission this must be for him to make  --  no guy likes to admit that he bought the wrong vacuum cleaner/computer/car stereo/toilet valve unit/cordless telephone  --  I simply said Yes, I think you're right and left it at that. For me, once again, the solution is a no-brainer:

  • Go back to store.
  • Exchange phone.
  • TODAY.

Hopefully David will see it this way also, and there will be a minimum of research and contemplation and general futzing around.  And if he doesn't see it this way, I'm going to "disassemble" his GUITAR and spread it on newspapers across the middle of the kitchen floor.



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don't even ask about the CELL PHONE. grrrrrrrrrrr.