During the last of my bachelor days, I had an old Ma Bell princess phone that in due course died. The number nine did not work. To correct the problem, I did two things: I sent postcards to friends and family who had a nine in their phone numbers, telling them that I would not be calling them until I got a working phone and that they would have to call me; and I started going to garage sales looking for phones.
Everyone selling a phone at a garage sale will say that, even though their phone only costs a quarter, it works fine. This is always a lie. However, I did not know that before I had invested $1.25 in five used phones, all of which had something wrong with them.
The first one let me talk, but I could not hear anything anyone on the other end was saying to me. My friends could tell that I had called them, but they said that I sounded like I was talking to myself-which I was. The second garage sale phone I bought let me hear OK, but the people I called could not hear me. Friends and family got annoyed with my calling and then not saying anything. The third phone did not ring when someone called me. Until I saw one of my friends on the street, I had assumed they had all stopped calling me because they were mad about the first two phones.
The fourth phone would unexpectedly disconnect. I was constantly calling people back. The fifth phone always redialed someone named Chuck. It was then that I decided to buy a new phone.
As a memorial to my folly, I arranged all five garage sale phones, plus my dead princess phone, on a shelf as a reminder that I should not be so cheap.
Shortly thereafter, my brother came to visit. Because he liked to sleep late on his vacations, I told him I would work half days and, when I got home at noon, he would have all of our fishing equipment in the truck ready to go. However, he never got up before noon. So, on the second day, I told him I would give him a wakeup call.
Around 11:30 a.m., I made the call. The phone rang and rang and, although I had my home voicemail set for 50 rings, it was well into the 40th ring when he finally picked up.
“Hello!” he bellowed into the phone.
“Hello,” I replied and, because bellowing was not typical for him, I asked him what was wrong.
“I answered every last one of those phones in your living room at least twice before I saw this phone in the kitchen. What’s the [expletives deleted] deal with all the phones?” I explained about the monument to my cheapness.
He thought for a moment, and then said, “You know what you should do? You should get rid of all those old phones, and then you should get married to that girlfriend of yours.” I said I understood about the phones, but what was his point about Bobbalee?
He said he knew that she hated dusting, and that she would never allow a bunch of old dust collectors like those phones in her house. Not too long afterwards, and acting partly on my brother’s sage advice, Bobbalee and I married. Despite my gift of a fancy dusting tool, the phones went into a box. To her and my surprise, the box itself, and the fancy dusting tool, later mysteriously disappeared.
I am pleased to say that my current phone works fine. So, you could, if you wanted, call me about the library’s Aug. 20 fashion show.
Rhinelander District Library Director Ed Hughes is available at (715) 365-1070.