Mixed Messages

My dad called the other day for a chat, but not before letting me know my answering machine was full. Since he couldn’t leave a message he just called over and over ’til I finally picked up. But here’s the thing: I don’t have any messages on my answering machine.  It’s not full at all.  So after the call I said to my wife, “Dad’s almost 92. I’ll forgive him a little confusion now and then. Probably mixed me up with one of my brothers.”

I still have one of these

Do you still have a landline in your house, the one with a bulky handset and built-in answering machine?  If you do, it’s tethered to the wall with wires, which then connect to a march of telephone poles outside (more wires), which eventually route your call to wherever it needs to go.  Imagine – in a world of wireless – a phone call with a physical connection from one end all the way to the other.  It’s positively antique.

[Random thought: once the world is fully wireless what’ll we do with all those telephone poles.  Caber toss, anyone?]

Go ahead and mock my out-land-ish outdated phone – at least I don’t have a party line.  Back in the day, if you lived in the sticks you shared a single physical line with your neighbors.  You were a “party” of subscribers who often found themselves talking over each other (“crosstalk”) or connected to the wrong party at the other end.  Party lines it is said, were the birthplace of gossip.

The reason I stubbornly cling to my landline is probably not the same as yours.  I keep my landline exclusively for those calls with my dad (er, and to divert telemarketers from my smartphone).  My dad can’t hear very well so anything wireless is a challenge, especially when you get the occasional syncing issue in the conversation.  On a landline Dad hears LOUD and CLEAR… even if he doesn’t always acknowledge what I say.  Are his calls worth the monthly subscription fee?  He’s 92!  You bet they are.

Now let me ask you this.  How often do you call your own phone number?  Why would you?  Pick up the phone and you get dial tone – all good.  Set the answering machine to “on” so people can leave messages – even better.  Except when they can’t.  Let’s suppose – “hypothetically” – your phone company redirects your phone number to a random voicemail box.  And that mailbox is already full.  How would you know?  Only if you called your own phone number, right?  Or, only if the one person who calls you (“hypothetically” your dad) insists he can’t leave a message.

Damn.  Dad was right after all.

Here’s the best part.  I can’t even call my phone company to fix the problem.  Why?  Because I “bundled”.  You know, where you combine TV, Internet, wireless, landline, and whatever else you have so they’re all billed and serviced through a single provider? Mis-take. Try calling your satellite TV provider to ask about landline phone service.  After you explain what a landline IS, the young person at the far end transfers you to a “specialist” (someone much older who actually understands landlines).  That person acts as intermediary between you and the phone company.  There’s a lot of, “Can I put you on hold for a sec?” and, “You still there? and, “Hold tight, we’re still working on it” and even the occasional, “You did say this was a landline, right?  Y’know, you really should get rid of your landline…”.

Long story short, it took me the better part of a week but now my dad can leave messages on my answering machine again.  He also says I should listen to my father more often.  (For younger readers, this is an excellent example of “eating crow”.  Look it up.)

Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) – the English band of the ’70’s who somehow fused pop, rock, and classical – had their biggest U.S. hit with Telephone Line.  Its final verse begins, “Okay… so no one’s answering.  Well can’t you just let it ring a little longer, longer, longer?”  No ELO, I can’t let it ring a little longer – the phone company rerouted my number to a full voicemail box.

But hey, thanks for calling.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

12 thoughts on “Mixed Messages”

  1. I have a landline too and my phone looks exactly like yours! I like it as it has a speakerphone on it for work because, in the 10 years I’ve worked from home, I check my boss’ work phone and cellphone when he is on vacation, so I can transcribe messages much easier than cradling the receiver on my ear and typing that way. But, unlike you Dave, I don’t have a bundle deal because I have internet, but no cable TV (not since I cancelled it in 2010). Yes, a long time but I don’t miss it. Maybe when I retire, I’ll get TV again. Lots of people are dropping their landline and using their smartphone. I don’t have a smartphone, just a flip phone. I don’t even have an answering machine – never have had one. People e-mail me, but I can’t access their messages except for going online. I am so set in my ways! I remember party lines from back in the day – one nosy neighbor listened and hogged the phone all the time. AT&T raised my landline $6.00/month last month. I called, rather irate, and said there must have been a billing glitch … $1.00 maybe … but $6.00? I was told “no … new access charges forced us to raise it.” Gulp. Landlines and all their paraphernalia outside are a pain too. This is what happened to me earlier this year. Me, who caters to the squirrels. Rather an insult to be honest:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re very close to dropping our satellite TV subscription (if I can just figure out an alternative to live sports). We watch maybe three or four channels, and not often at all. I hate writing that check every month. I noticed the uptick in ATT’s monthly charges as well. I appreciate the explanation, Linda. If they’re being honest at least it’s the typical case of simply passing increased fees on to the consumer.

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      1. I have heard satellite was expensive and you can’t pick and choose certain channels which is too bad if you have to go with a package. I don’t have long distance or interzone calls on my phone either – I took them off years ago – cost me the one-time charge of $9.00 to take it off, but the bill is now $6.00 cheaper per month.
        I don’t make long-distance calls and if I have to make one, I can use the cellphone to do it. I had a nice rep and he offered a great deal on phone/internet/cable – I told him paying for internet alone was $96.95/month (Comcast) and he offered all three I believe for $125.00/month. Someone told me if you are inquiring about a reduction in your bill or questioning a charge to ask for the Customer Appreciation Department. I did this so maybe that’s why he was so helpful rather than dealing with the Billing Department.


  2. We have a landline/internet/cable bundle at the winter place in AZ. It would be no cheaper to cancel the landline – but there are also two reasons to keep it. First, the only cell phone provider in our area is Verizon and Verizon didn’t work with the dual sim card phone we have. Two – we only have one cell phone and when hubby is away from home with the cell phone, I still have a phone at home – the landline!

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  3. Count me in with Linda — we still have a landline, but no cable TV (or satellite dish, for that matter). We do have an internet connection, of course, but through AT&T, with U-Verse. (Personally, I’m not that into sports, but my wife is. Fortunately, she can often get what she needs via the internet.)
    Anyway, we don’t use the landline very much either — but we have an answering machine and use it the way you use a throwaway Gmail address: as a spam filter. The ringer is off on the landline phone — we never answer it. Our answering machine message simply states that we don’t answer this line, and if you need to get hold of us, to call our cell phones (we don’t supply the phone numbers for those). It then goes on to say that if you can’t call our cells, you can leave a message — and that we’ll eventually listen and may even get back to you. We do check it every once in a great while, and pretty much never get any calls worth responding to. But it is sure nice to have a phone number I can use when filling out forms for services that will likely sell my number and/or spam me with phone calls.
    We have one other use for our landline: our home alarm system is connected up to it. That isn’t a reason by itself to keep the landline, since the alarm company would then just install a cellular connection. But of course they’d probably charge us extra for that…
    Good post, Dave! (And as for those poles – look at how many other wires are up there; they aren’t going anywhere…)

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    1. It’s almost worth the monthly subscription alone to have an alternative phone number for spammers and online forms. I take great pleasure in advertising my landline knowing I won’t ever pick it up. Except for Dad’s calls of course 🙂


  4. You’re not alone Dave. I still have a landline, the same black one as in the picture, and keep it for the answering machine and the unlisted number and call display, (which all cost extra). I have a cell phone but I don’t keep it on me, it’s just for travel emergencies, so if anyone wants to get in touch with me they use the landline number – and I get zero telemarketer calls as I never give it out, so it’s worth it. I give out the cell phone one which I never answer as it’s in my purse in the upstairs den. I bundle and grumble too when I see the monthly bill as I seldom watch cable tv other than the news and the odd PBS show….such a waste of money. I well remember party lines, growing up in the country…..our ring was one long and two short, and if someone else needed the phone they would listen in and tell you they needed the line! We had one of those old black rotary phones which sat on a desk in the hall. My mother (94) has a landline, and I bought her one for elderly people, with extra large numbers, a loud ring and a volume button you can put on sky-high etc.

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  5. “…volume on sky-high…” ha, my dad could use that too. Also, your comment about rotary phones reminded me of the day we got our first “touch-tone”. We thought that was cool technology. As for satellite TV, I think we consumers are very close to reliable internet-based options to eliminate anything from antennas, cables, or satellites. Even our satellite provider offers an alternative on the Net, so I think they see the change a-coming.


  6. Wow, I feel so tech-forward! We are about 3/4 through our first year after ditching both the landline and the cable tv. I miss the landline as the sacrificial number for various company records which turn into spam calls. But not enough to keep paying for something we never used. Funny, the lone phone still hangs on the wall.

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