Remains of the Phone

When we moved to Seattle, we calculated that we did not need a land line for telephone service. After all, we’re only here for 6.5 months. That’s just enough time to get around to giving out a new number and then telling people it’s not our number anymore. When I’d done the initial walkthrough I’d called Susanne, so I knew our phones—which are the same model, only in different colors, and no, I don’t need any jokes about having the same phone, thanks—would work in this space. Hence no need for a land line.

But the super gave me a warning: DSL is terrible in this part of the city. If you want actual bandwidth, get the cable modem. This made me flash back to the last time I had a cable modem, four years ago in DC. I almost threw the thing out my third-story window, because the provider sent each line out to too many customers, and when 8p.m. rolled around—otherwise known as The DC Porn Watching Hour—bandwidth thinned to a few blips an hour. It was mind-numbing. I went directly to DSL without passing GO and was rewarded with a cheaper monthly rate.

Out here in Seattle, nobody watches porn. Just kidding. But the technology has gotten better or the grid is better, or something, because Susanne and I can both stream from Hulu or Netflix or wherever and nothing bad happens. The moving pictures keep moving. Amazing!

When I went to get the modem and wifi router, I pictured a long line a la DMV, unfriendly customer service staff, and headache-inducing flickering fluorescent lighting. I mean, it was this way in the entire DC metropolitan area. Two point five million people couldn’t make it a pleasant experience. How could Seattle?

I forgot, simply, that this is the Northwest. And these people smile and seem grateful for things, especially the sun, and especially anything that makes them forget that they miss the sun. Like the Internet! And cable! And porn! (I’m going to get an X-rating for this post, just you watch.) The line moved at light speed and I found myself with a cat-loving, friendly, chatty Trekkie. I think she could have taken my order in Klingon, seriously.

I loved her. She told me they were doing a special for people who had left satellite television, and since technically, our last place, back in Walla Walla, had satellite service, I told her I qualified unquestionably. The special included a phone line with local, toll, and long distance services. Free long distance? And cable modem? For $40 for the first 6 months? And I can cancel after that?

I signed up, of course.

The phone service has been fine, although truth be told, we use our cell phones 90 percent of the time or better. The trouble is that we have an oft-recycled phone line. And the former holders of this number, for there are two or three of them, at least, were not so good about paying their creditors.

As soon as 8:30a.m. rolls around, the phone rings.

“Hello,” says our mechanical phone voice, as neither of us has set anything up for the handsets. “We are not here to take your call. Please leave a message.”

No, don’t invite them to leave a message, I think. I don’t need their message, and it’s not for me, anyway.

“This is the so-and-so collection agency. This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information you give us will be used for that purpose. Please call us at…”

And on and on. We turned the ringers off straightaway, but now we just get the answering machine’s sudden interruptions of the quiet, and its gentle imploring for more messages. Greedy bastard of an answering machine. It’s not phone Foursquare, answering machine. You’re not the mayor of anything.

I don’t like the bad mojo streaming into our small apartment’s living room. I tried to talk to the collectors a couple of times, saying that those people don’t live here anymore. They don’t believe me. I’m not going to any effort to give them proof, because hello, I shouldn’t have to. If we were settling in here for a year or more, I might figure out something else, get a new phone line, anything. But it just doesn’t seem worth it, given that we move back east side in January.

So for now, the phone laments its one-way affair with the collectors, who call like pissed off dates who got ignored after they let their would-be partners get to second base. And I don’t need to relive college dorm life. I wonder a bit about who these people were who left debts unpaid. It’s that kind of economy. I’ve certainly been there, and I remember eating a lot of linguini with parley flakes and butter. Those are not conditions I’d wish on any person, but geez, after calling incessantly for two months, maybe these collectors would get the point?

Two calls so far this morning suggest that maybe no, they’re just going to keep calling.

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