So it appears as if we’ve lost a phone.
Not a cell; unfortunately, all of those are accounted for. What we’ve misplaced is a cordless handset, what in the olden days might have been called an “extension phone.” You’d have your main phone, probably in the kitchen or the living room, and then you’d have another phone, maybe in one of your bedrooms, so you could pick up the extension and listen in on your sister’s conversation with her boyfriend, not that I ever did that, because I’m not nosy. Also I’m an only child.
You would never lose those phones because the phone was connected to the wall, and the handset, which was called a “receiver,” was attached to the phone. In this quaint way, when the phone rang, you’d always know where to go to answer it. True, you might have to travel great distances, like to the next room, but you would be confident that, when you arrived, the phone would be there waiting, and you wouldn’t have to go racing around yelling “Where’s the friggin’ phone!”
Of course, once you answered the phone, your mobility was limited. If, for example, you tried to reach something across the room while speaking to someone, you’d likely pull the phone off the table and it would fall to the floor with a cacophony of bangs and bells. Also, if you absent-mindedly turned a few pirouettes while talking, you could accidentally strangle yourself.
But on the plus side, you’d know right away if you were sitting on the phone, so it was extremely difficult (not to mention uncomfortable) to butt-dial somebody. Especially if you had a rotary dial.
Remember those? If you were calling someone on your block, you could walk there faster than you could dial the seven numbers. You’d dial the first one, then wait until the dial rolled back into place, then the second number, wait again, and so forth. And the phone didn’t even give you anything to read while you were waiting; there was no little screen with the time and date. It’s a good thing we didn’t have the 9-1-1 emergency number in those days; you’d be dead before you finished dialing.
On the other hand, the phone numbers were much more colorful back then. I still remember mine from when I was eight years old: Michigan 1-4598. I lived in Queens, NY, so I don’t know why my phone number had Michigan in it, but at least it implied that you were more than just a number. You were a number and a place.
But I seem to have gone off on a tangent. I was talking about our lost phone.
We have these cordless handsets in just about every room. They’re the kind that just plug into an electrical outlet, not a phone jack. They’re synced to the “base unit” in the living room, and that is plugged into the phone jack, and it sends its signal to all the satellite handsets throughout the house, not to mention out into space, where, a zillion light years from now, aliens will listen in as my wife tells her friend what she had for lunch and the aliens will figure we’re not worth invading. The phone jack that the base unit is plugged into is the terminus of a phone line, but the phone line is no longer connected to a phone company. It is, instead, somehow connected to a cable TV company because we have triple play, which I’ve never understood as a marketing term because when you hit into a triple play, that’s a bad thing, right?
Where was I?
Right, our lost phone. So what we lost is one of these satellite handsets. And I am inclined to blame my wife.
You see, I am a stationary speaker. I tend to stay in the room in which I answer the phone. My wife Barbara, however, is a nomad. She’ll wander through the house, her head cocked to a zombie-like angle to hold the phone tucked under her chin as she describes the intricacies of the Caesar salad she had (“there were no anchovies!”), while taking on small tasks like dusting two square inches of the kitchen counter or turning off a light or putting away the cream cheese she left out at breakfast. Then, when the call is over, she will simply put the phone down wherever she happens to be at the time. It may be in plain sight, for instance, right next to the handset that was already in that room. Or it could be camouflaged, lying incognito among the 14 remote controls on the coffee table. But it has always been findable; you could use one of the remaining handsets as an intercom to make the missing one ring.
But not this time.
This means one of three things:
- The phone is not in the house.
- The phone’s battery is dead.
- The phone is choosing not to be located, and is currently cowering under a sofa cushion or in the laundry basket, waiting for its opportunity to escape.
In any case, we have done the only thing that guarantees we will find the wayward handset; we have ordered a new one.
I’m sure the lost one will turn up soon after delivery.
See you soon, phone.
UPDATE 11/18: Indeed, the phone has been found! And indeed, my wife was responsible. You see, she had misplaced her cell phone, so she took the handset to the car to call her cell phone in case it was in the car, and it was, so–yeah!–she found her cell, and, of course, then left the handset in the car.