she knew you had your own finger

i remember ma bell.


she was a real woman, fully conscious, and perfectly human,

who would actually help you make phone calls.  just like that. that was her job!

her phone number was “0.”

occasionally, when she was particularly busy, she would point out that a

number was listed in your directory, just to keep you on your toes, but never

in a snippy way.

occasionally, she waited while you got a pencil. she did not ask you to hold

for your number, nor were you expected to continue to hold. she did not

suggest that you avail yourself of the world wide web, or suggest that your

personal problems, vis a vis verizon, or on any other issue be shot off into

cyberspace. ma bell did not attempt to impress you with her peculiar taste

in pop music. she had never even heard of “destiny’s child.”  she did not

thank you a smarmy, officious voice, mentioning the metropolitan transit

authority, bloomingdale’s, or any other concern. she did not repeatedly

thank you for using a verizon pay phone. she never pointed out, in a

lengthy, verbose way that she was aware of the fact that your time was

valuable, and you had human beings to chat with, but in spite of this you

must be very, very patient. she never asked you to say your name at the

beep, or speak the queen’s english into a voice-recognition machine; neither

did she insist that you press anything, and after having pressed it, press

more things. she did not attempt to charge you an extra seventy-five cents

to dial the call by pressing the number one; she assumed that your

short-term memory was in fine working order, told you the number, and left

it at that. she knew you had your own finger. but that was then.

for the eighteenth time in three days i contact the ridiculously-named

“verizon” and wade through the myriad options for button-pressing which may

have changed, by the way, since i phoned four minutes ago, having been cut

off in the middle of complex negotiations with the repair department, just

before confirmation codes, source codes, and case numbers were distributed.

i must explain, all over again, that my new half-cubicle office i rent for

only seven hundred dollars a month remains dial toneless, although “service”

was installed twenty six days ago. perhaps i am being recorded. they have

hinted that this is a possibility, and i secretly hope it is true. i am

probably being voice-printed, and look forward to being hunted down,

tortured and executed, because verizon doesn’t pull any punches. i am public

enemy number one. i’m feeling litigious, violent and passionately luddite.

i’m out for blood. verizon electronically assures me that i have a variety

of phoning choices, and how thrilled they are to have alone been chosen

among them, and that our relationship is everything to them, and how much

they want to help me with my various problems, because we have something

special, and how they have ever so many glamorous new service options with

which to entice me, which they describe in detail. just after i have taken

the eleven deep breaths required to ward off coronary thrombosis, i am

disconnected.  when a humanoid responds it realizes its mistake, cutting me

off without apology.  i redial, and am given back to the menu purgatory

until i manage to disconnect myself from the seventeenth option line.

while on “hold”, a mysterious invoice captures my attention. it’s from

voicestream, a cellular service provider. they have billed me for a hundred

and sixty bucks, in spite of the fact that i don’t own a cell phone. it

seems i’ve been sucked into their fascist database, after having had a brief

flirtation/skirmish at their chic fifth avenue boutique.  there i availed

myself of personal option number five, viz, to tear up contracts and throw

them on the floor, screaming invective in yiddish after waiting forty-eight

minutes for a sales rep to continue “processing” my order.  she was on the

phone, and phone people are more important than real people to phone people,

you know. will i never learn?

perhaps it’s time for a cocktail. as the daughter of an alchoholic, my dna

and i feel it’s pointless to resist. just a matter of time.  when i’m good

and drunk, i call up verizon again. the minute i get a human i ask it to

hold as i have a very important call. i tell them i have to speak to a

machine. i tell them that i appreciate their patience and that i’ll be with

them shortly. i repeat this fourteen times while holding my nose, and

feigning a heavy staten island accent.  then i hang up. i go to my other

line and do the same thing all over again. sometimes i ask them what the

weather is like in tenessee or whatever backwater they come from, and if

they answer i ask them if their parents are related or something like that.

then i whistle very piercingly into the mouthpiece. i can keep this abuse

going indefinitely, or at least until somebody wipes my forehead with a cold

washcloth. i am very, very angry. it is at this point that i am reminded of

my best business idea ever: the pms collection agency, ltd.

a few years ago a client had owed me a rather large sum for well over a

year; i’d reminded him politely, invoiced him, and sent frequent “past due”

notices to no avail. one fine day, i had a… let’s call it an “urge” to phone

him while he was on vacation in london at 4 o’clock in the morning and

shriek expletives at him like a rabid harpy, up to and including the word

“poopoohead.” perhaps it had something to do with the fact that i was, and

am, irrevocably female, and it was, uh,  “that time of the month.’  payback


i received the full amount by fedex the very next morning.

that is when i decided to start the pms collection agency, ltd.; an office

staffed by an ever-changing assortment of angry, bloated, hypersensitive,

irrational females, with a license, nay, a duty to unleash their most

venomous tirades on the hapless delinquent creditor. of course i started

this business in my imagination, but that’s where all the best stuff is

happening these days. i could bring this unabashedly bold, passionate, and

unbusinesslike approach to every screwed-up variation on modern life. screw

you! drop dead! “go grow peppers in south america!” something about “fatal

attraction” or, “i know where you live.” see? didn’t that feel good?

i’m a native new yorker. people wonder why i’m moving to sweden. i live

there in a backward community of drunken bohemians. it’s like a sitcom,

where people show up in person, or not at all. when you call people,

sometimes the phone rings for a long time. that means they are goofing off.

try later. also, i have a tomato plant!  i’m logging off, and leaving no

forwarding address.  just try and find me. i have availed myself of option

number twenty- two: the simple life.

©  laurie rosenwald