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