Breaking up is hard to do

tamrawilson Uncategorized

My landline is history. After 32 years of answering my “464” number, I cut the cord a couple of weeks ago. Or at least I think I did.

The breakup began in September, when I called AT&T to put the telephone account in my name. Let’s just say things didn’t go well. I was on the phone with them for 4 ½ hours. In October I decided to switch to Spectrum—a process that took six weeks.

In the midst of all this, my cordless phone and answering machine stopped working. In spite of a new battery the dead electronics languished, taking up an entire corner of my kitchen counter.

I thought of Marie Kondo, the anti-clutter queen who admonishes us to throw out everything that doesn’t spark joy. Clearly the phone and answering machine were not making me joyful. The plastic case had yellowed with age, and the robotic “man” who asked callers to “Please…leave…a… message” had gone silent. I had no idea where the instructions were to reprogram the machine.

That’s how it is with life. One day everything is perking along as it has been until it stops. I quit trying to make calls on the old phone though the extension in the bedroom kept ringing, reminding me to extend my vehicle warranty, to take a brief survey, to switch my credit card balance, to donate blood to the Red Cross. Spectrum assured me that the landline would eventually be disconnected though as of last week, it was still on life support and I was stupidly answering the calls.

Clearly I needed a clean break from the telemarketers asking for “Tomorrrah Wilson” or the “main decision maker in the house.”

Why was I paying for a landline that annoyed me? If I could break up with Ma Bell there was surely enough moxie in me to sever the landline. I called Spectrum to end my landline service and in a rash of ill temper I disconnected the bedroom extension.

Still, the loss bothered me. My family had used that “464” number since we acquired a Newton address. The year was 1987 and our son was 18 months old. I thought of all the calls that had been carried over that number: lighthearted conversations with relatives who are now deceased, news about new jobs, new babies, new spouses…bits of life that will never come again.

Back in 1987, we were still part of the 704 area code, until Charlotte outgrew itself and most of Catawba County was reassigned to 828. Not too long ago we could tell where a caller was from by the area code. Today that’s no longer true. Telephone numbers follow people around like ghosts from the past, proclaiming that they once lived in New York or Seattle.

I cradled the black cordless receiver in my hands. Would today be the last day to talk over that phone? No, the last call had been taken weeks ago—before the battery faded and the new one wouldn’t hold a charge.

Back in the 1980s, I never considered that the landline would totally disappear. We were wired to every other phone in the world. How could that possibly change?

Then a cellphone seeped into my life. I began divulging my cellphone number with friends, my dental office and my church. Then credit card companies wanted it and so did my bank and before I knew it, I became less and less of a “464” person. And now I am no longer one at all.