A comedy of errors this week. I wish it had been a comedy of Eros, but there you go. The world is moving fast, they say, technology moving even faster. Which might even be true, and you'd bloody well hope so, given the way Chorus are digging up the streets – but I'll tell you something for nothing, cutting off a landline is harder than getting divorced. And while there are definitely more painful things (accidental Brazilians and doing Pecha Kucha being two of them), nothing can be as senselessly aggravating and drawn-out as divesting oneself of a home phone line.
With two cellphones and three computers in our possession, the only time our home phone ever rings these days its either someone with an unintelligible Indian accent or the economist's friend Dave, who lives on the Gold Coast and can't figure out the time difference. Also sometimes unintelligible. It had got to the point where Le Corbusier's dictate: 'have nothing in your home that isn't useful or beautiful' chimed the death knell for this antique.
“I don't know why I'm still here,” said the economist, bleakly.
There were obvious arguments for cutting it off. At more than $40 a month, in the course of a year that comes to almost $500 (or 47 bottles of not very expensive wine) making it an unnecessary cost and money better spent. We should just ditch it, right? The cons being, that while the economist and I have fancy new smartphones, both our mothers use the landline as their primary form of communication ... sorry, where was I? Ah yes, the cons: we've had the same number forever so everyone knows it and landlines are generally more reliable in large scale disasters, when cellular networks tend to get overloaded and crash.
Mothers-in-law, earthquakes; neither seemed a pressing reason to keep outdated technology and canceling it would be a simple matter of a phone call, I thought. Folks must be doing this all the time.
A recording asked me what I wanted: “Discon ..” “Press 2,” it interrupted. “Disconnection!” I shouted, between a menu of instructions narrated in tones of the profoundly depressed. Dave Dobbyn reminded me to be Loyal ('patient' would have been more apposite) while the economist looked at online videos of Siamese cats. Being on hold for an hour seemed a particularly un-fabulous way to spend one's 45th birthday, but I also happened to be writing an advertorial for a skin care company about what youth meant to me, so the day was already ruined.
The economist had moved on to tidal bores by the time I managed to speak to a real person. Was I sure I wanted to cut off the landline? She asked. Really sure? Really, really sure? It reminded me of Facebook's exit-whining or swimming in a flume with rubber bands around your ankles. Let's make a deal, she tried. How about they gave me some toll call credits and I just kept the phone on? I pointed out that my $16 a month cellphone let me make as many as I wanted.
Would I reconsider? She asked, amazingly unfazed by reality.
“No,” I said. “Please cut off the landline and leave the internet.”
Oh well, if you insist, she said.
I insisted. And I had to go, I was late for the hairdressers.
When I got back home, fantastic hair did nothing to allay my rage at discovering the internet had been cut off.
I rang the number again, spoke to the robot, twiddled my thumbs and ground my teeth, feeling my newly advanced age with every hit of the hold music. “I Just Want The Internet,” I said in capitals, “no phone.” In a remarkable co-incidence the only plan available was exactly the same price as internet + phone. What are the chances?
Didn't I want to keep my home phone? Thoroughly worn out, I'd started to feel vaguely menaced, as if I was being made offers I couldn't refuse. A bit like Rosemary in Rosemary's Baby, trying to rid myself of the Devil's handset. Finally, I succeeded, cutting off my landline to spite my face. The weirdest thing about all of this is that 4776046 is still my phone number, you just can't ring me on it. Youth might be fleeting, but a landline is forever, apparently. Mine a ghost only the dead can dial, and Dave, who doesn't know the phone is cut off yet.