The phone behind our front counter died today. I don’t think it was a natural death, but I didn’t kill it (even if I have threatened physical harm to it in the past). One moment it worked (too well), the next it was lifeless. It was, in fact, so lifeless that it started sucking the life out of the other phones on the system. Perhaps the static on the lines and flashing LEDs on the other units was their way of honoring their comrade’s passing. Whatever it was, the moment I unplugged the extinct culprit, the other sets straightened up their act and got back to their normal annoying ways. You know, the love/hate, can’t stand you/got to have you status, which is perpetual with telephones and me.
Earlier today, I would happily have committed murder of the now-deceased phone myself. The morning, as happens most days, was full of noisy activity. The cleaning crew was working, with their vacuum roaring and brooms swishing, when we arrived; the phone already making its presence known with its incessant clamoring. Stock orders (the Lovely Lady having labored on them into the waning hours of Tuesday) needing to be completed and transmitted, were vying for my attention; emails were wiggling their beckoning fingers from the Inbox. Please don’t think that I’m attempting to arouse feelings of sympathy in the reader, but this is my normal day. It is also the reason that the doors of the music store remain locked to walk-in customers until noon daily. They’re not any happier to be put off than are any of the other distractions. All morning long they whip into the parking lot, only to notice the darkened windows and shade pulled down on the door. Some take the time to read the posted hours, others just exclaim with frustration (sometimes in words I cannot report here). There are numerous black tire marks on the pavement; mementos of pent up anger finding outlet in the accelerators of powerful machines leaving the lot rapidly. I have learned to take it in stride and am determined to do my best to calm the troubled waters when they return later during business hours.
Did I get off topic again? Well, no, not really. You see, the now-dead telephone and my threat to commit a violent act upon the handset are closely related to opening time. It seems that almost daily, the notion to call the toll-free line (which comes in on that phone) hits some clueless person at about ten minutes before time for us to face the angry mob. When I say clueless, what I mean is a person who either doesn’t understand what it is that we sell, or who can’t make a decision between the many titles available to them. Noon usually finds me explaining what a “back-ground vocal” is, or the difference between accompaniment and karaoke tracks (for the twelfth time). There’s no hope of getting off the phone to turn on the “Open” sign, or to unlock the door for the guy who is there for the third time today, needing a clarinet reed for his daughter’s twelve o’clock class at school. Somebody please tell me, why that couldn’t be the time that the telephone died?
The crisis over and tempers soothed, the afternoon rolled on, with a few speed bumps, but overall a pretty normal day. Just moments before I had to leave to examine an instrument in a customer’s home, the passing of the telephone was discovered. Almost before I had time to feel any satisfaction and gratification for the death of my tormentor, I realized that I needed that phone desperately. Without it, someone would be leaning across my desk continuously to answer calls there, instead of the phone up front. Two lines ringing at once will mean someone has to leave the sales floor to take the second call in the back office. And what if I’m here by myself and the second line rings? The expired unit was the main telephone, containing in its circuitry the ability to shift calls to an “auto-attendant”, who was nice enough to inform customers that we couldn’t take their calls, but would be happy to call them back. When the phone kicked the bucket, so did the auto-attendant. I’m not really sad for her/him, but the customers now think we’re ignoring their calls. And, I have done that purposely before, but only after consulting the now defunct Caller ID screen, another victim of the calamity.
I need this phone! I can’t live without this phone! Amazing isn’t it? A moment before, I wanted that olio of integrated circuits, batteries, and wires dead. The moment I had my wish, I realized my great need of it. And once again, I was faced with the incongruity of human nature. We fail to appreciate the very things which give us the ability to perform necessary tasks. We focus on the aggravation, never concentrating on how essential are these tools which we wield so thoughtlessly. We are blessed beyond belief with conveniences which our parents and grandparents never dreamed possible, and we dismiss them as annoyances. But oh, how we miss them when we don’t have them.
I can’t avoid the picture in my mind of a young Tom Sawyer, lying on the ground under Becky Thatcher’s bedroom window, thinking, “They’ll all be sorry when they find my cold, dead body lying here.” Of course, the cold, dead body jumped up rather quickly when someone opened up a window and tossed out a pan full of water on him.
If only I could throw water on this unresponsive telephone, now fit for nothing but recycling. Nothing I can do will revive it, so I have ordered a new one, just like the dearly departed unit. It should be here within 36 hours and I can be miserable again. Or, ecstatically happy.
Oh well, as a wise friend of mine often says, “You pays your money and you takes your choice.” I’m paying my money, and then I’m going to work a little harder at appreciating the little things. They seem bigger when they’re gone…
“I find my familiarity with thee has bred contempt.”
(Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra~Spanish author~1547-1616)