The Phone

It was vermin.

On Thursday I called MCI. On Saturday a man came and told me the problem was not inside my apartment. Someone from Verizon - not MCI - would call me, he said.

On Monday a man left a message on my neighbor's answering machine; he told the machine he was on a street I recognized as about 2 miles away, and asked why my apartment was not there, where he thought it should be.

On Tuesday a man came out without warning and we went on the roof. He touched some wires and left.

The next Thursday someone was supposed to come but didn't. On Friday 2 men came. One climbed a pole and told me, after poking at a rusty box filled with wires, that it was hopeless. He called for someone else to come, but the person he called was getting a haircut and couldn't make it.

Later in the day three more men came out in a large, square Verizon truck. One man stayed out on a pole on the street. I led the other two through the basement of my building to the backyard. A pudgy man ascended the pole and began to probe the rusted box with squeaking machines. After almost an hour of squeaks and whistles, he said, “holy fucking shit” and pulled a large, empty squirrel's nest, which he threw to the ground. He then threw handfuls of exposed, gnawed copper wires after it, and said, “it was squirrels!”

Standing in the waning light of the apartment building's backyard, I imagined several angry squirrels in turbans, each piloting a tiny propeller plane straight into my phone box. One of the squirrels was named Nuthammad.

I am sorry, but that is what I imagined.

“How long have those wires been there?” I asked.

“Probably since the 30s,” he said, and I thought Brooklyn. The wires were older than my father. He said, “You're going to need another terminal.”

“Will that stop the phone from going out every time it rains?”

He pursed his lips. “Should.”

They fixed my line temporarily - which is how I can post this - and promised to come back before 10AM the next day, and told me to pray it didn't rain too hard, but it's now 5:38PM and I just talked to Alice at Verizon, who was very nice, but left me with absolutely no idea when someone would come to fix what the squirrels have done.

.  .  .  .  .  

When I moved into my place in Brooklyn, I called Con Ed and asked them to transfer the electric to my name. I remember a very nice woman who asked me to call back in 2-3 hours because they'd lost all power in the call center.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

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