Phone bill

Monday, April 27


I pulled its plug about two months ago. I hung it up for the last time. 

After 44 years, it was over. No longer is my phone number 532-2163. My landline is officially disconnected. It’s history. 

My last call was to AT&T. I told them I had enough. 

But today I got a last gasp from the phone company, a residual landline bill: I owe a grand total of 30 cents for “debit applied for E911 recovery charge.”  So if I don’t pay this, what will the phone company do? Disconnect me? 

Until I disconnected myself, I was paying nearly $50 a month for a steady diet of junk, scam, unknown and out-of-area calls. It was a sad twilight for a once-proud number. 

But in my landline’s waning years, no friends rang up: Instead, they used their cell phones to call my cell phone. Fewer and fewer of them kept or used their own landlines. 

I got 2163 from the company we all called Ma Bell when I moved onto Yankee Hill in 1976.  Back then it was a party line – yes, shades of Mayberry. 

I had to wait for my neighbor, Marty, to finish his call before I could make one of my own.  Or, I could tell him I had a journalistic emergency and he had to clear the line pronto. Or, I could simply eavesdrop until he was done. 

Whether Marty or I had more interesting calls to listen in on is debatable. But most of the hit TV shows of the era – Barney Miller, Sanford and Son, MASH and Saturday Night Live were far more interesting than our calls. 

That said, much of my life was conducted over 2163. 

My Union Democrat editor, Sally Scott, would use the line to wake me up in the middle of the night to go cover a fire, flood, murder or crash. 

Once she called in the morning to ask if I had thought about coming to work that day.  It was 9 a.m., and I should have been there two hours earlier.  

Shaking off the pounding, painful aftereffects of a long night at one of Sonora’s watering holes, I drove to the office, arrived at 10, and produced little. 

Every Sunday night, I’d call my Mom and Dad from 2163. I’d fill them in on all my news, but said nothing about nights misspent at bars. 

I used the landline to keep in touch with my brother and a host of old friends. During my single years, I kindled a few new romances, fanned a few old flames, and got a Dear John call or two.

My wife and I later raised a family on 2163, but we got a cell phone the size of a shoebox when they became affordable. We called ours  “Mobile 1” and viewed it as a curious novelty. 

Then, not many years later, each member of our family of five had a cell phone. At that point, 2163’s days were numbered. 

I kept it nevertheless: In some post-apocalyptic hacked-by-Russia world, I supposed, that old landline would somehow work. Even though the nation’s entire cyber network had collapsed. 

But I finally got tired of paying monthly bills for nothing and cut the cord. Of course I had immediate misgivings and, when I got my 30-cent bill, I had a few more. 

I looked up advantages of landlines on Google (of course) and found a few: No radiation emitted, more privacy, more reliable, works during a power outage, simpler, less risk of “getting addicted to your phone.”  

“I need stability, I need something dense,” added one landline fan. “I want to hold onto to something that’s solid. My phone is bigger and heavier than a cell.” 

Also, you can’t text on a landline. And an MIT professor has found that text-based relationships “deliver the least amount of emotional connection.” 

A lot of this stuff is highly debatable. 

I don’t text much, for instance, and my emotional connections are probably as shallow as those of anyone who does. 

Also, if you have a charged battery pack, your cell phone will work during a power outage. Or you can go outside and plug that cell into your car. 

And one more thing: What if the same storm that knocked your power out also rips down the phone wires and poles leading to your precious landline? 

Bottom line: I’ve been in Corona confinement for more than 40 days now. And not once have I said to myself, “Boy, I sure wish I had my landline back.” 

In fact there was only one convincing reason I can see for keeping a landline. One that was pointed out by several LL fans. 

If you lose your cell phone, you can call it on your landline and promptly find it.  

But whether this admittedly handy service is really worth $50 a month is debatable. 









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