One Ringy Dingy
Hello? HELLO???

August 21, 1999

I hate our answering machine. OK, it's not really a machine. It's the Message Center from Pac Bell. It's more like office voice mail. But at least my phone in the office blinks when I have a message on my voice mail.

With the Message Center you have to remember to pick up the phone and listen for the weird dial tone to let you know you have a message. Key word here: remember. No little box sitting on the counter next to the phone. No little blinking light. No screening calls.

If you miss your call, easy to do since the MC kicks in after like 2 rings lately, it goes into the void.

We have four phones in the house. Two cordless, two desktop.

One of the cordless phones is one of those 900Mhz models allegedly designed to let you hear a pin drop 500 miles from the base. I'm here to tell you--not so much. It could be the fact that Suki chewed the little rubber antenna thing. Hard to say for sure. Cost a pretty penny, it did, and it doesn't hold a charge for shit.

The other cordless phone is in my office. It's a cordless with a speaker phone. I got it so I could ostensibly talk on the phone while I quilt. It's hard to sew with a handset cradled in your neck. That's all well and good but I hate speaker phones as a general rule and this one cuts off every other word. I must not have been in my right mind when I bought it.

And why is it that both cordless phones lose their charges always at the exact same time. Here you are, talking to whoever and you hear that evil little beeping start. Ut oh. Where's the other cordless? You run around the house like a madwoman looking, looking, looking. Because cordless phones are like car keys. They vanish. They're never where you put them down the last time. (OK, it would probably help if you paid attention when you put it down, but that's another story.)

The desktop phones are located in our bedroom and Chuck's office. These locations are the two farthest apart in the house from each other and our daily lives.

But, back to the machine thing.

My dad, always the first to exploit new technology, got an answering machine when I was like 10. One of the first models. It was as big and as heavy as overstuffed carry on luggage. But that thing worked. Always.

When I was in high school the machine resided in the front closet, next to the front door. As soon as you walked in the door you had to go into this closet to turn off the burglar alarm so you could see if you got messages. Light blinking=messages. Pretty easy concept.

As with all technology, the original, highly overpriced models are workhorses. They last and last and last.

As the technology develops and products are priced for mass consumption the metal pieces are now plastic and technology becomes disposable. Things are built to last only a year or two. I actually had a salesperson tell me this many years ago when I went to buy another new machine. "Oh, this one should last about 18 months." "What about that one?" I asked. "Same thing for all of them," he informed me.

Everyone anymore has answering machines. When Chuck moved in with me we had two. We continued to use mine for a while. It broke down. We used his.

When we moved into our old house we needed a new machine so we spent a ridiculous amount of money on a Sony combination cordless phone/answering machine. The thing never worked right. We hated it from about day 3. Then Zoe loved to use the cordless phone (she was <1) and dropped it. A lot. The thing finally died a painful death.

I went and bought a $29 phone. I figured if it broke in a month I wouldn't be so disappointed. And we got some answering machine. Well, the phone worked great. No matter how often it got dropped it took a lickin' and kept on ringin'. We were never thrilled with the machine. So, Chuck decided it was the Message Center for us.

The MC is like big brother sometimes. We'll be sitting around, not on the phone, not even having heard the phone ring, and then come to find out we have messages. From times we were home and available to chat. I guess the MC decided we didn't want to be disturbed.

Then there are times like this morning.

Chuck is off on his photo safari with Steve. Zoe is out at story time with my dad. I'm home alone. Sitting in my office. Phone rings. Ut oh. Where is it? Oh yeah, both cordless phones are in the kitchen. (How many times that happens is embarassing--both phones sitting on a counter next to each other, completely across the house from wherever you are.)

I run for the phone. One ringy dingy. Two ringy dingy's. I pick it up in the middle of ring three and all I get is dial tone. I wait a minute and figure whoever called is leaving a message. I check the phone again in a minute for the dial tone change. No. Nothing. Missed another one.

I don't mean to sound desperate. It's not like I wanted to spend my precious few minutes of alone time gabbing on the phone with someone.

But clearly I must be desperate because it drove me to my desk to write this entry about how frustrated I am.

Until next time. . .