LowComDom Performances Presents
What I Like About The Telephone
What I Like About The Telephone -By Dave Barry
What I like best about the telephone is that it keeps you in touch with people, particularly people who want to sell you magazine subscriptions in the middle of the night. These people have been abducted by large publishing companies and placed in barbed-wire enclosures surrounded by armed men with attack dogs.
Caller: Hello, Mr. Barry?
Me: No this is Adolf Hitler.
Caller: Of course. My mistake. The reason I'm calling you at 11:30 at night, Mr. Hitler, is that I'm conducting a marketing survey, and...
Me: Are you selling magazine subscriptions?
Caller: Magazine subscriptions? Me? Selling them? Ha Ha. No. Certainly not. Not at all. No, this is just a plain old marketing survey. (Sound of dogs barking.)
Me: Well, what do you want to know?
Caller: Well, I just want to ask you some questions about your household, such as how many people live there, and what their ages are and whether any of them might be interested in subscribing to Redbook?
Me: I don't want to subscribe to anything, you lying piece of slime.
Caller: How about Time? Sports Illustrated? American Beet Farmer?
Me: I'm going to hang up.
Caller: No! (The dogs get louder) Please! You can have my daughter!
The first telephone systems were primitive "party lines" where everybody could hear what everybody else was talking about. This was very confusing:
Bertha: Emma? I'm calling to tell you I seen your boy Norbert shootin' his musket at our goat again, and if you don't...
Clem: This ain't Emma. This is Clem Johnson, and I got to reach Doc Henderson, because my wife Nell is all rigid and foaming at the mouth, and if she don't snap out of it soon the roast is going to burn.
Emma: Norbert don't even own a musket. All he got is a bow and arrow, and he couldn't hit a steam locomotive from six feet, what with his bad hand, which he got when your boy Percy bit it, and which is festerin' pretty bad.
Doc Henderson: You better let me take a look at it.
Bertha: The goat? Oh, he ain't hurt that bad, Doc. He's skittery on account of the musket fire.
Clem: Now she's startin' to roll her eyes around. Looks like two hard-boiled eggs.
Caller: Hi I'm conducting a marketing survey. Is Mr. Hitler at home?
Clem: No, but I'll take a year's worth of American Beet Farmer.
The party line system led to a lot of unnecessary confusion and death, so the phone company devised a system whereby you can talk to only one person at a time, although not necessarily the person you want. In fact, if you call any large company, you will never get to talk to the person you're calling. Large companies employ people who are paid, on a commission basis, solely to put calls on hold. These people are trained by the airline reservations clerks. The only exception is department stores, where all calls are immediately routed to whichever clerk has the most people waiting.
But we should never complain about our telephone system. It is the most sophisticated system in the world, yet it is the easiest to use. For example, my 20-month-old son, who cannot perform a simple act like eating a banana without getting most of it in his hair, is perfectly capable of direct-dialing Okinawa, and probably has. In another year, he'll be able to order magazine subscriptions.