Phone Alone

Wired? Yeah, I'm wired.I'm so wired, my calls have to be "managed" now. Bell Atlantic hooked me into something called a Call Manager program which has three of their special services bundled in a single package, Caller ID with name, Call Waiting, and Answer Call.Bell Atlantic conducted a huge ad campaign to sign everyone up on a Caller ID with name service, practically giving away the little box that's required, (although in less than a year, they will make back the money the box costs in the added fee to your phone bill.) Before the barrage of print ads ran in the paper, I saw the TV ad late at night on CNN. I think James Earl Jones did the voice-over, and that's almost like getting an order directly from God. I began to contemplate it, and you know what happens when you begin to contemplate things. Soon you have convinced yourself you desperately need something you really don't need.A phone call for information sealed the deal. What I was already paying individually for Call Waiting and just plain numeric Caller ID was more than this bundled package, plus I'd get that new little box for $5. And the third service, Answer Call, would do something Call Waiting can't. I have to disable Call Waiting when I'm on line with the computer. Now, instead of getting a busy signal, callers are shuttled to a voice mail box where they can leave a message. When I get off line, the little box blinks with a Message Waiting signal to let me know people tried to call me while I was deep in cyperspace, cruising Howard Stern web pages and other important research like that.Did I mention I also have an e-mail address and a fax line?I estimate all this costs me a $44 a month more than an ordinary phone with an attached answering machine and a mailbox hanging outside my front door, and that's if I don't use any of it. If I use it, I pay more. All this technology assumes I am in such demand, so many oodles of people need to communicate with me night and day, I need to be wrapped in fiber optics like a ball of twine.The truth is, I don't get many calls at all. But damn it, if I ever do get any, I will know about it!For years I went along peacefully with AT&T. Other long distance carriers would send me offers or call me, and I'd just say no. AT&T is fine. I've never had a problem. Why change? I don't make any long distance calls anyway.Then MCI sent me a check for $35. If I deposited it, my service would be switched over. And I'd be sent another check for $5 to cover the change-over fee. Since I had two phone lines, one for the fax, there was a second check. That was a $70 pay day for doing nothing but depositing the checks. Seventy dollars was a timely and magnificent windfall. I endorsed the checks. Within days, AT&T was on the phone. Why? Why? Why? I did it for the money, I said. I am a long distance whore.Switch back, they said. Now that you've got the money, just switch back.The checks haven't even cleared yet. Besides, that wouldn't be nice. And trust me, MCI did not make a good deal. I almost never make long distance calls. I have no friends! I have no family! So why would you want me? But if you do, call me back in two months. Are you going to pay the $5 charge to switch back?Yes, they would. Although they didn't offer me any money at the time, within a month, there was a check for $25 from AT&T. All I had to do was endorse it. Since it was for only one of the phone lines, I figured we would all live in peace now. AT&T owned half of me, MCI the other.But it wasn't even a month before MCI became disgruntled with their lot. This time the check was for $15 to change back, and since Bell Atlantic's $5 cut would have to come out of it, the price of having me was now down to $10. Like an aging prostitute, my value in the market place was plummeting. Still even $10 had an allure. That's three dinners at Wendy's, after all. I endorsed the check. But first I had to call MCI and get the secret code. The more they questioned me about the amount of long distance calling I did -- none -- the more disheartened they became. I expected before we got to the end of the call, they would suddenly decide the check was null and void. Instead, they said I was getting a free 800 number. What? Me? I'm going to be an 800 number?What was the reasoning behind this? I had to contemplate it for a week, but finally the marketing genius became clear. What if I suddenly became a FREE long distance call to someone else? Wouldn't that catapult my desirability to new heights? Wouldn't I suddenly acquire friends and family eager to converse? They wouldn't have to pay, I would, if I foolishly gave out my new 800 number. My life would take on dimensions hitherto unknown , like finding your own true love in an online chat room. All it takes to fly with Peter Pan is you've got to believe!Or at least post your 800 number in an online chat room.What I really want is probably more along the lines of a 900 number where people pay $4.87 a minute to talk to me. I could describe myself naked. Yes, strangely enough, it just so happens that I DO look exactly like Elle MacPherson, and I don't know who you are, but I have decided that not only do I want you, I want you NOW. Actually not right now, let's see if we can talk this through for 11 minutes. Try to hold out. Or I could be a psychic hot line. I don't know who you are, but I can see your future. Things are going to change, and change for the better. I see love and money coming your way. You have a problem, I can sense it, and...yes, it's coming in clearly now, it will be solved! You will get exactly what you want and need. This will happen...when? When....let me think...how many minutes has it been? I'm getting a message...here it comes...it will happen VERY SOON.How do I know? I know because I'm wired.

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