the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Dial O for Old School


I sit on my couch, Friday afternoon, on hold with the Department of Water and Power. I’ve already been holding on the phone for ten minutes. Every thirty seconds, the same message repeats — they are “very busy” and a “customer service representative” will “be right with me” and that they “thank me” for “being so patient.”

I am patient, but I’m tired of waiting. My foot taps, impatiently. I have to leave… five minutes ago. I have an appointment downtown. I just want to talk to customer service about my bill. I want to get this payment issue over with before the weekend is here.

I wait ten more minutes. The repeating message is driving me crazy. “Very busy…thank you… patient..”

That’s enough. I need to go. I can’t sit here all day on hold waiting for someone to answer the phone.

I hang up, head out the front door, and enter my car, still holding onto the cell phone that I used to call up the Department of Water and Power.

Then I realize — couldn’t have I left twenty minutes ago WITH the phone in hand? Or any time after that?  Why did I hang up before I left the house?  And why was I sitting there on the couch connected by an invisible phone cord?

That’s something my father would have done. How Old School is that?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Jane Austen and the Pussycats


  1. plain jane

    IF I had a cell phone this is something I would do. Duh.

    Love the shaving photo in the center of the dial!

  2. Edgy Mama

    I would have done the same thing. Shouldn’t you be shaving with a straight blade too?

  3. Alexandra

    I’m not okay, you’re not okay, and thats okay.

  4. Neil

    I’m thinking now that there might be a couple of readers here who have never seen a rotary phone before.

  5. Tatyana

    …yeah..andf not only that: there are some of the younger generation that feel excessively comfortable with means of communications. A few times during uninterrupted phone call I was startled by the sound of flashing water on the other end…

  6. s@bd

    Old school fer sher.

    And maybe a little ghetto, dude.

  7. Elizabeth

    Ha– I wish I had old school phones as I hate using a cell phone exclusively but must as we live off-grid. I want a good old-fashioned receiver that is easy on my ear for long chats. But whatever.

    One thing, last night I had a dream where one of your posts was so funny that dooce linked to it in her “daily links” column and I thought, “well, it’s about damn time!”

    Now, get the hell out of my dreams. Thanks.

  8. Neil

    I believe that dreams DO come true! But the fact that I was in YOUR DREAM, rather than the usual other way around, is better than any mention on her site! Now, in my dream, you’re wearing this little teddy totally made out of New Hamphire foliage. What was I wearing?

  9. Churlita

    I love it that someone called you ghetto.

    I still don’t have a cell phone, but I have a cordless phone and sometimes I still forget that I can get up and do the dishes or the laundry, or take a swing at my kids who always find it necessary to act up while I’m talking on the phone.

  10. wendy

    Hey Neil…Thanks for Blog Crush status..Funny…It came the day after a posting with both of the words PENTHOUSE and PLAYBOY in it…I’m just sayin…IRONICAL??…I’m blushing with pride…Do I get a tight little t-shirt that proudly displays…”Blog Crush of the Day”…

  11. elle

    I would leave on time with phone in hand and not realize until it was violently jerked from my hand that I was NOT on the cell phone, but on the corded phone in the kitchen.

    What school would I be in?

  12. Rhea

    Neil, I would have done the same thing. I have a cell phone but I don’t rely on it. I don’t even carry it on me a lot of days. But I still don’t have the whole cell phone thing down where you are always available to anyone who calls. I still have a land line but not a rotary phone.

  13. Michelle V - fost-adopt blogger

    I just blogged about having a party line with four other families when we first moved up into the mountains twenty five years ago! We had to yell at the drunk down the road to quit listening in on our conversations. We still don’t have cell service at our house, but at least I have high speed internet – the most important thing of all. How old school is that? (and I’m not THAT old).

  14. teahouseblossom

    Stupid minor setback!!

    I hate machine/computer customer service lines.

  15. cruisin-mom

    Don’t feel bad Neil…we still use a VCR.

  16. Dating Dummy

    It may be old school, but if you walk too far out of your house, at some point, the cord’s not going to be long enough.

  17. steppingoverthejunk

    oh lordy, this is too funny. I’ll never forget years ago, when I just couldnt understand the point of the internet. How about that, eh?

  18. Dagny

    *sigh* I cannot believe you did that, Neil. Then again, I used to work for a wireless company so they indoctrinated me well in the various uses of a cell phone. Oh, and Elizabeth, I have found that the use of a headset makes longer chats much more bearable. Otherwise, you end up with a very hot ear.

  19. Elizabeth

    Stop it, Neil— a teddy of dead leaves would be very itchy on my incredibly sensitive skin. Just thinking about it gets me flushed–hot and bothered.

    You were nowhere visible in the dream. You were just a concept.

    All dream talk is hereby ended.

  20. Elizabeth

    oooh Dagny! excellent solution– many thanks!

  21. Mist 1

    I have no idea what you’re talking about? Phones used to have cords? Yeah right. Do you take me for a fool?

  22. Darci

    Okay – I have left the house on hold on the house cordless and wonder why that damn thing discontected…

  23. marcail

    That was wacked.

  24. Non-Highlighted Heather

    I’ve heard that there is a special Jewish phone that before you can even dial there’s a message that says, “What, you can call everyone else, but you can’t find a minute in your busy day to call your poor mother and see how she is?”

  25. Non-Highlighted Heather

    And if that last post wasn’t even remotely funny, can we just blame it on the two martinis (with extra olives, thank you very much), the three bourbon and 7s, and the two glasses of wine?

  26. Neil

    Heather, wasn’t that Mel Gibson’s excuse also?

  27. V-Grrrl

    I had a party line in rural Virginia during my phone-use intensive teen years. Lord what torture. And not only could the neighbors listen in or disrupt my phone calls, the cord chained me to the wall so I had no privacy in the house either. Such hardships made me the remarkable resilient and bitchy woman I am today.

    GRRR. That’s the growl in the Grrrl.

  28. better safe than sorry

    i grew up with a phone similar to that one (well, it wasn’t red and it didn’t have your photo in it) and a party line as well. i hate cell phones, i don’t like the idea of having to eventually lose our land line and having a cell phone for every person in the house, but i know that’s where we’re headed.

  29. Non-Highlighted Heather

    Oh Neil, that wounded me deeply. I don’t blame any of the world’s evils on the Jewish people. I’m really not thrilled about Joy Behar, but I’m not letting one bad apple ruin the whole barrel.

  30. Neil

    Joy Behar is an Italian Catholic!

  31. 2nd Pearl Past the Post

    We could attribute it to a deep seated unconscious aversion to talking and driving?

    Just heard the Moster Mash at the diner. Good to get new words for it. 🙂

  32. Two Roads

    My mother hates cell phone but the cordless phone is literally attached at her hip around the house. So much so that one day, she got all the way to the mall and realized when you was looking for her keys in her pocket she had her cordless phone instead!

    BTW, I love rotary dial phone. I remember the days if you dialed a certain number either too fast or too slow it connected you into a dating party line. People would yell their phone numbers out and you would hang up and call them back and then talk all night.

  33. Non-Highlighted Heather

    Ha. Well, if I’m going to make an ass of myself, I’m glad it was here. I know you can sympathize.

  34. communicatrix

    If I had that phone, I’d never leave the house. So there.

  35. introspectre

    Done the same thing. How funny.

  36. Dagny

    Yes, Joy Behar is Italian. She also has a tendency to marry/date Jewish guys. Perhaps that’s what Heather was confusing.

  37. othurme

    Phones without chords? No way! I’m going to have to stand up and turn the TV off, then sit back down in order to fully soak this in.

  38. Jakob

    It’s a Danish phone. Hope you don’t put cheese on it.

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