Keenan: Cutting the cord on home phone line

Marney Rich Keenan
The Detroit News
  • With a cell%2C the only people who can reach you are those that have your cellphone number.
  • I learned we would be saving about %2450 a month.

Last week, after months of veiled threats which seemed to fall on deaf ears, I finally canceled our home phone service.

Oddly enough, what felt like cutting the umbilical cord to a panoply of memories and a certain sense of security for me was of no consequence whatsoever to my kids, who are only too happy to take every opportunity to sever any cord, apron string or last remaining twig from my now so-barren-as-to-be-hollow empty nest.

"Mom," the oldest said in that condescending tone that, sadly, I knew I deserved. "Nobody uses a land line anymore. Plus, you and Dad never answer the home phone anyway."

Which is true. In the last few years, the only calls we had were from solicitors, pollsters or political campaigns. The home phone had become an annoyance, a pest.

After a while, I prided myself on sniffing out the call centers. "Just listen for the white noise and static before you say hello," I'd whisper to my husband, so proud of my detective prowess. "Then hang up!"

"Honey," my husband would sigh and then shake his head, no doubt thinking, "This, too, shall pass."

The tipping point came at bill-paying time when I was trying to figure out — in vain, as it turned out — how, once again, our carrier was robbing us blind. When I finally got through to a live person, albeit with the fake name of Tiffany, I learned we would be saving about $50 a month. "Let's do this," I said, which, not so ironically, are the same last three words said by Gary Gilmore, the convicted murderer who chose to be put to death by a firing squad in 1977.

Lest you think this reference to Norman Mailer's "The Executioner's Song" is something I plucked from obscurity, Tiffany from Lancaster, Ohio (they tell you their locations now so we can't accuse them of hiring cheap labor in a third world country), then informed me: "Once you cancel, your number will be retired forever." It was her way of telling me there was no going back. I had to consider my attachment to those 10 digits that have been at my beck and call for almost a quarter of a century.

After all, it is from the phone number (248) 647-9686 that I called my husband to say my water broke, that we won the lottery ($90 for four matching numbers back in 1992), that I got the job, my mom is in the hospital, or they accepted our offer.

To determine if I was being overly sentimental (I mean, more than my usual), I asked my brothers if they remembered phone numbers from when we grew up.

Within seconds, my brothers were shooting rapid fire texts, all of which were incorrect. I could picture the heavy black rotary phone with the cord and mouthpiece that smelled like bad breath at our house on Hamptondale in Chicago. And I can easily envision the two phones at 3260 Kernway Court where we lived from the time I was in third grade until I was a junior in college. The white phone on the kitchen wall had a long, curly cord that could stretch into the laundry room for private calls. It was from that phone that I received my first call from a boy. When he asked me if I liked him I said, "just a minute" and went and asked my mom what I should say. I am not making this up. "That's for me to know and you to try and find out," I dutifully recited from my mother's 1940s playbook of courting. He never called again. The second phone was upstairs, a princess phone in my parent's bedroom. I will forever associate that phone with my father calling his mother, then in her 80s, to tell her that my brother Michael had died in Vietnam, which I painfully overheard in the next room.

As it turned out, the only brother who could remember both numbers was Peter, who, at the time, was in the hospital. Casey, Pete's daughter who was bedside, texted us: "Dad says Hamptondale phone was Hillcrest 6-4197 and Kernway was 644-8474." He was, per usual, spot on.

One sore loser texted: "Tell Pete thanks and to press that drug plunger thing a couple of times."

Convinced that I had little to lose by way of emotional attachment, I then considered the more practical pros and cons. One consideration is that when you dial 911 from a land line, the emergency operator immediately knows your address. Not so with a cellphone. Not yet, anyway.

And, too, with a cell, the only people who can reach you are those that have your cellphone number. But for me, those are the only people I want to hear from anyway.

It's been a week now since (248) 647-9686 has been put out to pasture. It was a good home phone number and served us well. May it rest in peace and live on in our memory, never to be abused by a solicitor with a fake name again.

In the last few years the only callers we had were had were from solicitors, pollsters or political campaigns.