Tripping and cursing, I'd hurry to the bleating phone, grab it and gasp "Hello" to some solicitor who'd reply, "Ms. Bunbun, how are you today?" Or I'd hear a tinny recording telling me to crab to my state senator about some issue. Family and friends no longer called that number, because I'd gradually, with concern for my privacy, disclosed to ever-widening circles my cellphone number. The chances that an old flame or potential employer might phone my old number diminished with time (although hope never dies). And the complicated bills with four kinds of taxes tacked onto them, looking like a long-division problem or a diagram of a high dive, annoyed me, so finally I gathered the nerve to phone AT&T and say, "Please cancel my land line."
I had to have someone in the room with me to actually do it. I was scared. I've had land lines all my life. If I dialed 911 responders would know my address. Also, I liked my phone number. They're assigned randomly, but some of my phone numbers have been more graceful or memorable than others, or were more fun to say, or suited me spiritually. This one had come with the dwelling and seemed like the foundation of the house. I was fond of it. But my cell number is fabulous. It trips off the tongue and walks on air, and if forced to choose, I'd choose the cell number. So goodbye.
Reports about brain cancer and salivary-gland cancers from cellphones -- I believe in them, and had wondered how to handle long conversations on the cell, but there's an app for that: a speakerphone function. Now I needn't clamp it to my ear. Unlike the landline, the cellular phone sometimes drops the call, but we all understand that it happens and forgive each other in advance for the inconvenience.
For once, the phone-company employee did not try to sell me something. He simply said not to pay the current bill (because they bill in advance for the month to come; why aren't I ever paid in advance for the month to come?) and they'd send a prorated final bill. He said the connection would be terminated in a few hours. I then made one brief call to my parents, and after that the phone was stone dead. It was chilling.
The system had "hung up" on me.
I moved furniture and unsnapped the wire from the jack. Eleven years had yellowed the wire and dust made it sticky. Bagging the phone was like bagging a dead body. Never again to dangle the receiver in the air to unravel kinks in the coils, watching physics in action in its wobbly spin. Never again to hear its dial tone, that warm wordless whine, a sound of the 20th century, pitched to resemble a human voice.