Wednesday, November 15, 2006

CallerID and Priorities

Some guy I don't know just called. Normally I wouldn’t have picked up the phone, but the number looked familiar. We went round and round. “Who is this,” he asked.

“Who are you?” I replied. “You’re the one who called me.”

“I saw your number on my caller ID,” he said.

And this is where I have a problem. Who are these people with nothing better to do in their lives than to call back all the people who called them and didn’t leave a message? And why, especially, are they bothering to call back people they don’t know?

This isn’t the first time this has happened. I’ve received many such calls over the years. I don’t get it. I don’t even call back my friends when they don’t leave a message. I just figure it must not have been that important. Or maybe they’d called with an urgent issue: Can you come over and extricate me out from under this bookcase that fell over? As soon as they realized there would be no human answer to the phone, they were on to the next person on their list.

The guy on the phone got irritated with me. “Your number’s on my caller ID,” he said indignantly. “Someone there called me!”

“Why would anyone here want to talk to a butthead like you?” is what I wanted to reply, but my kids were in the room. Maybe this guy needs some kids, I thought. Then he’d have to prioritize. Then he would know that keeping tabs on every wrong number is a big stupid waste of time.

I remember how, before I had kids, I used to think lots of stupid things were important. Like filing. I would get agitated if a few weeks had gone by and I hadn’t put all the paid bills into their appropriate files. Now that my boys are nine, I know that pretty much you can go for six months without filing before there’s any adverse reaction. As you approach a year, well, then there are hazards. The stack might fall over and hurt someone.

Now I have a laundry list of things (laundry included) that I thought were important and of the highest priority, before my kids were born, which I now have come to realize can go for a surprisingly long time without getting done. Were you aware of how many warnings the phone company gives before they actually shut off your phone?

Making beds, dusting, watching TV shows, actually hearing the radio, getting film developed, making sure the calendar is on the right month. All these things have dropped down, if not right off, the list. Raking leaves, shoveling snow, changing the oil in the car, heck, sometimes even putting gas in the car (It’ll drive amazingly far while on “E”. Although, conversely, it won’t drive far at all once the “Fuel” light comes on.)

I later discovered my babysitter had misdialed my cell phone number when trying to call me earlier this morning, which is why Mr. It’sOnMyCallerID’s phone number had looked so familiar when I saw it on my callerID. The number was pretty darned close to mine.

“But someone there called me!” He’d been so upset. Apparently he really needed to know what we wanted from him.

“Maybe it was just a wrong number,” he finally conceded. “Yeah,” I mumbled. I held on the line for a moment, and then just hung up without saying anything more.

I don’t have the time to spend my life on the phone with strangers. I need extricate my children out from under the files.

Penguins and Poles and the Tenacity of My Resolve

Can we join Club Penguin? When can we join Club Penguin? We’ll pay for it. Can we join Club Penguin after dinner?

This is only the tip of the penguin-topped iceberg. I’ve been hearing about Club Penguin for days. I’m sick of Club Penguin. But I marvel at my son’s tenacity. I suppose I should be more understanding and tolerant of it. He has the same form of tenacity that I do.

I’m not certain when or how I developed my stick-to-itiveness. I suppose if you wanted to call it stubborness, you can say I inherited it genetically via my Belarussian roots. Obviously, my children inherited too. If they want something, say a toy or to go see a certain movie, they hold on with such resolve. It’s like watching a dog with a bone.

In this regard, my kids are a lot like me. And don’t you dare tell us we’re not capable of doing something. That’s how I ended up an airline pilot. “The airlines are all laying off pilots, you’ll never get a job.” “You have an aptitude for engineering. You should be an engineer.” I was fourteen. The only kind of engineering I understood concerned the guy who drove the train. “Why would you want to be a pilot? Women aren’t pilots.” “No one will marry you if you’re a pilot.” “You won’t be able to have a family if you’re a pilot.” Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Sometimes stubbornness--I mean tenacity, has its rewards.

Another example would be my telephone pole, a favorite reminder of the adage, “feel free to keep telling me what I’m doing is impossible, while you sit there and watch me do it.” Whenever I’m at the sink doing dishes, my telephone pole makes me happy.

When we bought our house, it didn’t have a garage. No big deal, we thought, we’ll build one. But the telephone pole was right where the overhead door should be. As we got estimates, all the sales guys told me we’d have to put in a two-car garage. But we wanted a three-car garage. One guy made the mistake of saying they used to move telephone poles, but not anymore. That was the Danley guy, busy doing a hard-sell, and he wanted me signing a contract for a two-car garage right that minute.

But he’d given me an idea. That it might be possible to move the pole. I told him I’d get back to him as soon as we got all the estimates in. “You can do that, but then it wouldn't be a Danley garage.” He exhaled out the sentence with such a pompous sigh, it took a lot of control to not scream, “Get out of my kitchen!”

I called ComEd. Yes, we move poles. Where do you want it? (I don’t know why I was so surprised; the house was here before the electricity.) I called AT&T. Yes, we ‘ll move our stuff to the new pole, but it’ll cost you.

Compared to the price of a new garage, compared to the added resale value of a three vs. two-car garage, AT&T’s fee felt reasonable. My only regret is that I’ll never see the look on the Danley guy’s face if he ever happens to drive past our three-car, Steele & Loeber garage, to find that telephone pole sitting twenty-five feet to the south.

Whenever I feel my resolve start to waiver, my husband kindly points out I single-handedly moved a fifty-foot telephone pole.

I try to remember I’m capable of that kind of resolve, as I sign my boys up for Club Penguin.