The Number You Have Dialed Is Not In Service

This week, I finally gave up on my landline. The decision was long overdue. The only calls we ever received on our home phone were spam, solicitations, or political huckstering, the majority of them robocalls. Family and friends who wanted to reach us used our mobile numbers. It was long since time to ditch that phone line.

It feels odd anyway. Brenda and I had that number since we bought our house in 1989. Thirty years. The number itself had (sorry) a nice ring to it: 699-1969. Sure, 1965 or 1966 would have been even better, but a phone number evoking pop culture memories of the moon landing, the Miracle Mets, Woodstock, and The Stooges had a certain cachet of its own.

The phone number of my youth is also gone, as of nearly two years ago. My sister owns the house in which we grew up, the house where my Mom lived until a nursing home became the only viable option. My sister was determined to keep the old familiar phone number, just because, but Spectrum screwed that up beyond redemption. The number slipped away from us.

I don’t recall any of the phone numbers that Brenda and I had in our apartments. There were three of them, 1980 to 1989, in Brockport, Buffalo, and Syracuse. The phone number at our first apartment in Brockport had previously belonged to someone named Quale or Quail or Quayle or somesuch, and throughout our time there we continued to receive calls from folks looking for Quayle. It was annoying, but still less annoying than robocalls.

During our bleak two years in the rattrap in Buffalo, the black phone on the wall matched the hue of my mind and soul. I try to find happy memories there, and there were a few, but it mostly slips into mud and murk, quicksand, the quagmire we felt we were in. I don’t miss that at all, and even the memory of that industrial black phone on that crummy kitchen wall remains unwelcome. And I don’t remember the phone in our first Syracuse apartment at all.

699-1969. That phone delivered its share of bad newsterrible news that will always evoke a visceral anger and sadness when the memory hits me. But it also holds some welcome recollections. I did all of my Goldmine and Syracuse New Times interviews on that line, and I received phone calls from both Joey Ramone and Johnny Ramone. Separately, of course. Brenda and I concocted fancy answering machine messages that were fun to do and a hit with most of our friends; we eventually switched to plainer messages when we realized people were calling just to hear the message, and then hanging up. Our outgoing messages–as Batman, or as acoustic guitar players preparing for a tour as Motley Crue’s opening act–were really too long, so we would have discontinued them anyway.

“Leave a message at the sound of the Bat-Beep!”

And now that number has been discarded. If it’s reassigned, we’ll sing softly to ourselves, a variation of a familiar tune from Toots & the Maytals6991969 was our number, now someone else has that number. The phones are now props for pretend play in the hands of toddlers at Brenda’s preschool.

The robocalls won. 




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