Column: Phones and their cords can get you tangled up in hassle

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 5, 2002

&uot;Men have become the tools of their tools.&uot; &045; Henry David Thoreau, &uot;Walden,&uot; 1854

Whenever I use the telephone, I tend to pace around the room. I have done this for as long as I can remember. Of course, this is only when I use a wall-mounted phone. When I use a desk phone, I have no problem sitting still. It’s standing still that’s a problem for me.

Anyway, pacing around the room tends to twist up the receiver cord, making it unravel over time &045; requiring the purchase of a new cord. Or so I thought. One day I discovered a product that claimed to keep the phone cord from getting tangled. I don’t remember what it’s called, but you unplug the cord from the receiver, and plug in an adapter that functions as a swivel, constantly turning the cord whenever the receiver moves &045; such as when one paces on the telephone. The product does exactly what it claims to do.

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Unfortunately, it also does something else. It creates static on the line every time the swivel moves. The simple solution would be to simply remove the adapter, right? Wrong. To my dismay, I found that the adapter was a permanent connection. The plug end is internal and cannot be accessed once attached. So now I can either tolerate the crackling or buy a whole new telephone. I think I’ll tolerate the crackling. Next time I buy a telephone, I’ll just have to make sure to buy an extra handset cord. I don’t like the reception quality or the lack of security of cordless phones, so that option is out of the question.

Speaking of telephones, have you ever noticed that most feature a &uot;speed dial&uot; capability, where you only have to push a function button and then a number? They usually have room to store nine telephone numbers, presumably for the numbers you call most frequently. The odd thing is that they also have three special buttons, where you can store emergency numbers &045; usually fire, police and ambulance, which you can call at the touch of just one button. If it’s such an emergency you don’t even have time to dial 9-1-1, you probably don’t have time to be playing with the phone. Get out of the house.

And what is the deal with the busy signal these days? Sometimes when I try to place a call, a recorded voice informs me the line is busy, which in itself is not a problem. The problem occurs when I have to place several calls. I try to move on to the next person on the list &045; and I can’t, because even though I hung up, the recorded voice is still talking, informing me that for 95 cents they can keep trying to dial the number and call me back when it rings. You have to wait like 20 minutes for their speech to end before you can call anyone else.

How about when you call a customer service telephone number and have to listen to a sterile, lifeless recorded voice say something like this: &uot;For questions about your account, press 1.&uot; So you press &uot;1,&uot; which leads you into the next of five consecutive menus. The customer service department must be so concerned about the quality of your service that their goal is to know exactly what your concern is before putting you on hold for the next available representative. I usually just press about about 20 different buttons at random until they think I’m too demented to figure out their intricate procedure for myself and transfer me to a live voice.

Another telephone frustration is the computer-dialed calls, where your phone rings, usually registering as &uot;Out of Area&uot; on Caller ID, you say &uot;Hello&uot; and have to wait for the caller to pick up. I know it’s my own fault for not getting on a &uot;do not call&uot; list, but get this &045; lately I’ve been receiving those types of calls from telephone service providers. I’m just waiting for one of them to have the gall to say, &uot;If you were signed up with us as your service provider, you wouldn’t receive calls like this.&uot;

Even with its drawbacks, though, I don’t think I could live without telephone service. Not watching television is one thing, but having to learn to use Morse code or smoke signals is another thing altogether.

Dustin Petersen is an Albert Lea resident. His column appears Mondays.