Be a Sexy Senior Freshman with a Landline Phone---Reb MacRath

 So here I was, at long last in Tucson, suddenly finding myself back in school. I was in a different sort of school, but faced with the same pressures and as lost as any freshman. How do they get to Building FX103...then to XY2B2 in time for the next class? Where's the book store, the student union, the financial aid office? How would I ever learn to pass Medieval Lit, Calculus, Latin, Philosophy, Public Speaking? 

I'd suffered all of such questions before. And now they came in different forms yet made of the same stuff: How do I get around by bus when I can't even draw a bead on the city's layout? How do I find work when I'm brand new here and unemployed...How do I furnish my new apartment when I'm starting with limited funds and without a stick of furniture...?

After six days in the city I'd spent hundreds of dollars being chauffeured around town by Lyft: to and from assorted stores, back and forth from the UPS Store where a friend had mailed a dozen boxes of books. In those six days my sense of transit helplessness had begun to paralyze me as I exhausted my limited funds. But on the seventh day I understood a central truth:

We never stop being freshmen in life, in one way or another. We may be campus big shots in any field you please, but there we are suddenly writing a book...or learning how to edit one or market it online. And then there we are in all out glory, miserably singing the old freshman blues. In Tucson I found myself facing so many confidence busters that I countered with a strategy I call the 


I reasoned that if I could one fear or phobia that had bested me for years, I could 'transfer funds' from that winning account into others that seemed penniless. And I knew exactly where to turn: with my dread of telephones and my belief that I was helpless on them. I hated the poor connections, the lag between words spoken and received, the resulting vocal overlaps, the constant refrains 'I can't hear you' and 'Are you still there?'

My phone phobia was also rooted in two nightmarish stints at call centers and bad experiences in the old days with glib agents with the gift for extracting information new writers should keep to themselves. I'm more confident in person where I can read a person's face and body language. I don't want to get to know someone over the phone....I want to get to know them first through emails and text messages. 

On reflection, I decided that 90% of my phone phobia resulted from my cell phone. I missed the reassuring heft of a high-quality landline, the earpiece solidly pressed to my ear and the mouthpiece directly before me. I missed the clarity of sound and the sense of privacy as I sit at my desk, not on the rickety seat of a bus or in a crowded café. And I want a number that I can control, one that I'm slow to give out.

Below you will see my solution. My 3-tier tower of power contains:

1) An AT&T slimline phone connected to...

2) An Ooma VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) device connected to...

3) The modem for my high-speed internet service.

I use the phone sparingly, enjoying the few calls I make and receive. The self-confidence that comes from wise use of a top-quality landline system has empowered me in other ways. After all, if a non-techie can tackle a three-decade phobia, what's to stop me from learning to work a room or knock 'em dead on Zoom calls?

This is my report. Reb MacRath, Senior Freshman.


Welcome to MacRathWorld, if you like premium blends of mystery, action, and suspense. From Caesar's Rome to Seattle today, the twists fly at the speed of night. If you're unfamiliar with my work, I recommend starting with the new Seattle BOP mysteries. Here's the link to my AuthorPage on Amazon for a detailed look at the variety of 'rides' in my amusement park.


Wendy H. Jones said…
It’s fascinating t see how you handled it, Reb. Well done.
Peter Leyland said…
Good to see you back in town as the saying goes Reb. I like that, 'We never stop being freshmen in life', and am stapling it to my walls as I write! The telephone issue I do empathise with, having spent half my life with less than good hearing. Mobiles are an absolute no no especially in crowded cafes full of hard edges. But nuff said here on that one. I wish you luck on the next stage of the learning journey. From Pete
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Wendy. It's good to be back
Reb MacRath said…
Peter, I'm glad this connected with you. You highlighted something I barely touched on: the privacy issue. I'd had too many important calls in public places, trying ever so quietly to give the most private information. By making such calls on my landline, I have no fear of shoulder surfers. I love the quiet comfort of talking securely at home.
I'm a terrible eavesdropper when people are talking on their phones in public... the writer in me is always inventing the other half of the conversation, and trying to imagine where the person taking the call might be at the time :-)

Also, I'm always amazed at what seems important enough to phone someone these days. I've seen people shopping in the supermarket who call home to check which brand of cake they should buy, or if they should get two pints of milk instead of one... surely not life and death situations requiring use of the airwaves that contribute towards climate change, at the same time adding to your daily exposure of supposedly "safe" radiation?
Reb MacRath said…
I couldn't agree more, Katherine. Most text messages are far worse. They'd be maddening if not so pathetic:

A: I'm 3 blocks away now.
B: Is it 2 blocks now?
A: 2-1/2. Missed a green light b/c kid dropped ice cream cone.
B: Flavor?
A: Pistach.
B: Yech!
A: Light green again.

Ruth Leigh said…
I love your bravery in tackling something you fear. Well done! And that looks like a serious bit of kit
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Ruth. I don't want to brag, but it only took me six days to learn how to use it!

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