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Please hold while we shift you to another line: adventures in telecommunications

My phone number is 923-3620. If you need to reach me, that's the number to call. Don't waste your time dialing 923-3271. Due to a high degree of ineptitude and inflexibility on the part of a certain local carrier, that number rings busy all day. I repeat: my working number is 923-3620.

Please don't send me an e-mail berating me for being on the phone all day. I've gotten enough of those already. When you see me walking to class, don't yell at me for tying up the line. That's been done, too. Don't tell me that the busy signal is inarguably the single most annoying sound in the world. While I concur, I can't do a thing about it. It's Sprint's fault, and not my own. I have done everything in my power to avoid the current situation.

Please don't yell at me. Just call my other line. That number, as stated above, is 923-3620. Write it down if you need to. Just stop harassing me.

My housemates and I thought we were so clever when we decided to install four phone lines in our three-person home. That way, we reasoned, we could all use the Internet at the same time while still leaving the fourth line open for incoming calls. (Though we are rarely all in the house at the same time, let alone all on the Internet, but we thought it was a grand idea back in August.)

To ensure the highest level of availability to our friends and family, the girls and I got call waiting and circulated our main number to everyone we know. We reasoned that the extra money each month was a small price to pay to never be more than a phone call away from our loved ones.

Growing up as someone used to busy signals, call waiting frightens me. Regardless, I breathe deep as I nervously click over in an effort to provide those who are dear to me with a level of phone service deemed socially appropriate. In this age of technology, I'd expect no less.

I didn't mind when Sprint insisted that I skip class in order to be home for the five-hour window necessary to install my second line. I waited patiently for the service man, content knowing I was working to maintain friendships and strengthen business connections.

After the Sprint man never showed, I waited the next day, too, before I finally called to complain. I didn't mind being on hold in a sea of recordings for half an hour before I got through to an actual attendant. I sucked it up because that's how much I care about you, the caller.

No, I don't mind that the wiring for my personal line ($114.82 for the installation, including a $20 fee for a "second installation visit") is bright orange and roughly the thickness of dental floss. I'm not concerned that said line runs through three large bushes and a tree before reaching the telephone pole at the side of the road.

If the Sprint man thought it was a good idea to allow a squirrel to map the path of the wire, then I think it's a great idea, too. So long as you can leave me a message whenever you want, I'm happy.

I do, however, take exception to this new addition to my ever-growing list of Sprint-inspired insults. For reasons that neither I nor the phone company can explain, the main number at my house rings busy all day. Though the operator suggested that my housemate unplug the answering machine for a while and see if that does the trick, I somehow suspect the problem runs deeper. Perhaps it has something to do with the floss-like wiring. Maybe it's related to the inexplicable cable that showed up last week on our front steps, this one also traveling over the river and through the woods (a.k.a. two bushes and a pile of mulch) before reaching the pole.

Regardless of the cause, I apologize for the inconvenience. Like I said, I tried to stop this from happening.

Sprint Man supposedly is returning today, at which time he will no doubt correct the problem quickly and efficiently and only charge us a very small fee for his troubles. In the meantime, please don't blame me for the incessant beeping when you call my house. Until further notice, the number that you and everyone else in the world know is out of service.

Again, I am sorry. Tell your friends and tell your neighbors: if you need to reach me, please call 923-3620.

I can't promise that you'll talk to me rather than my answering machine, but I can tell you what you won't hear.

I've been told that the busy signal is inarguably the most annoying sound in the world, and I'd hate to subject you to that.


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