Shannon! Shannon! Come Back, Shannon!

I had no idea how popular I could be until I changed telephone long-distance carriers. Now I'm like a rawhide chewy with 10 dogs circling me.

The first company to call took on a spurned suitor's tone: "I just couldn't believe that you wouldn't pick us. When you separated from your previous arrangement, I thought we'd be next in line."

"Sorry," I said, gently.

"Can I be optimistic about some day?"

"No. I'm sorry, I'm already going steady." I hung up quickly, no point in getting his hopes up.

Next up, the bargainer: "They can give you 10 cents a minute on weeknights, and 5 cents ... blah, blah, blah. We can meet their offer and raise you $20 of free long-distance the first month."

I hesitated, stunned. Were we still talking about the telephone or had I missed a turn and become involved in a poker game?

"Ante in $20 for the next month," he added, not missing a beat. I pulled the receiver away from my ear, the tiny voice continuing, "And $20 for the next...."

The last call was a doozy from our previous long-distance company, which isn't handling our defection well.

"What was it we did wrong?" I heard a catch in the woman's voice. "We tried to please you."

"Nothing," I said. "It was purely a matter of lower rates."

"Give us another chance. Come back to us and we'll meet our competition's rates!"

"I hate to mention this," I said, "but if you'd met their rates to begin with, we'd never have left."

"We didn't know!" the woman wailed. "We thought you were happy! Let's let bygones be bygones. Give us the chance to prove we're here for you. We only want for you to be satisfied. It's all we've ever wanted."

About this time, I had to battle a creeping feeling of guilt. Of nostalgia. Hadn't we had some good times together? And, worse, I began to feel as if I'd been awfully fickle, flitting on to another company just for better rates.

"Hey!" I said, breaking the spell. "You are just a phone company and it was nothing personal. What's more ..."

"Yes?" the voice trembled.

"Please don't call me anymore. I can't take it."

And to think we've been with the new company less than a week. What will the morrow bring? Someone who will croon a few lyrics into my ear? Offers of a new house or a cruise? At the very least, a box of chocolates and a dozen red roses.

Feeling lonely? Like no one cares? You, too, can be complaining about your popularity. All it takes is one little call.

* Terry Miller Shannon, a Gold Beach, Ore. writer, has been published in Reader's Digest and Teen magazine.

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