Master of the Ringer, World at His Side

A SHAKING contretemps of cross-purposes has accrued, and I am more amused than abused. You see, my affairs have been apart, secluded so I may meditate by my lonesome in my remote land of vines and fig trees, giving attention to my abstruse philosophies in a way that will bother nobody and will contribute to my own solace. Away from it all, I have found my pleasure.

But it is not now as it hath been of yore. For Christmas, the young-'ns gave me a cordless telephone, thinking it would be good for me, amongst my pensive plums and curious kumquats, to have access to the benefits of civilization. I am now, in my deepest solitude, but a tinkle from everything important.

Now that I have learned how to push the ringer button, the foolish thing works, but I have no idea how.

On Boxing Day, I inserted my gift into the leather holster, hung the holster on my pants belt, and strode into our bracing Maine air to consider my situation, and nobody tinkled me. I ruminated sagely all morning, feeling duly shunned, and then I dialed the 800 number of the beneficent General Electric people keep for dolts who don't punch the ringer button. A pleasant young man handled me with tact and said the repair shops are located in El Paso, Texas. He said that he, however, was in Louisville, Ky. I told him we were having a snow squall at Friendship Back River, and he said they were not. I became disturbed at realizing I was no longer alone among my birches.

On the other hand, when I appeared at the house for nooning, my marital mate said yes, she had talked to Mildred and Betty and Janet and both Sues and Nancy and Linda, but Penny didn't answer. I realized with gratitude that I could have the world at my side while watching finches, but was still the master of my ringer.

Then I found how to store a number in "memory" so it would dial itself whenever I wanted. This I did - I put in the number of the Friendship Fire Department. This frightened me. Well, Friendship has a volunteer brigade and doesn't keep a resident attendant on duty at the hosehouse. Instead, we have a "Redline," and when an alarm is telephoned all 10 red telephones ring at once and 10 firemen all answer. It gets 'em out fast. Friendship doesn't have a police force, so the fire number also fetches forth th e wardens and the members of the free town ambulance crew. So I stood there with my cordless telephone in hand thinking of the vast power I clutched.

Remember how Lars Porsena assembled his array to march on Rome?

East and west and south and north

The messengers ride fast,

And tower and town and cottage

Have heard the trumpet blast.

Shame on the false Etruscan

Who lingers in his home,

When Porsena of Clusium

Is on the march for Rome.

East and west and south and north went his messengers, but all I had to do was touch a button and I'd have 10 fire engines and an ambulance right in my raspberry patch. It is a fact that shall keep me forever mindful that I am never alone.

Until now, the only exception to my agreeable solitude has been the fish horn. This is a metal tooter that all our lobster catchers are required to keep on board to announce their whereabouts in a fog mull. Lacking a cordless telephone I could wander about the premises and meditate, and I depended on my conjugal conspirator to fend off people on the telephone. Only valid demands prevailed, and otherwise a blast on the horn would mean that the water pump tipped its breaker, the freezer was smoking, and pe rhaps a moose had tipped over the beehive. If that horn blew, I was certain I was needed and should terminate my reveries and respond at once.

This morning I was gluing a doohickey on a whatsis, holding the parts briefly while the glue set, and I was tingled. Leaping with zeal to embrace my new advantages, I lost control and the whole job went to the shop floor. "Hello!" I said. A man asked if my chimney had been cleaned lately.

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