My Cell Phone Phobia, Part Two: 1986 Saves the Day

posted in: Day In The Life 19
Now that’s a telephone! Image: Wikipedia.


This post is the second of two. If you haven’t yet read what I posted yesterday, you should do that before continuing. If you don’t get caught up, the super weird thing I’m about to tell you will be even weirder and if you’re new around here … I’m just not sure our relationship can take that much stress, so maybe  click here and then come back when you feel prepared.

So I’m going along in my cell phone angst for years and then I get a job at the student newspaper at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC.) In keeping with the standards of any self-respecting media outlet, there’s a telephone in the F Newsmagazine office: a crappy, beat-up, yellowing beige-colored phone that was surely considered cutting-edge telephone technology in 1986. Maybe 1985. Well, it just so happens that the un-ironically retro phone is next to my computer, which makes me the one who answers it when it rings. The office phone doesn’t ring terribly often; when it does, it’s usually good ol’ Paul, the paper’s crusty-but-loveable student advisor. Paul calls from his office down the hall and barks at me to do the timesheets or ask if we’ve ordered toner. (I will, we haven’t.) But there are other calls, too, e.g., various SAIC offices, advertising people, etc.

Here’s what’s crazy: I love answering the F News phone.

Me! Phone-phobic me! The girl who puts her phone on silent and intentionally forgets to turn it back on because if she forgets to turn it back on, she can legitimately miss calls and not have to fib and say she “didn’t hear the phone” when she did hear (and see!) the phone but just couldn’t pick it up for the life of her. This girl who avoids voicemail for weeks doesn’t even let a voicemail happen at F News because it’s just so much fun to answer the phone when it rings! I know!

But there’s more. What could possibly be crazier than the fact that I love to answer the office phone?

I love to make calls on it. 

Making calls on that phone is literally my favorite thing to do in the office. I look for reasons to call people and places because the whole process is so much fun. I love it all. I love the click of the receiver as it comes off the base. I love to cradle the phone to my ear, there in the crook of my neck. I love the dial tone. I love to punch the buttons and if one hand is doing that while I’m looking at my computer to get the number, even better. And if I’m dialing with one hand, looking at my computer, telling someone in the office something like, “I’m calling right now” and if I happen to be wearing my glasses that day, I enter some kind of blissful fugue state. I’m not kidding.

So what’s the deal?

It’s the phone. You guys, it’s the old school phone. It does it for me. It’s the key to all my phone issues. The phone is the solution. And I told you this was gonna be super weird, but hear me out.

My theory is that when I use the old office phone from the 1980s, it feels like I’m playing office and how can I be anxious if I’m playing? Somehow, using a phone that is not super cool, super sleek, super advanced, etc., kind of puts things in perspective for me, somehow, and I don’t take myself so seriously.

The other theory is that using the old phone is me channelling my mother and every other awesome 1980s “working girl” I loved from the movies, e.g., “Working Girl”; “Baby Boom”; “9 to 5,” etc. My mother and those women in those big glasses and that long phone cord and their high-waisted skirts and feathered bangs??? That’s my jam! Those are my role models, my heroes! If answering the phone makes me like them, I got two words for you: Call me. Because then I can live out my phone fantasies.


Someone leaves the office and I roll my eyes because they’re sweet but they’re so much work and I have so much to do for Lord’s sake. I sigh and put my pencil between my teeth for a second and glance at my computer to check the phone number for Mr. Carlyle — I’ve left two messages already and I need to get him on the line today. My fingers fly over the buttons and I turn away from my monitor in my spinny chair, re-cross my legs and admiring my pumps. A co-worker — I need her name to be Sally — says she’s running out for a minute.

“Need anything, Mar?” Sally says as she puts on her scarf and gets her purse. Sally’s seeing someone new. A waiter of all things! That girl.

I tell her I’d love a coffee, and just when she asks me if I take anything in it, Mr. Carlyle’s ornery old secretary picks phone and says, “Mr. Carlyle’s office,” and I say, “Yes, this is Mary Fons for Mr. Carlyle, I’ve called twice this we —,” and that mean old hen says, “Yes, Miss Fons, just a minute,” and she patches me through. I cover the receiver with my other palm and whisper to Sally, “I’ll take two creams and two Sweet n’ Lows, you’re a dream,” and then Sally’s out the door.

“This is Bob Carlyle.”

It’s him, the stinker. I sit up a little straighter.

“Yes, Mr. Carlyle? Yes, this is Mary Fons. I’m glad to finally get you on the line. You haven’t been avoiding me, have you?”


See what I mean? Anyway, the guy from RCN came yesterday and installed a landline in my house. Really. I now have a landline in defiance of every advance of technology in the past 20 years. And do you suppose I ordered a crappy old beige phone? You bet I did. It’s delivered tomorrow and I cannot wait to take calls and make them. It’s a new day, people.

Hey! It’s a new year!