Chuck Frederick column: In search of a ringing solution
In the kitchen, up on top of the hutch (sometimes we call it the Starsky, which the kids don't get), there's a telephone decorated with a little plastic Bucky Badger medallion. Cool. But the phone's real attraction can be heard every time we get ...
In the kitchen, up on top of the hutch (sometimes we call it the Starsky, which the kids don't get), there's a telephone decorated with a little plastic Bucky Badger medallion. Cool. But the phone's real attraction can be heard every time we get a call. The ring is the Badgers' fight song, "On Wisconsin." Or it's "Happy Birthday" or "Jingle Bells" when we decide to swap out the little computer chip in the cradle.
Lately, however, the songs have become a bit irritating. No, we're not having problems with telemarketers; the do-not-call lists work swell, thank you. Our problem is that the phone rings -- or, more accurately, starts to ring -- every evening at the same time: "On Wisconsin, on Wi...," then nothing. "Must be 11:07," we mutter, checking the clock, and sure enough, 11:07 p.m., on the nose.
Piercing our otherwise quiet-at-that-hour house, the rings have been enough to startle us right out of bed. Fortunately for whoever, or whatever, is disrupting the tranquility, the bleating blare hasn't awakened our sleeping baby. Not yet. That'd be a crime punishable in a dark alley, of course.
The clockwork call has been occurring for going on weeks now. Finally, the other day, I contacted the phone company. Surely, our house couldn't be the only one plagued by the phenomenon of a phantom phoner.
"Whoa, that's weird," said the company's Karen. OK, maybe our house is the only one.
Karen listened to my weird tale, which I was starting to think was straight out of Weird Tales magazine, after I had pressed one for English, one to enter my account number and then six for the next available "customer care adviser."
"Does it show anything on caller ID?" my customer care adviser asked. Apparently, accessing my account didn't inform her we don't have a luxury like caller ID.
"It's probably not some person doing it," she continued. "It's probably some computer somewhere programmed to call at the same time every day. Or something.
"The easiest way to get rid of it -- I hate to say this," Karen braced me, "is to change your phone number."
What? That seemed a bit extreme. I mean we've had the same phone number all 18 years I've lived in Duluth. We even went through great hassles to keep the number when moving into a new home.
Karen offered to transfer me to "repairs." "Maybe they have an idea," she said.
"Ooh, that's strange," Jackie in repairs said after I told her the story.
"Just the one phone rings?"
"Not the others in the house?"
"At the same time every day?"
"And it only rings for a moment and then stops?"
She got it.
"That's definitely something I want to have a technician look at for you, sir," she said. "It is kind of an oddity. I hate to say it, but that's just odd."
A technician, Rick, who didn't indicate he hated to say anything, called a couple of hours later. "If it's only happening on one phone I would say it's a phone issue," he said, and then his voice turned more thoughtful: "Or a jack issue."
From wherever Rick was sitting he said he was able to test my phone lines. A "mechanized loop test," he called it, mentioning something about voltage. "I really don't think it's a line issue," he concluded, "but if you'd like we could have someone come on out and take a look [and] solve this problem once and for all."
That sounded good. Real good. As long it wasn't during the baby's nap time.
"The visit will cost $100," he continued, and suddenly the idea didn't sound good at all.
"Never mind," I responded.
I hung up and couldn't help but wonder where the order form had gone for new computer-chip songs. Maybe they have "Rock-a-Bye, Baby." You know, for nighttime.
Chuck Frederick is the News Tribune's deputy editorial page editor. He can be reached at 723-5316 or firstname.lastname@example.org .