Phone Box Hero

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By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, February 10, 2008

Heroically, the husband successfully moved four phone lines from their previous location on the outside of our house to some slicker, cleaner, more modern place within. This place, I am told, is in the basement. A box. Something with plugs and switches. I have not been involved with this project. I have not understood why the husband didn't just summon the phone company to perform this service, why instead he chose to give over a Sunday to it. But I don't ask. Any spouse worth her mothball-covered taffeta gown knows better than to deprive her husband of his heroism.

"Terrific!" I am saying. "I didn't know you could do that!"

"Oh, it was a rat's nest of wire down there," he says, replaying some of the tougher challenges, one of which has not, actually, been solved: the DSL line. He's got the phones working, but the DSL is now kaput. This, technically, is a crisis. I have some online research I need to do in the morning and a deadline dependent on it. In my mind, I am rehearsing a backup emergency plan that includes laptop, Starbucks, cellphone. Hardly a tragedy, but why didn't he just call the phone company in the first place? You can't say things like this. When a husband has performed an act of heroism, when he got it all perfect except for one not-especially-minor detail, you can't complain, lest you deflate his sense of accomplishment and lose any chance of having a nice, calm, happy dinner. Marriages are built on foundations of this kind of stuff.

Hey, I would never even try to figure out how to unhook and rehook four phone lines. He really is good at this. He has had no training. For a novice, he's a whiz at wiring -- and plumbing, too. He's a shrink who spends his days untangling people's problems, so when he comes home, I suppose, it's a release for him to tinker with some tangibles.

"When they say that DSL comes 'in' through the phone line," he asks me, "do you think they mean it's somehow actually in the same wire? Or a separate wire accompanying it? I just didn't see any extra, separate wires at all --"

Hoo, boy. I seriously think he's out of his league here. The hardwiring of broadband connectivity is almost certainly a mystery beyond the average homeowner's grasp. "Heh, heh," he says. "If we had Internet access, I could look it up and figure it out."

"I'll call the phone company in the morning," I say. "I'll get someone out here."

"I'm sorry," he says.

"You did all you could do," I say. "Really, it's heroic what you did."

"You're just saying that," he says.

"I mean it," I say, because I sort of do, and we sit down to a fine dinner of roast chicken and rice and peas.

In the morning I call the phone company. "Are you reporting a 'Trouble' ?" the woman says. "Because what you are


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