First, he dialed Truth, 270-9000. The line was busy.
He remained calm. There were, after all so many places to go. He could always come back.
He called Dial-A-Devotion, 948-2230. A woman answered and demanded to know what number he had dialed. Boldly, he told her.
She connected him to another woman, who told him twice, pausing thoughfully between each digit, as if she knew he was taking notes. He thanked her.
He crossed Dial-A-Devotion off his itinerary, and nibbled on the cuticle of his left forefinger while he pondered the next stop on his aural odyssey.
If he had to, he knew he would make it on a ring and a prayer. Abruptly, he Dialed A Sermonette, 338-1240.
It was a working number - but only in spirit. The preacher was having serious problems with his signal-noise ratio.
"God is perfect harmony," he whispered in a wobbly tone. "He is zzhuh zzfurshhs dm gbbmmuff zahbmmf . . . We are forever within Hissz fmmd zzzahbzzz . . . kaahsssssmmff . . . dpt dpt ta dptfmss to dpa-dpa-dpa dit ddzzsf . . .
It went on this way for about a minute. Then, after a meaningful pause, came the final blessing: ". . . Bzzftmuz."
He felt cleansed.
The familiar voice at the end of the next seven digits - 844-2525 made him feel instantly comfortable. There were no awkward pauses, no embarrassing slips of the tongue, no misunderstandings, no long goodbyes.At the times, he needed her. At the tone, she had what he needed.
It was 10:05, And 40 seconds.
Next port of call, 936-1212.
"Mostly sunny and pleasant today." she told him, "highs 78 to 82. Cool and clear tonight, lows 55 to 65."
She was toying with him, he knew that. But he didn't care.
. . . Chance of rain, near zero through Thursday.
Impertinently, he looked skyward. All he could see was the ceiling.
He was getting hungry. He dialed Dial Safeway, 723-3929.
"Hi, this is Jackie Brown Moore, Safeway's consumer consultant. Among the fruits of summer one of the most popular is the cantaloupe. And well it might be . . ."
He hung up on her. She left a sour taste in his mouth. He called Dial-a-Dentist, 347-7878.
"Hello, thanks for calling Dial-a-Dentist," said a cheerful overweight man. "The mouth is sometimes referred to as a laboratory of the body, a rather descriptive reference because the mouth truly is a mirror of the body's general health."
He lit a cigarette and motioned for the dentist to go on.
"There is much that your mouth tells about you. It can reveal, for instance that you smoke. Besides the usual bad breath of smoking and dripping sinuses, smokers often have a whit patch . . ."
He hung up. He tried Dial Truth again. It was busy.
It was 12:31 and 20 seconds.He dialed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 872-1313. It was a good connection.
"This is Washington Dial for Thursday, July 5th," she told him, "an information services of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States.
"Visiting with me this morning is John Robinson, manager of the Resources and Environmental Quality Division of the National Chamber."
"John, what is the Chamber's position on the Endangered Species Act of 1973."
She was getting a little pushy, he thought. He wondered if this bothered John.
"The unfortunate thing is," John was saying, "no one has seen a Houston Toad in that area for several years . . . "
Well, he called Candy's Private Phone Club. It was a toll-free number Area Code 800 [WORDS ILLEGIBLE]
"Hi, would you like to join Candy's Phone Club."
It was not a recording.
"I uh. . ."
"I um. . ."
"Hello, can I help you?"
"Yes." He had to pull himself together. He straightened his tie. "Yes, How do I phone the clone fub please?"
"Ahh. . ."
"Okay," she said. "It's $21 for a two-year membership . . . and you can get off over the phone with Candy and her sexy ladies as many times as you want. You also receive her book of revealing photos and a new set of numbers to call every month. Candy will satisfy you or your money back. If you order now. Candy will send up one of her erotic tapes, absolutely free. Would you like to join?"
"I, uh, no, Call."
"Call, Call back. I call back."
"Okay, you think about it, and you have a good day. Bye-bye."
He had to get away. He went to New York. Area Code 212. 936-5353.
"Wednesday, July 5th - Hello Cancer, Jean Dixon forecasts!"
"Hi, I -"
"New doors could be opening for you and they might result in new found wealth and career developments. It's important that you don't procrastinate, however. Otherwise, opportunity could sneak by."
He was wary of his breathless. Upper East Side confidentiality.
"The same goes for romance," she told him happily. He was suspicious.
"Be practical there and think in terms of building a lasting relationship."
He could feel something coming.
"I'll be right back after this message."
That was it.
"For those of you born on this day," said a jolly commercial announcer, "happy birthday. Old money and family problems can be overcome this year . . ."
Sure, sure. He cut if off and tried Dial Truth. Still busy. Damn you. Plato, give somebody else a chance.
He went back to New York. He called Dial-a-South Indian Song, 354-0905.
He had never heard a jazz mandolin before and he felt compelled to spread the word. He called the highest office in the land, 456-2343.
"This is the White House Press Office, this recording is not for broadcast." She spoke to him such an offensively annoyed tone - the kind normally reserved for driving away would be Clint Eastwoods in a crowded singles bar - that he was sure she was about to urge him to return forever to Candy's Phone Club. "Any information was recorded after 9:25 a.m. on Wednesday, July 5th," she said, off-handedly.
"South Indian disco," he said, spilling his tequila sunrise on his leisure suit. "You really must -"
The briefing today will be at 2 p.m." she said, uniterested, "and further announcements will be summarized in this recording, which is not for broadcast."
He wanted a good time, blue skies. He went to San Francisco. Area Code 415. He called Dial-a-Hearing Test, 776-1291.
"This telephone hearing screening test is brought to you by the Hearing Society for the Bay Area . . ."
It was the dentist again. He was sure of it.
". . . Now, the test. In this test there will be four warbling tones that sound like this . . ."
Star Trek red-alert signal. All decks report - Scotty, can you get us out of here."
"Are you ready for the test?"
One warble, pause. Another warble. Another pause. More pausing. No more warbles. There were only two warbles.
"If you hear four tones," the dentist said, sensing victory, sickeningly smug, "your hearing is essentially normal . . .
"If you fail to hear four tones," said the dentist, narrow-eyed, smiling conspiratorially, moving in for the kill, "you may have a hearing problem."
He lifted his head. Trembling now, he tried Dial Truth.
There was no answer.