For two blissful years the rest of the world and I enjoyed a quiet detente. It didn't bother me, nor I it.
Three months ago this happy arrangement came to an inglorious end. It was my editors who did it. They forced me to install a telephone.
What if we need you? they said. What if something important happens? Ha! The only thing important to have happened is that my life is no longer my own.
That thing be damned, I say. Let the telephone write its own stories.
I wasn't like this a year ago. I was calmer then. Easier to get along with. Less -- how do you say? -- querulous. Because kings were kings and men were men and no telephones to muck it up.
Oh, I had a telephone once.Then I moved. People looked at me strangely when I told them my new apartment had no phone. I hadn't paid the bill from the first one, I explained, and was afraid to face the phone company. But how can we get ahold of you? they whined. I shrugged my shoulders and they thought me mad.
In fact, this had nothing -- or maybe just a little bit -- to do with it. I liked not having a phone. I preferred it. But I told this only to a few very close friends, who didn't understand at all.
"You're growing up," cooed one friend sweetly after finding me at the other end of my new line. "Our relationship is really maturing."
A pox! A scourge! And nobody sees it.
By nature I am inclined toward the concept of "telephone." Something Prussian in me. Under the telephone's book-bound regimentation, nearly everyone is rendered communicable 24 hours a day.
Not having a phone, however, I made a refreshing discovery. I discovered that when time and space are allowed their natural influence, man-made burdens dissolve almost magically. Allowing my affairs to choose their own random course, I became increasingly free to think.
For instance, the pay phone nearest to me is a three-minute walk away: not too far when phoning is essential, yet far enough to perform prophylactically at certain opportunities. Several months ago, a woman I had once known called me at the office to renew a friendship. Under a different set of circumstances, this might have resulted in a disastrous affair. We are totally incompatible.
But fate disposed of the matter cleanly and dispassionately. All eager to make a go of it, I walked to the pay phone one chilly evening to pursue the initial encounter. The line was busy and remained so for about 20 minutes. After stomping my frozen feet in boredom, I walked home again to my unwired apartment, glad to be warm again, and soon forgot all about it. So did she.
A telephone in an apartment is like a window left open in January. All manner of things come inside, few of them welcome or very pleasant. Like airsickness, telephone calls seldom come at the right time -- that we actually pay money for the trouble is an affliction begging analysis.
Invariably, the telephone rings when you are cheating on your wife or lover, and it is always the wife or lover you are cheating on making the call.
Without a telephone, my little apartment became an isolation tank of privacy pleasures. I could play my favorite records at all volumes, read at whatever pace I chose and, best of all, allow my mind to wander through depression and delight without fear of interruption.
Introducing one in my home was like installing a time bomb. The mere sight of it induces an insidious anxiety: When will it go off? And when it does go off, it is as a thunderclap in a church, a jab of electricity straight to the heart.
In the three months since I was ordered to get a telephone, all my worst fears have been realized. It does ring, and at all hours. Friends locked out of their houses at 3 a.m. Editors at midnight to change stories. Editors at 8 a.m. to assign stories. Editors sending me away to write stories.
For such aggravation, I expect a reward. And if not a reward, at least justice. The company wanted me to have a phone, the company should pay for the phone. In my view, that is just.
So I approached my editors with the idea. They laughed.