Guest Columnist

Satire: A too familiar ring

An antique crank telephone is mounted on a kitchen wall. (Shari L. Gross/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
An antique crank telephone is mounted on a kitchen wall. (Shari L. Gross/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Hal faced a dilemma. He was far behind on orders at his machine shop at the same time his beloved Cubs were playing the Yankees in the seventh game of the World Series.

He dreamed of watching the action from a seat in Wrigley Field. But business is business. Hal would have to get by with a small television in the corner of his shop, catching glimpses of the game when possible.

“Hello everybody,” greeted the familiar voice of Len Kasper, the Cub’s play-by-play announcer. “This is a big day in baseball, and especially for Cub fans. We’re even up with the Yankees, three games apiece. The winner of this one will go home with all the marbles.”

The telephone rang. Hal shut off the lathe, wiped his greasy hands, walked across the shop to his wall phone, and picked up the receiver.

“This is Lisa. Don’t go away. You’ve won an amazing trip to Bermuda.”

Hal sighed and hung up the phone. “Another one of those doggone robocalls,” he muttered in exasperation.

Hal returned to the lathe, listened intently to the game, and watched when he could. Three innings passed without a score.

“Two down and Bryant on second,” Kasper announced. “Looks like we’ve got something going.”

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The telephone rang. Again, Hal shut down the lathe, wiped his hands, and went to the phone. He hated being interrupted just when the Cubs were on the move, but it might be a customer.

“Is your computer running at a snail’s pace. We can fix it,” the telephone voice said.

Hal slammed down the receiver and howled, “Those blasted robocalls. A man can’t get a day’s work done, let alone follow the World Series.”

The game progressed, mostly beyond Hal’s attention, as the phone rang and rang and rang. Not a single call from a customer. Nothing but unwanted, irritating robocalls.

Hal tried to keep track of a game now in the bottom of the ninth. “The bases are loaded, folks, and the Cubs are trailing 4-1,” Kasper announced. “With two out, this is a do-or-die Hal turned off his lathe and riveted his eyes on the television screen. His heart beat so hard he could almost hear it. He removed his blue baseball cap with the big “C” in front and wiped the sweat from his brow.

“Ding-aling-aling.” Hal grabbed the phone and shouted, “Look you underhanded snake in the grass. I’m trying to watch a ballgame. You can take your stupid phone and shove it!”

A familiar soft voice responded. “What got into you, son?”

Hal’s thoughts turned from the TV to making amends with his shocked mother. “Sorry, Mom. I’ve been getting so many robocalls.”

“Well, my goodness. I never taught my boy to talk like that. You should have your mouth washed out with soap.”

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“I know, Mom. I’m sorry. Hey, I’ll call you tonight. I gotta get back to the ballgame.”

Hal turned toward the TV. “Wow, ladies and gentlemen,” Kasper panted. “You just saw history. Skinny James, who is only batting .200 for the season, hit an inside-the-park grand slam homer for a Cub win. This is too much. I can’t believe my eyes!”

Hal slumped in a chair. The biggest moment in Cub history and he missed it.

Ding-aling-aling. Not again, Hal thought to himself. Better answer, though. Maybe it’s a customer. Maybe Mom is calling back. The forlorn machinist picked up the receiver.

“My name is Sara. Are you suffering from chronic back pain?”

• Carroll McKibbin is a native Iowan who lives in San Luis Obispo, Calif., as a retired Cal Poly dean. He has written two books: “Apron Strings,” a humorous memoir of an Iowa upbringing, and “Lillian’s Legacy,” the true story of a supposedly unsolved murder in a small Iowa town. Comments: cmckibbi@calpoly.edu

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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