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brother called the other day and wanted to know why I always sound
like I have just finished the 100-yard dash.

"Because I can never find
a phone! I run from room to room looking under pillows, beds, and
couch cushions and if I find one by the 10th ring I’m having a
good day."

"Get rid of the portables
and buy a wall phone," he advised.

He’s right, of course, but
portable phones are more convenient when you’re on the move as
much as we are. I enjoy chatting on the phone while I’m cooking or
unloading the dishwasher. My daughter can talk on the phone and do
homework (so she says). The twins build quilt forts between chairs
and call their cousins to discuss dirt bikes. And no one ever
remembers to put the phone back on the receiver when they are
finished, not even me.

I wonder how Alexander Graham
Bell would feel if he could see all the ramifications of his
invention. What would he think of cell phones? Could he have
imagined phones in every room of the house, even the bathroom?
Which, I might add, is not very safe: when the twins were 3 years
old they tried to flush a phone down the toilet. Not to be outdone
our daughter left her portable phone out by the pool during a

"Mom, if they can make
watches waterproof, why can’t they make phones that way?" she

I don’t know, but I do know
there is more than one way to destroy a phone. Last summer our
oldest son was mowing when his cell phone fell out of his back
pocket. He walked to the house carrying a baseball cap full of
mechanical giblets.

"Do you think Dad can fix
it?" he asked.

I emptied his cap into the
trash can. "Not even Humpty Dumpty was this bad," I

Last week I was up in the
attic and spotted my great-grandfather’s old wall phone. Huffing
and puffing, I hauled the wooden monstrosity downstairs and sat
down on the floor next to it.

My son walked in and I decided
it was a perfect time for a history lesson.

I let him crank the handle and
listen to it jingle.

"…and everyone was on a
party line," I said as I continued my lengthy explanation.

"Way cool," he said,

I frowned at him. "That
means they shared the same phone line."

"Oh," he said, and
thought a minute. "Well, I can see why. It would take at
least two people to haul this thing around."

I lugged my history lesson
back to the attic. My son might not understand the way phones once
worked, but he was right about one thing. The first phones weren’t
designed to be mobile. Considering what I go through to find one
when it rings, maybe that would be a good thing.

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