Oh, for the Good Old Days and the ringing successes

ROGER SIMON

May 20, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

Generally speaking, I think it's best to avoid nostalgia. It just makes you sad.

A few days ago I was talking to a friend of mine about our childhoods and somehow the conversation got around to what happened back then when the telephone broke.

"You went next door and dialed . . . what was it? 211? I think it was 211," he said.

And the next day the phone truck would come down the street, I said.

"And the guy driving it would be wearing a yellow hard hat with a drawing of bell on it!" my friend said. "And the truck would have all sorts of ladders hanging from it."

And the guys always wore a tool belt, I said. And it would jingle when he walked.

"And no matter what was wrong, he could fix it," my friend said.

Yeah, I said. He would even climb the pole.

"Right, right! He'd even climb the pole!" my friend said. "I remember him climbing the pole once. And they would never send you a bill. The phone company stood behind its work."

Yeah, I said, those were the Good Old Days. Those were the days America enjoyed before Jan. 1, 1984. On that day, federal Judge Harold H. Greene broke up the phone company and ruined the nation for good.

"I heard a phone repairman accidentally stepped on Greene's toy truck when he was 6," my friend said, "and Greene swore vengeance from that day forth."

Maybe that was it. In any case, Judge Greene forced AT&T to dismantle the Bell System and allow the formation of seven Baby Bells.

"Don't they have really weird names?" my friend said.

Yeah, I said. I can't remember them exactly, but I think they are:

1. CommuniTech

2. AmeriComm

3. ElectraKute

4. Fred's Fine Fonz

5. INXS

6. Aunt Pittypat's Telephone and Replacement Window Co.

7. Ring-A-Ding-Ding

"You ever have a phone break these days?" my friend asked. "It's a nightmare."

Tell me about it, I said. It happened to me last week. All the phones on the first floor of my home go dead.

So I look in the phone book. And it has this warning: "If your problem is in the phone and you call for a repair person to come to your home, you will be charged for the service call -- and your phone will not be repaired."

"You're making that up!" my friend said.

Go look in the phone book! I said. It's right there. It's right after the ads for Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, Speed Calling, Three-way Calling, Call Block, Caller ID, Priority Call, Repeat Call, Return Call, Select Forward and Answer Call.

"So how did you get the phones repaired?" my friend asked.

I called this number they have in the book, I said, and the friendly phone representative answered and informed me that I should have bought "Guardian Service" for $2 per month and the "Optional Wire Maintenance Plan" for 85 cents a month.

"That's a big help," my friend said.

But she agrees to send a guy over, I said. And I figure it shouldn't be too bad because it was the same phone company that installed my phone jacks in the first place.

"When the guy showed up, did he have a yellow hard hat?" my friend asked.

Naw, I said. No tool belt either. He has a screwdriver and he takes the cover off the jack and he says: "The green wire is loose." And he tightens it and the phones work again.

"What did it take him?" my friend asked. "Two minutes?"

Less, I said. And I ask him how much and he says: "That's going to be $40 for the service call and $18 for my time."

"But the phone company put the phone jacks in," my friend said. "They got to guarantee them."

For 90 days, I said. The guy tells me the guarantee lasts for 90 days. And then he says: "Have you considered the Guardian Service or the Optional Wire Maintenance Plan?"

My friend sighed. "What can you do?" he said. "That's modern times."

Yeah, I said. But I'm thinking about something else we had in the Good Old Days: two cans and a string.

It had some drawbacks, but it was certainly cheap to fix.

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