There are subtle things about any house. Like its smell. You get used to your own house smell, but other people notice it. It’s basement fust, or mold puppies, or fossil baseboard grunge, or termite farts, or sheetrock exhalations, or something. I know my house smells because I sometimes detect it when I come in after it’s been shut up for a while, but pretty soon the brain determines it’s Familiar and Non-Threatening and filters it out and that’s that. I don’t know what my house smells like. I only know it’s not cleaning products.

Now there’s something different about our house. It’s subtle too. You have to be in here for a while to notice. About an hour would do it.

Yes. It’s the sound of the goddamn phone not ringing.

Pulled the little stinker’s umbilical right out of the wall, I did. All of a sudden, just like that. We’ve been wondering whether or not to ditch the landline for a while. Nobody ever calls us on it who doesn’t know another way to reach us. But it’s a giant gaping portal for the undesirable commercial world.

Some of the same people have been calling at least once a day with the same routine for years. Years. Same. People. Same. Routine. Daily. Middle of the night, sometimes.

I guess there are reasons to keep a landline. One: the sound quality is better. This is true, but I don’t need to hear Jason calling from Windows all that clearly–it’s still the accent that throws me. Two: if you call 9-1-1 on a landline, the 9-1-1 folks have a better idea where you are. They can’t home in on the cell phones quite as well.

Great. But if I’ve fallen and I can’t get up, and I’m more than three feet from my landline, they’re not getting any call from me.

Three: Something something something.

Here’s the main reason we still pay for the landline. Our number is cool. It sounds like we picked it out ourselves. It’s so cool, it’s just one number off from a medical clinic. A lot of people who misdial the clinic are old. We used to try to give them the proper number, but too many of them couldn’t understand why we answered the phone if it was the wrong number. Now we just listen and give medical advice.

We got this number in 1978 when we moved in. Your range was only as long as your cord. Mostly people had push-button phones by then. That’s a good thing because there are two zeroes in our number–just like my childhood number–and people hated that. It’s an easy one to remember, but if you’re in a hurry, your finger might sail out of the rotary dial before you get it all the way around and you have to start over. Now, of course, nobody has to remember any phone numbers. Theoretically that should free up some brain space but it doesn’t. “Build Me Up Buttercup” will just pour into the vacuum and stay there on a loop.

Oh hell, I’ll tell you how cool it is. Privacy be damned. It’s 282-4900. Right? Go ahead and call. It won’t ring on my end.

(My Social Security number is even cooler. It’s

And I haven’t missed it at all. I can plug it in if I need to, but I’m afraid. I think there is a whole Fibber McGee closet full of solicitations backed up to our phone cord. It would be like if I answer the door and there are five thousand people on the porch who all start talking at once. A quarter of them are from Windows Technical, a quarter want me to know there’s nothing wrong with my credit card, and the rest want to sell me Medicare.

I don’t need no Medicare. I’ll just call my own number. They give great medical advice.