The Phone

by Paula Johanson

Name something you'll bet there's one of in almost every home in Canada. You'll be wrong. No, it's not the door! Everybody's got at least one of those. It's not the television, either. There's an average of two of those in most Canadian households -- at least for those people who want TVs around.No, what I mean is the telephone. Not every home has one. Ten percent of Canadians have no phone at all. I find life without a phone hard to imagine. That's even after our first summer on the farm, half a mile from the nearest phone. There was a certain freedom from tyranny in knowing the phone was not going to ring. There was also a certain feeling that our children were sure to fall out of poplar trees and break their necks. I didn't ever want to run half a mile to my in-law's place to call an ambulance. So we had a phone put in.Easier said than done.We made the call and were told the phone company's truck would come to the farm next Wednesday. We gave the legal land description of the little white house: a mile north of the highway, south-east corner of the south-east quarter Section 56. Houses out here don't have numbers by the front doors. Houses out here don't even have stairs by the front door. Some of our neighbours don't even have front doors at all, just a place where a front door will be put some day. Our little white house is the only house out here where the front door gets used. It's the only door we have. But then we're odd. Our neighbours are sure we're odd because we use our front door and didn't use to have a phone.And we didn't get one next Wednesday, either. Oh, we saw the phone company truck drive by several times without stopping. So the next day I hiked to my in-law's place and called the phone company. They said their driver couldn't find the house.This was hard to believe. There are only three houses on our stretch of road, of which only one is both little and white. I promised to stand in our driveway with a large sign and they promised to come next Tuesday. They didn't show up. Instead, the truck stopped at our neighbour's house.No one was home. So they broke into his house and forcibly installed a telephone.Our neighbour didn't like this at all. He was just getting used to having a TV set in his tiny grey house, behind the back door. His house had only one door, like ours, but his was definitely a back door. Now he had a phone he didn't want. He didn't like anyone breaking in, either. The phone company apologized, and promised to install our phone next Thursday.Thursday we flagged down the phone company truck as it passed. It didn't take long to have the phone installed. Before he left, the phone man carefully wrote the wrong phone number on our phone. He also left behind his screwdriver.So next time we needed phone work done, my husband bought a book and all the wires and tools. He already had the screwdriver, eh? Then he installed our own new phone, right by the door. Our front door. Our only door.

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