A Quick Call

I recently had to make an international call, nothing big. Just a few minutes to an office in London. I could have emailed the information but with hackers creeping around behind the curtain of our computer screens, diving in and out of our accounts like roaches around our bedrooms at night, I preferred not to risk it. Then again, my phone might just as easily be hacked, right Rupert?

In any case, this was my first international call on my new phone and it wasn't set up for it. Suri was blocked. Too annoyed to ask her what I should do, I came outside to the office and plugged in the “magic jack” I’d unplugged a year ago. Sitting there, waiting with hunched shoulders for the old desktop to boot up, I remembered how slow dial-up used to be and tried to relax.  

Dakota teething with my Camper
My wife had take the dog for a walk so I had time to sit and relax, sipping tea, but my nerves hummed. Today was the last day to pay a contest entry fee and I was afraid the office might be closing soon.

The screen had come to life but the computer still had other things to do before giving me control.

O, great, look at that, it’s upgrading me! The black icon turned green, still begging me off with “A Minute of Patience for a Lifetime of Savings.”

Eight minutes later, I wondered if I should have just called my phone company.

I tracked back to the bedroom for my phone. Dialed 611. An female android gave a list of options. In my mind I saw 3CPO and tried to imagine her sister, glistening silver. I wondered if they’d give her curves? I hit 0.

“Hi, this is James, thank you for calling customer service, to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?”

“Joel Finsel.”


“And yes,” James said, “may I call you by your first name?”


“Ok, so, Joel, how can I help you?”

“I would like to make an international call please.”

Silence again.

“My phone said it was blocked or something,” I followed up. “Whatever I need to do, even if I have to change my plan or whatever, it’s cool.”

“Oh, okay,” James said, “At first I thought you were asking me to patch you through.”

I laughed, thinking, that would be incredible! Why not? How much easier things used to be... “No,” I said, “that would be crazy if you could. Can you?”

“Okay, Joel, I’m going to have to get someone from International Calling on the line to take care of this,” James said, “If you wouldn’t mind, I’m going to put you on hold.”

I put the phone on speaker, opened The Paris Review. Read about a trip to Norway. Fantasized about a trip to Norway. Tea finished, I wondered how “magic jack” was doing.

Back at the computer, I dialed the access code + country code + the number in the little black box with my mouse. I was about to hang up on James as the land-line rang once only to stop with a chime. 

“This phone is incapable of making International calls,” a different feminine android voice, “Please go to www.&%$#*.com to purchase prepaid International minutes.”

I hung up. The soothing music from my cell phone speaker reminded me that all was not lost. In some cubicle far away, my guy James—bound to me by big brother’s recording his every move—was waiting too, scoping some game scores on his handheld or passing ladies until the new voice from International Calls came online. James would explain my problem, scrutinize my account screen—revealing who knows what—before formulating their best response.

James finally clicked back on. “Jo`el?” he asked, as if all of a sudden I was French.

“Yes,” I said [the way you do when you just want to get on with things].

“I have ____ on the line with us from International Calls who will take it from here on out.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“You’re welcome. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No thanks,” I said.

“Okay, then,” James said, “Thank you both and have a great day.”


“Mr. Finsel?” the new voice asked.


And on and on. Forty-five minutes after I started I finally reached London. 
The call lasted under two minutes. The woman’s distant voice sounded sweet. I imagined her one of the last to leave the office. Quiet copying machines sat on a ledge behind her, rarely used at all anymore. She took my payment info. I wondered whether or not it was raining there? In my mind I watched her hang up the phone, grab her slicker and head out just as gold funneled through the clouds, off to meet someone for a French 75.