About an hour ago the telephone bell rang. I answered it after a fashion.
A very brisk young woman said, “Wait a minute, please,” but she didn’t mean the “please”. What she obviously meant was just “Wait a minute!”
Now this is a thing that explicitly irks me. When I am called by a secretary who doesn’t tell me who is calling, but says “Wait a minute” and then goes off somewhere for five minutes, I hang up.
So I hung up. “They’ll call back,” I said to myself, and stood waiting by the instrument.
I tried to read the paper I had in my hand, but couldn’t concentrate. Each second, I could hear that bell ringing, only it didn’t ring. I sat down by the telephone. “There’s no sense in going back to the room,” I thought. “It’ll come any minute now.” But it didn’t.
The sound of a telephone bell which ought to ring any minute, but doesn’t, is much worse than the actual thing. By this time I was definitely on edge. I was also in a frenzy to know who the caller had been.
But I overestimated their perversity this time. Even when I sat down in a low easy chair, difficult to get out of, it didn’t work. As a final ruse, I lay down on a couch and pretended to be asleep. No bell.
I thought of calling Central and asking who had called me, but that would be weak. Anyway, Central couldn’t tell me. I thought of calling all my friends and asking them if they had just called, but that would be pretty futile on the face of it. I thought of putting the whole matter out of my mind, but that was impossible. I was obsessed.
It has been an hour now and I have been pacing up and down the room gnawing at my nails. Obviously whoever it was is not going to call back. In a weak attempt to restore my peace of mind I am using this space as a
At five-thirty on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 25, who called me on the telephone?
Perhaps eighty years have passed since Robert Benchley wrote that. Apart from the shape of the telephone, has very much changed? His article is exactly the kind of thing I would have wished to write, and meant it too. Would we all have acted like this? Would you?
Time is short, so let me not rush. (Whoops? Is that the time ...?)