Bnow, much of the human race has forgotten entirely what a landline is, or why anyone would still want one: the world has gone wireless, and probably doesn't miss that ancient technology from the days of Alexander Graham Bell himself. I have one myself. Then again, I am old. Perhaps more to the point, I have a security system strung up here at Surlywood, and it dates to the days where it was assumed you'd have a landline, possibly even a dedicated landline, to connect to the monitoring service across town. I am told that my system can be adapted to the cable company's telephone service, for a fee that no one is calling "nominal." And I may take them up on it, perhaps, once I've retired, assuming I live long enough to retire. (Twenty-six months and change, says the Social Security Administration.) In the meantime, I take some comfort in the sheer indestructibility of that ancient technology: a storm that knocked a tree to the ground and dragged the telephone line to within a few inches of the ground didn't even produce line noise.

Then again, living with last generation's equipment, or sometimes farther back than that, has seldom presented me with issues. Through the middle of the 1990s I drove a car from the middle of the 1970s, with an actual carburetor and ignition points and manual everything. (Well, except the brakes; they were boosted, slightly.) The actual factory radio had a total of five presets: three FM and two AM. About the only real concession to modernity was the movement of the high-beam switch to the left side of the column instead of on the floor, and as little space as there was on the floor, that may have been more of a necessity than an attempt at eye candy. And, well, there was a single overhead cam up there in the aluminum head. That aluminum head, I should point out, sat nicely on top of the iron block and never once blew a head gasket. The Detroit buggy which replaced it was never so well mannered.

And then there are the smartphones. My phone is not smart; it is barely sentient, most of the time. In the office, it's essentially a paperweight; I saw a bar and a half once, and didn't know what the heck had happened. But if it acts like a phone from the turn of the century, well, it's priced like a phone from the turn of the century: without a data plan or any of the other ways wireless companies have for boosting the take, I end up with a monthly bill well short of $30. I don't even look at it; MasterCard pays the bill, I pay MasterCard, and that's the end of it.

Curiously, that wireless bill is just slightly greater than the amount I'm paying for long-distance service on the landline. And I don't think I've made a standard long-distance call in a couple of years; why should I, if the wireless can make the connection just as well and somehow manage to avoid charging me for it? Surely I can cut this out of the budget without upsetting the phone company's precious tariffs. Obviously this is one case where I might be better off spending the extra bucks for a data plan, where at least I'd be getting something for, um, two hundred fifty American dollars per year.

The Vent

  17 October 2017

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