Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Thursday, June 05, 2008 Telephone Man
One of the enduring disappointments of my six-week stint as a full-time, work-from-home freelance writer -- second only to the fact that I wasn't independently wealthy at the end of it -- was the fact that I was never able to get a land-line phone working in either the guest bedroom (which later became the study) or the study (which was the nursery for a couple of years before becoming the study again). And it wasn't for lack of trying. It just seemed to me like I couldn't credibly claim that I was "home-officing" if I was dependent on a cordless handset stolen from the kitchen.
I let it go after a few years, but when I started working from home, I knew I was going to have to get a fax machine hooked up. And there wasn't room for it in the kitchen. So the other day, during a lull in my day, I dug out a replacement phone jack I had lying around and hooked it up to the bare wires sticking out of the baseboard under my desk. I know I did it right, too, because the terminals were labeled with the right wire colors and everything. But when I plugged in a Slimline and picked up the receiver, it sounded like a phone made out of Legos. Which is to say, silent.
Alas, nothing for it but to venture into the basement and wade into the trackless depths of this:
I just want to say that the hairball above is totally not my fault. For one thing, we had two lines coming into our house at two different time periods. Once when Trash was working from home, and once when she started going to grad school via the Internet before cable modems or even DSL were widely available. We've been back down to one line for many years now, as the trained eye can plainly see from a cursory glance above. But somehow all the wiring is still there. Hell, for all I know, that mess includes lines from the house's original construction, which means I could probably send telegrams to President Harding if I wanted to.
I could have called my dad for help, but I've seen too many movies where the expert tries to walk the moron through defusing a bomb over the phone and it never goes well. I could have also called the phone company, but who knew what they'd charge just to come out? Besides, they're not just our phone company; they're our cable company and ISP too, and I could just see somebody from one branch messing up stuff that would necessitate a visit from another branch in a vicious cycle that would soon have me going out to find a second job just to be able to afford getting set up to work at home.
So I took a deep breath and climbed up on a folding chair with a flashlight, a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and a kitchen knife for wire-stripping. After a lengthy interval surrounded with wires all C-3PO in "help! I'm melting!" mode, during which I repeatedly thanked Mr. Bell for not running very much current through phone lines, I extracted myself, went back upstairs and tested the jack in the study. Success! I am being completely serious when I say that I felt like Tom Hanks in Cast Away "I! Have made dial tone!" I sent Trash's office a test-fax right away, and if she hadn't had a broken foot I'm sure she would have walked over to her machine and told me she'd received it at some point.
I was so flush with my genius that that very night, during Hillary's non-cession speech, I went to the hardware store to get a second wall jack to wire up a phone in the second bedroom. Yes, I know; guests don't need a land line in there; they have cell phones of their own, and if the phone next to the poo-ton rings, it won't be for them anyway. But that's not the point. The point is that we've now got three functioning phones on the main floor, for no better reason than because I am awesome. Check out the slick hookup in the guest room:
Yeah, I didn't quite get all the parts I needed at the hardware store. Don't care. Future houseguests will be able to easily stay in touch with their loved ones, provided they don't try to carry the phone across the room too quickly. Go me! posted by M. Giant 7:23 PM 2 comments
What is the purpose of the paper clamps in the bottom picture?