Back in the early days of the 21st century, all the people I knew had a telephone in their home–what we now refer to as a “landline.” Those telephones connected with a cord to a phone jack, although some people–fancy fancy–had cordless phones where only the phone base had to connect to the phone jack; the phone itself could be carried around the house. We paid the telephone company each month to use their phone lines.
We also usually paid by the minute for each long-distance call we made. Some folks had long-distance plans where they paid a flat fee to make as many long-distance calls as they wanted, but those plans were costly and not much used by the college students and activists I mostly hung out with. But just about everyone had some kind of long-distance plan.
In those days, there was a lot of competition among long distance companies for customers. Companies were always trying to get consumers to switch from their current carrier. Each company promised their service was clearer (remember when you could actually hear and understand the person on the other end of the phone?) and cheaper. Each company promised the consumer could switch to the new service with no hassle. Sometimes we fell for the pitch, especially in the early days of such competition, especially when company promised that if we switched to their service, they’d send a check for $20, $30, $40, maybe even $50. But there always seemed to be some sort of hassle after all, and the new company always seemed to charge more (usually through unmentioned taxes and fees) than the representative had promised.
Annoyingly, representatives from those long distance carriers were always calling. We’d be eating dinner, taking a shower, having sex, reading a book and the phone would ring. Instead of being a cute crush or Mom or Grandpa calling, it was some poor schmuck working for AT&T or some new never-heard-of-before company wanting to talk about long distance service. Such calls became commonplace and irritating.
One night I was at a friend’s place, hanging out with several other folks while the lady of the house cooked dinner. The phone (and by “phone,” I mean “landline”) rang, and for some reason I no longer remember, I answered it.
I was hardly surprised to hear the caller was a representative of a long distance company. Of course, the representative assumed I was the lady of the house and wanted me to change my long distance provider to the company for whom he was working.
Change my long distance provider? I repeated aloud while the person who actually lived in the house vigorously shook her head no. Everyone in the room looked at me, interested in what I would say next.
I listened to the representative’s spiel. I listened to the representative extol the virtues of the service, the clarity of sound, the vast savings of dollars.
When the representative asked if I was ready to make the change, I allowed that everything he’d said sounded great, and I was very interested in the new long distance plan. However, I said, before I can make any decision, I have to discuss it with my husband.
My friends started snickering. They knew I didn’t have, had never had, a husband, and even if I did, I was capable of making a decision about long distance service on my own.
While my friends giggled, I continued talking to the representative. Once my husband and I discuss your offer, we’ll have to pray about it, I told him. My friends laughed harder, as they knew me and my imaginary husband were not the praying kind.
Once we pray about your offer, I continued to the person on the other end of the line, if we decide it’s right for us, I’ll get back to you.
By this point, the stunned company representative was pretty much speechless. Probably this whole praying over long distance service was a new response. Who asks for divine guidance in choosing a long distance provider? Apparently I did, which got a big laugh from my friends, gave the representative a good story to tell in the break room, and got me off the phone without being rude.