My father used to hold his hand up next to his face and flap his thumb and four fingers together to mimic my mom's incessant yakking on the phone.
My wife is very different from my mother. Mary Ellen does not talk much on the phone.
Not that she doesn't try.
The problem started after I replaced the phones in the kitchen and living room about three years ago and added a second line. When I call the house to speak to Mary Ellen all I hear is a series of clicks, an occasional "huh?" and then a dial tone.
I try back on our second line.
Later, when I arrive at the house, we have the identical conversation every time.
"Mary Ellen, why didn't you answer the phone?"
"I tried, but I never know what line you're calling on."
"It's the one that lights up."
"Since the spring of '08."
"Well, I always hit line one, then line two, just in case."
"Don't you see, when you hit line two, it disconnects you from line one?"
This seemed to fluster my wife, who continued to maintain that I had installed a system that was far too complicated for the Wolfsies, the proof being that by my own admission this was called a hard-line phone.
Apparently a little too hard.
To combat this problem, I began calling Mary Ellen only on her cell phone.
No answer. But 10 seconds later my cell rings ...
"Dick, I saw that you just called."
"I don't want you to see that I called, I want you to hear that I am calling and then answer it. Maybe if you had a little more practice at home."
"Are these the same people who make the phone in the living room? Wait, maybe I'm missing an app."
"You don't need an app to answer your phone. I may have to write a column about this."
Boy, was that the wrong thing to say. The next day, Mary Ellen made a list of all the stuff I can't master.
"Let's see, you have no idea how to open the car door with that little remote on your keychain. You click to open the passenger side door for me but all you do is double-lock all the doors; then you click again and only your door opens. Then the windows lock and the alarm goes off. I know this isn't easy. You've only had that car six years."
"Is there more?" I asked.
"How about that TV remote? You stand in front of the set and hit every button: CABLE, ON, POWER, DVD, ALL. The TV sort of comes half on, then the DVD tray opens, then everything goes black, so you push all the buttons again. Then you walk out of the room like you do at work when you screw up the Xerox machine."
"Anything else, dear?"
"You still don't know how to turn off the toaster oven, so you just yank the plug out of the wall. And that microwave must be a real stumper because I've caught you running your fingers over the control panel like it was a Ouija board. And finally, 'Tear Here' doesn't mean 'tear there,' or 'tear nearby.' The words 'slash with a knife' are not visible anywhere on your package of baloney."
I think she had more to say, but I couldn't bear to listen.
If you'd like to hear more, give her a call.
On line two.
For the past 16 years on WISH-TV's Daybreak, Dick Wolfsie has lent his unique brand of wit and humor to the screen. His video essays and personal stories are unique to Indiana television. Many are syndicated nationally.
This former high school and college English teacher has logged over 10,000 hours of television. Wolfsie's work in the media has netted him over a dozen awards including a regional Emmy for best host, a national ACE award and a Casper Award for five years as host and producer of AM Indiana.