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back when a landline was really a landline

February 18, 2011

Communication is a tricky enough endeavour without limiting your

options, but that’s what Jude and I knowingly did when we moved up

here.  Our home phone is literally a landline.  It stretches a half mile —

on and just below the ground –from the service post to the house.

Our first winter here it went out several times.  A repairman suggested

that the line might well have been knitted by Alexander Graham Bell’s

grandmother.  So we cancelled that and bought a cell phone.  It loses

reception about 13 miles away from the farm.  We tried Vonage and

Skype.  There was too much lag time with Vonage, usually about five

seconds.  That’s okay when you can tell family and friends “if you get

a call and there’s nobody there at first, that’s us.”  But businesses and

receptionists can’t spare the time.

We had more luck with Skype.  At the time, it offered no numbers in

Canada, so we chose one in Sebastopol, California, because Jude’s two

teenaged sons lived there.  That made it a local call to them.  Jude

hoped that would prompt them to ring up more often.  That hope

waned when she realized that they were (a) teenaged and (b) sons.

When she got a nursing job on the mainland, she was required to get

a local number.  After we had cancelled the landline, I cut its wires for

reasons I can’t recall.  It had to be redone and the technician somehow

improved it.  It works so much better now that it takes something like

a lightning strike to knock it out.  We know this because a lightning

strike knocked it out a few months ago.

I offer all this as back story for what happened Wednesday.  We got

four quick inches of snow in the morning.  That usually wouldn’t

be a problem, but our friend Lee had borrowed our old truck, the

one I would have taken to the top of our driveway to fetch Jude,

who would not have been able to drive down in our car.

Ah, you query, what about that 1994 Nissan pickup you just bought?

Thank you for asking.  The first time I got into after we brought it

home, it wouldn’t start.  The battery, the one thing we didn’t think

to check or ask about, looked like it also could have been knitted by

Bell’s grandmother.  Jude was bringing a new one home.

I planned on walking to the top of the driveway to meet her and pull

the battery down on a sled.  Then she could drive the Nissan back to

the car next morning.  Problem was, I didn’t know if the main road

had been plowed yet.  So I called Annik, a neighbour whom I knew

had likely been out on it to collect her daughters from school.  She

told me that the road was unplowed and treacherous, then suggested

that I call her husband Paul, who was working outside near the road,

for an update.

Paul is priceless to Jude and me.  He comes over to watch Canucks’

games with us.  And even though he watches the games intensely,

he always answers our questions about hockey.  I know he’s a true

fan because he once slipped and skidded down a small flight of

stairs with a beer in each hand, and didn’t spill a drop.

Anyway,  Paul said Jude wouldn’t be able to maneuver our road after

she turned off the paved road.  He volunteered to wait for her at the

turn-off and bring her home.  What a guy — a gentleman and a hockey


Right after I talked to Paul, Lee showed up to check on me.  He knew

that the Nissan battery was dead and figured tranportation might be

extra iffy.  I couldn’t raise an amp of energy out of thebattery, but he

cleaned it up enough to jump start the truck.

All this happened with me having no way to contact Jude.  She had

shut off her cell phone because she was out of the service area.  She

didn’t know to look for Paul and it was already dark.  He flagged her

down, though, and they got to the turn-off for the farm just after

Lee and I did.

Lee, by the way, was blocked by a tree in our driveway when he first

came down to see me.  He had to drive four miles back to his place

to get a chainsaw.  What could have been a minor fiasco or a major

kerfuffle turned out to be a pleasant get-together of neighbours.

Jude and I, however, did miss “Jeopardy”.


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