Thursday, October 10, 2013

And, thanks to modern technology, we can get jarring telephone calls even on the train!

Wireless signal is spotty along the CTA's Blue Line train tracks, especially when the sometime-elevated train becomes the Subway. Maybe that's why the caller ID on my oh-so-smart phone said "Unknown."

The last time the oh-so-smart phone said "Unknown" -- also when I was on the train -- it turned out to be Long Suffering Spouse. This time it was Younger Daughter. And, yes, thank you, I do have my wife and daughter -- all my children and children-in-law, in fact -- in my Contacts list. So I should have seen Younger Daughter's name and her number when she called yesterday, although I saw neither.

"Hello?" I said, tentatively. (One of these days, I'll answer a call from Unknown and it will turn out to be a sales call. From that day forward, all Unknown calls will be denied.)

"You're going to have to turn around and come home," Younger Daughter announced.

"What's the matter?"

"There's something in the fireplace and it's alive."

"What do you mean, in the fireplace?

"Well, I can hear it. It's moving and scratching -- here, listen." She must have held the phone near the fireplace -- pretty brave of her, really, considering -- and, over the roar of the train and the fading signal, it is entirely possible that I heard some sort of skittering noise.

"It's a bird or squirrel," I said. "It must have fallen in the chimney. But the flue is closed. It can't get in the house."

"Are you sure?"

"If the flue is closed, I am. And the flue is closed."

That was about when the signal gave up the ghost.

But several texts accumulated while I was out of range.

I called Younger Daughter back when I got in the office.

"I agree with your plan," I told her (having read through the several text messages). "Today seems like a fine day to take the baby out for errands."

"Well the noise stopped," she said. "Maybe it climbed out."

"Or died."

"Yeah." Younger Daughter did not seem comforted by this possibility.

"Well, don't open the flue to find out which it is," I suggested. I didn't mean to be rude, I told her, but I actually had stuff to do yesterday -- including telling you about the first phone call yesterday morning -- and I had to go to court as well. (Imagine that: I sometimes still go to court!) Younger Daughter seemed mollified by the end of our conversation; she outlined an ambitious itinerary that included retail therapy and a visit to Abuela. I said OK and plunged into my day.

Three hours later or so I was in the lobby of the Daley Center looking for someone. The person I was looking for was allegedly looking for someone, too. But the person I was looking for was nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, the court had been waiting 45 minutes. I pulled out my phone to check messages -- I didn't expect to find this man hiding in my voice mail, but there might have been a clue.

Instead, there was only a frantic message from Long Suffering Spouse. "Where are you? I've called your cell phone, I've called your office and I can't find you! There's some sort of animal in the house!"

Apparently I wasn't the only one Younger Daughter had texted. My wife keeps her phone off during the school day -- she doesn't trust the 'mute' button -- but she must have had a moment to switch it on during her lunch break yesterday. The message had just been left a few minutes before, though, so I tried to call my wife.

She answered. "Where are you? I've been trying to find you everywhere."

"In court."

"Oh. I'll hang up."

"No, I'm outside the courtroom now." (I'd gone back up on the elevator as I was dialing the phone.) "I already talked to Younger Daughter. It's not in the house. It's in the chimney above the fireplace. It can't get through the flue. Whatever it was stopped moving a couple of hours ago now."

"It probably died."

"That's what I said."

"Well, we can't use the fireplace!"

"We haven't used the fireplace in two years."

"Sure we have. Haven't we? Once?"

"Look, bottom line here is the noise is stopped. Whatever it was is dead or gone. Younger Daughter and the baby are going out on errands. We can figure out everything later."

I had to get back to the courtroom to report the outcome of my unsuccessful reconnoiter. Sometimes work intrudes on the steady stream of family phone calls.

Some people wonder why I long for the days when we weren't accessible 24/7/365. But, just once, I would like to start in on a project and work on it without interruption.

Do you know the surest way to get a client phone call? Start in on a different file. If you can start in on a different file -- if all the crises at home are being managed....

No comments: