LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
“This is why generations of people have dreams in which they are trying to call for help but keep misdialing over and over again,” I told her.
She nodded solemnly.
“I can see that,” she said.
Regardless of that limitation, rotary phones are actually quite in demand — and pretty pricy. The ones at the peddlers mall ran for about $40 a pop, which in a land of $2, $5 and $10 purchases is pretty steep. But like cast-iron frying pans, which are likewise pricy, that seems to be the going rate.
As we do when we go to peddlers malls or antique stores, I told Gabrielle she could get three things “within reason.” A few weeks ago, this meant she found a Jar of Miscellaneous Items for $2.50. It was a glass jar that, from the looks of the buttons and lace you could see inside it, held a whole lot of promise. Gabrielle hauled that jar around for the next hour as we browsed, staring at it, wondering at what was inside, shaking it, asking how much longer we’d be before she could open it, her raw teenagerdom happily shed in favor of being a kid.
As soon as we got into the car, she started twisting off the top, truly beside herself to see what was inside. Soon, she was fastening clip-on earrings up and down her ears, organizing different kinds of ribbon and lace, and inspecting a miniature cowgirl hat. Then she started making up a story about who all the treasure had belonged to — a seamstress named Mary who liked to wear earrings, who may or may not still be alive but whose collection made for the Absolute Best Jar of Miscellaneous Items.
As we drove home on Saturday, a similar game emerged with the rotary phone, one in which she was a receptionist named Janet with a distinct New Jersey accent who worked for the Dr. Haizenhaufer Pill Company. Poor Janet, who had an unfortunate monotone voice, was constantly getting calls from a variety of people who were wondering when their shipments of medicine would come in. There was the guy from India who wanted 6 pounds of acetaminophen. The woman who only spoke French. The person with the wrong number. The lady suffering from depression looking for her happy pills. And finally the bird-like reporter who informed Janet she’d been randomly chosen to be featured in the newspaper and could she please tell her her life story.