All the things we can’t do without

From the somewhere beyond a pedicel has pricked the baseboard and attached itself to the telephone. Or perhaps it’s the opposite, a root burrowing outward to the world. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have permitted this stubborn parasite to remain and I don’t know why.

I could easily have extirpated this anachronism. It brings me nothing but solicitation: the robocalls, con-artists, sellers of products, the thickly inflected English of a Gujarati man. “You have the wrong number,” I tell them. “There’s no one here with that name.”

The person from Bell Telephone told me there was nothing to be done. The infrastructure in this neighbourhood is outdated, he said. He explained that the relay station was miles away and that for this reason everyone in the neighbourhood has terrible Internet. That’s just the way it is, he said, as one speaks of death or rough seas. I cancelled my telephone Internet but kept the phone.

I go to the bus stop, the café, the park, the restaurant. Everyone is gazing into the palm of a hand. They are the wireless generation, forever connected and never attached. They text friends about Instagram posts of their selfies. On the landline I must struggle for the feelings words, but the young weep and exult with space age economy, in factory-provisioned emojis.

The landline is a tether to all that is passing away. Every now and then, another tug. A man wants to sell me a subscription to The Globe and Mail. He seems to sense that his cause is lost, that almost no one reads newspapers anymore. His voice has a desperate aggression. I say no three times and hang up. In a month he will call again. Madness, they say, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. He sounds like he’s going mad, too.

I will never buy the subscription, and yet the futile courtship ritual goes on. I know that soon I’ll connect only wirelessly. Instead of newspapers, there is information, everywhere endless information, in the palm of our hands. The world of solid objects rendered as data. Instant and effortless connection, as we have always wanted it to be.

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