I Was a Third-Rate Telephone (and Other Professions)

‘When you hear a ringing in your ears, pray for the dead.’
With this line my mother started a sort of obsession that I can’t let go of. Only recently have I been very aware of the ringing. It’s more prominent and it happens more often (or maybe I’m more aware of it). Every time it starts I find myself thinking, why the hell should I be a cheap telephone receiver speaking into myself when the ringing hasn’t even stopped. I mean, their call hasn’t even got through if it’s still ringing. I’ll be talking to myself and besides, who the hell is even ringing me? I’d imagine the dead have the same amount of care for me as I do for them: none.

Some verses on the matter:

My mother had some curious beliefs
To pass down. One I’ve heard for years:
When you hear a ringing in your ears
Pray for the dead
She said.

So from an early age I was
a third rate telephone receiver,
speaking into myself though the
machine was broken. How could they
hear my prayers if I could never
answer? I only ever listened to
the ringing.

Then I thought that maybe I was
promoted to the incompetent and lazy
switchboard operator that couldn’t quite
match up the right messages to the right people.
Because I couldn’t hear them. I could never
answer to the dead and the ringing
continued.

Then it hit me. I was the CEO
of Deathly Telecoms and, of course, I
had to make all sorts of delegations for
these calls to get through. But, apparently
people had their own ringing to deal with and
no one wanted work where the ringing
never stopped.

So I made an early career choice
to retire. I explained to the ringing
I was tired and it was absurd and it would
never listen. So the dead go straight
to voicemail now. ‘Please, leave
a message after the tone.’ A
never ending tone.

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