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I never feel more like committing a felony than when I have to deal with the telephone company. Each time Ma Bell and I have an encounter, I'm convinced our conversations can't get any crazier, and each time, I'm proven wrong.

This week, I was going to beat her to the punch in my effort to keep everything the same. I'd call her to renew my plan before she could change things all willy-nilly. Ma wasn't available, but I got ahold of her young niece. The conversation went something like this:

"... I renewed my plan last fall and tickled my calendar to contact you in six months. I think that's when the plan expires. I want to renew it, so my rate stays the same."

"Let's see here. You have an old plan."

"It still has that new plan smell to me," I said. "I'd like to keep it."

"We don't offer that plan anymore," she said. "The current rate is twice what you're paying."

"Well, I don't want that plan. I want this plan."

"You could wait for your plan to expire and see what happens."

"That's why I was calling, because I don't like what happens. What date do you show it to expire?" I asked.

"I don't have that information."

"Come again?"

"I don't know when it expires," she answered.

"Then, how 'bout me chattin' with the person who does?"

"I'm not trying to keep things from you," she said. "I just don't know the answer."

"I didn't think you were keeping things from me ... until now. I just want to know when the plan expires."

"Ma'am, I don't know when it expires, but when it does, you'll get a letter."

"I don't usually get a letter. I usually get a big bill, which I'm trying to avoid. But ..."

Don't take the bait.

"... out of curiosity ..."

Don't be curious.

"... how will you know when to send me the letter?" I asked.

"When your plan expires," she replied.

"And when will that be?"

"When the computer sends you a letter."

Oh my stars. Somebody please be recording this.

"And how will the computer know when to send that letter?"


"Unless we're dealing with artificial intelligence -- which we seem to be at no risk of -- the computer only knows what y'all tell it. So what did y'all tell it?" I asked.

"I don't have that information. You could just wait until you get your bill showing it's changed."

"I thought I was getting a letter."

And so, after a few other forays which proved equally unproductive, I bid Miss Bell adieu. As I rocked in a fetal position, I took solace in knowing I'd indeed kept everything the same. I started the call knowing nothing, and I ended knowing as much. I guess I'll wait until HAL 9000 sends me a letter or bill before calling again.

Uncle Ronnie would say even that'll be like putting a milk bucket under a bull.

Lisa Kelley is a Southern storyteller, lawyer and country gal living a simple urban life in downtown Bentonville. Email her at

NAN Our Town on 03/08/2018

Print Headline: Mother offers no comfort

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