human behavior

Antique lust (or how I learned to embrace the telemarketers)

Posted in Miscellaneous, Sydney by humanb on November 17, 2012

I used to love my 1950’s phone.

Never mind that at the moment, every hipster either has one or wants one. But long after they fall out of fashion again, I’ll still be cherishing mine, because it’s a beautiful piece of history that works. I’ve got a thing for functional relics.

And boy does it work. The ring is loud, long, and grating, and since we don’t have an answering machine, never-ending. This would all be well and good if its ring heralded a welcome caller. But there are only two categories of people that still call landlines: charities and telemarketers.

The charities are not unwelcome, and I know which ones will call. The telemarketers, though, are worse than junk mail. They never seem to get my name right, which is annoying, and they’re always reluctant to tell me who they are and what they want, which is insane.

My husband and I have reached the point where the moment the red phone rings, we pick it up and hang it up again. When the phone rings too many times in one day, we pick it up and lay the receiver on the table, then whisper and giggle in the background like ten year-olds.

But lately I’ve been feeling like it’s time to take back control and stop hiding from the telemarketers, so I’ve started to answer the phone again. My goal is to convince the most recalcitrant of telemarketers to stop calling me until the government activates my number on the Do Not Call Registry. For some reason, it takes 60 days.

I’m really trying to love my phone again, but it’s just too tainted at the moment. And then something happened that may have permanently altered my feelings towards my  phone: I discovered a local antique store.

The store is called The Sydney Antique Centre, and it’s the largest of its kind in Sydney. Apparently, I’ve driven past the place hundreds of times since I moved here. Who knew? So on a gloomy, overcast day last week, I made an afternoon of browsing its collections. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. Our apartment is too tiny to fit even one more book, let alone a turn of the century, hand-carved rocking chair. But I figured it would be fun to browse the shops anyway, and thought I might even find a small Christmas present for my mom.

I found this instead:


There were wooden antiques aplenty that I would’ve loved to have taken home, and I spent more than a few minutes daydreaming about owning a small, stone cottage with antique French oak floors and a kitchen hearth that I could furnish from my new favourite shop. But I’m not really a materialist, and had no problem whatsoever leaving the place and its gorgeous wooden furniture behind.

But I wasn’t going anywhere without this black candlestick phone.

These phones were made in the period 1890-1930, and the black version supposedly predates the flashier brass one (which was also available). You don’t see either of them around anymore save on eBay – not like the 1950s phone, currently featuring in every bookstore retro display. This was a rare find indeed.

And it works.

I’ve wanted one of these phones since I was a little girl. There’s something about the ear piece that always made telephoning look like fun.

If I was going to spend a chunk of change on this phone, I had to be certain that it worked before I left the shop; so I asked the salesman to plug it in at reception and give me a ring. Not only did it ring, but it did so with a soft and pleasing tone.

Of course, now that I’ve brought it home, I haven’t had one single phone call. Not one. So I’ve taken to making my husband ring me from the other room so that I can have the pleasure of holding the hand piece to my ear and lifting the heavy base to my lips. He got tired of that pretty quickly.

He did like the phone, however, and played at making a call from it last night. Australian mobile phone numbers have ten digits, and mine has a whopping five zeros. With his finger dragging more than 300 degrees for each zero, he’d only finished dialling my number after twenty seconds.

It was an odd experience hearing my iPhone 4 blast the Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme song in response.

But it was a good feeling. Somehow, by having telephones in the house from different eras, I feel newly connected to the past. Grounded. A part of history. I find myself wondering more about the world at the turn of the century – how that phone influenced the life of its owner. Did it bring good news?

And with two antique phones ringing – one nicely, the other not – I finally performed the simple task of turning down the ringer on the bottom of my candy red rotary. I’m not sure why I never did that before.

So now I wait, somewhat impatiently for my telephone to ring. It’s Saturday, so perhaps come Monday the telemarketers will call again.

A girl can hope.


One Response

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  1. Condore said, on November 18, 2012 at 8:21 am

    What a treasure!

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