I was in Radio Shack recently. I didn’t know they were still in business, actually. I was looking for a digital audio recorder for my brother, and I’d been underwhelmed by Target’s offerings. As a general rule, if I can’t find what I want at Target, I go without. I’m not what you’d call a strong shopper. But on this day I remembered my dad’s old haunt Radio Shack and figured they would likely have the wares I needed.
And amid their low-priced, knock off brand electronics I did, indeed, find a recorder that fit the bill. But that walk down brightly lit aisles brought me more than just an adequate gift for my brother; it brought one particular memory rushing loudly to my brain.
Dad, who loved Radio Shack almost as much as any local Catholic church or that donut shop in downtown Tiffin, frequently picked up bargain bin gadgets. On one shopping adventure he nabbed two items he felt would help him notice when the phone rang.
Dad wore two hearing aids and rarely heard the phone, even with the bell turned all the way up. Late in his life he took to randomly picking up the receiver to see if anyone was there. That’s how you’d get in touch with him: let the phone ring 40 or 50 times in the hopes that he’d be meandering past his end table and decide to chance it. How he expected to hear the conversation on the odd occasion that someone happened to be on the line was a mystery. His concern was how to know it was ringing.
One night, while I was still living at home and working at a nearby restaurant, I’d gone to bed somewhat early. Dad wasn’t home – he’d gone to Toledo to visit my sister.
In the pitch black I was shocked from slumber by the loudest ringing ever heard outside the tower at the Notre Dame cathedral.
I bolted upright, which made me a tad dizzy as I woozily grappled with what had just happened.
You know, because the phone rings every few seconds until someone answers. I hadn’t yet pieced it together in my sleep addled brain, but by that second ring I realized it must be the phone, or some phone-like monster nearby. There were no extensions upstairs, so I tore clumsily out of my bed in an attempt to make it to the first floor before that insane sound returned.
I fumbled down the dark hall, nearly fell headlong down the stairs, and hit the landing just as the phone rang again.
I fell over completely at that point, fairly certain I was simply having a seizure. Maybe there was no ringing at all. Maybe something was eating through my brain.
In the pitch black of the living room, the ear splitting bell was accompanied by a rapid fire flashing light.
He’d purchased – without mentioning it to me – not only an enormous, wall mounted speaker to attach to his phone, but also a large strobe light.
By the time I recovered enough to answer the damn thing, it had stopped ringing.