This, of course, gave Allister the upper hand (a hand that Allister was not all too familiar) and left the caller grasping for words-though all words seemed to float in the same blurry soup stirred by Allister's bellowy greeting. What was their name and why had they called? It was all out of order. Some called just to talk. Some called the wrong number. And some called for directions to his residence-the same residence where Allister sat in his shellacked chair across from his telephone-the same telephone into which he had just bellowed.
To know the madness of a time's technology-the pull that finds us both closer and farther apart-one must live through it. Allister found himself amidst the birth of the telephone-where voices miles away compacted and slipped through wires in milliseconds, wildly laughing at the hooves and wheels of the postal service whose letters could do little but end sentences with exclamation points in return. There was unification, to be sure. Allister called near and far, at first. Called friends in Borneo. Called strangers in Helena. But, when the novelty wore away, Allister found his telephone ringing far less. And, when calls to friends far away went unanswered, Allister suddenly felt farther away than he had ever been.
He found himself looking at his silent phone. Found himself talking to it as though it could answer on its own. In times like those, silence can be so loud-can pulsate insultingly. Can force a man from his home-to do what? To research. Research what?
Libraries lost entire sections of subjects for months on end. Allister researched botany, cosmotology, first aid, post-impressionism, tank construction, origami, whistling, paleontology, track and field, physics, altruism, evolution, revolution, home decor, radiation, meditation, salmonella poisoning, breeding, blood letting, equestrian sports, forensics, dictation, etceteras and etceteras.
He collected all knowledge and stopped studying only whence he knew enough to place an ad in the classifieds as an expert in the subject. Allister Cromley's name could be found typed in bold print too many times to be counted as several. Below his name, each time it was printed, was a description of a subject Allister had mastered and the simple but pleading phrase:
PleAse Call Me
(the capitalization of the "A" in "PleAse" was an error in type that, for an authentic feel, begs re-erroring)
It would be wrong to consider Allister a lonely man. But he did trip occasionally into the melancholy of depression. This period of time (the adolescence of the telephone, we may choose to call it) could most certainly fall into this category. There would be a time when he would rise from the shellac of his chair and find the voices he waited to hear. But, this chapter ends before that time. The adolescence of anything is littered with errors. And, along that line, it essential to take note that along with Allister’s error in capitalization, one must also add the absence of Allister's telephone number.