Conversation with a stranger [telecom]

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I was sitting in a doctor's office, cranking out the HTML version of the Digest while waiting for my wife, and I struck up a conversation with a stranger sitting opposite me.

One of those spur-of-the-instant things, curiosity really: I had been looking for an AC outlet on the wall next to him- I had my laptop with me - and he'd volunteered to switch seats with me. The man was using a dumb phone and I asked him how he could stand that small a screen and he told me that it's just a way to get work done before his client calls.

I asked him if he had a landline, and he told me "no," so of course I asked why, and he said that he and his boyfriend had moved to the area a few years back, and he'd refused to pay the high phone rates that are charged around here.

I asked if him saying "client" implied that he's a lawyer, and he told me that he just has one client, and that the man does research for patent-infringement cases and that, although "he's a great researcher," he can't put his thoughts to paper, and so hands my interviewee "A bag of words" to organize and make coherent.

At that point, a woman came out of the back and he introduced me, and she said she'd sit somewhere else for a moment, and I tried to find a way to get more from him by pulling out my dumb phone and asking him "is this thing an electronic leesh?"

His opinion was that dumb phones do waste a lot of time, and addictive, and he digressed and said that if a doctor told him he had six months to live, he would go out and buy a pack of cigarettes.

I knew he was going to leave, so I said "If you don't mind, may I have your phone number?"

I may as well have slapped his face: he was instantly on guard, cold, and distant, and said "no," while gathering his coat and hurrying away.

Well, I don't know what to make of that, then or now. I guess Bob Woodward doesn't have to worry about competition from me.


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Bill Horne
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