Memories and Musings: Is your phone dead?

Published 6:08 pm Monday, August 24, 2020

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By Gene Gallelli

It seemed like Pat and I lived in a whirlwind of “must do” house and yard tasks after moving into our West Seneca, NY raised ranch.

Naturally, our priorities on what to do first didn’t always match: I wanted to build a family room; Pat wanted the dining room papered. I thought the garage needed shelving; she believed I needed to install the drapes she and her mom had picked out. I was adamant about hooking an outdoor grill to our available natural gas line; she insisted that I needed to plant grass in our barren back yard.

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Well, I spent a week raking and planting grass in the back yard, a day installing the drapes in the front room and went with Pat to pick out the paper for the dining room that took a few days to hang.

Since our back yard abutted our back neighbors’ yard, I was grateful that the property stakes and a tiny red flag-on-a-pole were still there to help me know where to stop raking, seeding and vilifying the back lawn that seemed to go on for miles. (I must admit it was well worth the effort — or, the seed I purchased — because it turned out to be a soft, plush, area for the kids to romp on.)

Having a yard without a small garden of tomatoes, peppers and fresh basil was, Pat and I agreed, unthinkable. So, I bought the trio of seedlings and planted them in the right, rear corner of the backyard; I never noticed that the small, red flag was missing from the same back corner of the yard. (I didn’t learn until later that our young neighbor Joey had it on his bicycle as a hood ornament.)

Soon after planting the small garden — three tomato, one hot banana pepper and one basil — Pat said that our phone was dead; no dial tone! (Remember those?) It didn’t take long before our neighbors Joyce and Toni came over and asked if we had phone service. Joyce crossed the street and called the phone company about the outage from our across-the-street neighbor Delores’s still-in-service phone.

Soon, a phone company service truck arrived and began checking back yards, but needed to look no further than our back yard to uncover the phone cable I had cut with a shovel when planting the vegetables! As if I wasn’t embarrassed enough, the repairman who discovered and fixed the broken cable was the father of one of my sixth grade students. Fortunately, the lecture on the “reason” for the small red flag that adorned Joey’s bicycle was brief and he installed another flag. His son never said anything about it to my face, but when a few of his classmates asked me, “Have you planted any gardens lately?” I knew the news was out and widespread.

The neighbors were actually pretty understanding and only brought it up at every neighborhood get together. Who knew there was such a learning curve to being a first-time homeowner.

Gene Gallelli was Associate Superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his Doctor of Education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.