Ed Pfeifer: Broken water heaters, fallen trees and a quacking in my pocket

Wednesday, October 30, 2019 | 12:01 AM


It’s taken a while but I think I am officially at the point where the sound of customized cell phone ringtones has gotten the best of me.

While in line at the grocery store the other day I was treated to the unpleasant sound of an alarm clock buzzer coming from an iPhone tucked deeply in a millennial-aged woman’s Gucci purse. The buzzer went off once, twice, three times. Finally she found and answered the thing, ending its annoying drone.

Seconds later the ear-splitting sound of a train whistle began to emanate from an older man’s chest pocket. “Shut it off” I mumbled.

I thought about all of that after leaving the store and began to consider if maybe it wasn’t really the sound of personalized ringtones that bothers me. Instead, I wondered if I was just troubled by frivolous technology or disturbed by the fact that we’ve become so self-indulgent that we “need” a ringtone of our own?

I drove away from the store thinking those profound thoughts, shifting gears in my rickety old truck, confident that I was a bit more cerebral than those who need to spoil themselves with such vain and pointless things.

Somewhere between third and fourth gear, my phone rang. Bothered by the interruption to my deep thinking, I slammed the truck into fourth and slid the illuminated “answer” bar on my smart screen.

“Hello” I griped. “Hey Ed, the water heater at the store sprung a major leak…”

At that moment it all became clear to me. It isn’t personalized ringtones that bother me; it is the fact that virtually every time mine sounds off, a quacking duck by-the-way, the caller on the other end is alerting me to a mechanical failure, a broken window, a tree down or some other malady on the buildings and grounds for which I am responsible.

It’s not the ringtones of others I hate — it’s my own.

Upon further review and after more of that profound and fancy thinking I’ve decided that it’s actually pretty darn great that each of us is able to insert a bit of our personality into something as common as a ringtone.

I do wish, though, that once — just once — my phone would ring and the caller on the other end would delight me by saying, “Hey Ed, all’s well, the windows are working the water heater isn’t leaking and the trees are all standing.”

The fact is that if you own a home or other property, your cellphone, like mine, will at some point ring and the party on the other end will have lousy news about a leak in the basement, a snowdrift against the garage door, a Sasquatch in the garden. Who knows?

My advice is to remember that while taking those calls is tough, there is a unique and deep satisfaction, an intangible reward that is yours for handling them. At least that’s what I’m telling myself the next time the duck in my pocket starts quacking.