Andy Summers, the guitarist with the Police (how splendidly bizarre it would be if police departments actually employed guitarists - "officer, we have a homicide. Send in someone who can play sweeping arpeggios!") had an appallingly funny song on their last outing ("Synchronicity") called "Mother". This ditty, probably co-written by The Police and the man who observed Mother's Day all year around - Norman Bates - was about the singer's dread of the phone and his (Andy's, not the phone's) mother. "If the telephone's ringing, must be my mother on the phone" went the lyrics. (Just why he dreads her he explains in the last 2 verses.)
I bear no such ill-feelings towards the Mater, but I recently discovered that like Mr. Summers, I too have developed a fear of the ringing phone. Here's why.
I am in the shower, relishing the sharp sting of the hot water. During the
vastly overrated (but important) soaping process, I am singing to a wild, ecstatic crowd of one and that's when I hear the phone ring. It's not the landline phone, but the cellphone. I hear about four rings and then the ringing stops. I continue my showering and singing. A few minutes later, the phone rings again. I turn the shower off and the cellphone stops ringing. At that exact moment. Freaky, but I am not worried yet.
Playing guitar and listening to loud music 24x7 has given me something more than just enjoyment. I sometimes experience a mild case of tinnitus in one ear. So when I first heard the phone ring, I blamed it on the tinnitus. But I knew the tinnitus tone has a very different quality. It's a thinner, "tinnier" (duh) sound and the sound I heard from the bedroom was, unmistakably, my cellphone.
So I check the cellphone screen. No missed calls, no voice mails, no text messages. This happens again and again over the next several mornings. Everyday, it's the same thing. The phone rings, I look at the screen, nothing there.
Sheer coincidence that around the time I first heard this mysterious ringing, I was reading a book about a famous schizophrenic. All those descriptions of Dr. Minor's delusions in the "The Professor And The Madman" started to scare me. Was I losing it? Why did that cellphone ring everytime I was in the bathroom? And if that damn ghost was so interested in talking to me, why couldn't he call me on the landline so I didn't lose precious minutes during the peak period? (Answer: he can't, because telemarketers are busy leaving me lengthy messages about lowering my mortgage rates, gifting me a plasma TV, sending me on a trip to Hawaii and buying me a new Hummer. Someone looks out for #1, I tell you.)
Well, I am not alone. They call this "phantom ringing" a "psycho-acoustic" phenomenon.
When experts attach "psycho" to another word to explain a strange phenomenon, it comes as such a relief. But I wonder how they will explain the blood-soaked arm that sometimes comes out from below my bed at night?