Monday, June 02, 2008


THE FROGPHONE ONLY RINGS ONCE


The other day I was out splitting wood and I heard the phone ring. I put down the axe, took off my gloves and ran into the house because I was expecting a call from Echo, who was on her way home from visiting her folks in Nagano, and I’d have to pick her up at the station. Got to the phone and it had stopped ringing. Or had it rung at all? Went back to work.

At some point on the next day the same thing happened: the phone rang just once, I standing there with the phone in hand, wondering if in fact the phone had rung at all. Was I hearing things? My ears didn’t seem to be ringing, but all those decades of loud music, even that full-volume Zappa this morning...

That afternoon I was out on the deck, with a higher aural vantage, and I heard the phone ring again. Only it wasn’t in the house: the sound was coming from the paddy across the road! Just one ring. It was a frog calling. Without a phone. So one frog had learned to emit a tradition-breaking ribbet that was precisely like the sound of our telephone ringing. But only once.

You can stand there for an hour, if you’re like me this afternoon, and not hear our phone ring in the paddy even once; but get into a distracting task or a distracted state of mind, and suddenly the phone rings (is the frog watching?); you respond to the sound with what we humans call a Pavlovian reaction, but in this case I guess would have to be called Frogovian.

The only onceness of it is what makes it effective in tweaking any human with a phone like mine. If he went riiiing riiiing riiing etc. as frogs have historically done with their ribbetry, I would pinpoint the sound and not be fooled. The wily singularity of the ring, coupled with its sonic precision, leads me to an ominous surmise: that there may be purpose here, or at least a natural encroachment of some new kind upon we humans, naively isolate in our technococoonery.

It seems to be just one frog at the moment, since there’s no cacophony of ringing phones and no callbacks that I can perceive, but how long can that last, if the frog is having such fun? If my intensifying surmise is true, this could get worse, and more diverse. Soon there may be more events of this nature-- frogs sounding like doorbells, alarm clocks, chatmail... Already there’s that bird - in the Amazon I think - that imitates the call of the chainsaw… Nature, being everywhere by--well, by nature-- is always listening and always learning, and now it may be conspiring, in this mild instance to run us pointlessly to our phones. But if one morning in the future you rush out of the house and jump into your car only to discover that it’s a tree-- and it's taking you somewhere you’ve never been-- remember you heard it here first.

And no, I haven’t taken hallucinogenics in years.

3 comments:

Kathleen said...

Kind of wish I hadn't read that... I'll be searching the net tonight, listening to frog calls, trying to figure out which ones sound like a telephone.

Bob Brady said...

There's no need to worry overmuch, Kathleen... At least until your phone rings from somewhere else...

Kathleen said...

Too late...