Barry

9 03 2010

The phone has been here since the house was built so very long ago. My Mother was born in this house over eighty years ago and I have lived here till this point in my life, I’m forty four now.

Back in the thirties, Mum was going to Kingsville Primary School, The same School I went to later, and Her Dad ran the family removal business, no vehicles back then, just his two Clydesdales.

If you see our house today, you’ll notice the “driveway” made of bluestones, and this was for the horses to get a grip with their hooves and pull. We could have had it changed years ago, but bluestones don’t crack up like concrete and there is a historical reason for keeping them there.

We were about the first home in the area to have the phone put on, due to the furniture removal business, most people didn’t have a phone unless they were in business or they were well off, our family wasn’t well off.

Neighbours would often appear on our doorstep in those years asking if they could use the phone, someone was having a baby, or there’d been an accident, or an urgent call had to be taken with a relative from the bush… a big deal in those days, a call from interstate was considered remarkable.

When I was growing up, we had six numbers in our phone number, we now have eight, Mum told me that we started with just four.

Anyway, the phone has had a long, long history at our place… and now I’m thinking of getting it removed.

Many people these days are finding that they simply don’t need a phone, they have the internet, and their mobile is always with them, and what I find is that it costs far more to keep, than I actually use.

Each month I would make, on average, Five phonecalls, none lasting more than two minutes, and these will usually be to tradesmen… and for this, my bill comes to around $80 each time it turns up, and this really cheeses me off.

I like to talk on Skype, and via Secondlife which also has an option to use voice, and I use Skype on my iPhone too.

Apart from a few people I know, everyone uses the internet and is happy to communicate with me there, about the only reason I can see for having a regular phone (including a mobile) is that I can call an emergency service quickly if there’s an immediate problem.

Computers take ages to boot up, My PC takes almost five minutes to do so, if I was having a heart attack, I could be in some strife.

Ok, so Naked DSL finally makes it to Footscray, and Internode sends me a message detailing the plan, and I like it… So I opt for it and tell Telstra thanks but No Thanks, and suddenly, for the first time in nearly a century, there’s no landline in the house, how strange!

The other night I was thinking about this, and then it struck me that although it might do me some good, that one might be disadvantaged, a fellow called Barry.

Barry was the foster child of my cousin, Yvonne.

She took him in when he was about ten, He’s what they used to call “backward” or in PC terms “intellectually challenged”, He’s not dumb, he’s not stupid, he doesn’t talk with a slur… But he has a very limited view of the world, and when he phones me from where
he lives now, a “home” in dandenong, He talks about his worries about the violence, and the violence he’s seen on the news, he talks about Moomba, The Melbourne Show, If Father Christmas might be a real person or just a man in a suit… and he remembers time spent with the family, Like when we’d all get in the cars and head to a restaurant in the hills… It would’ve been a good day out for us all, My Parents, Yvonne, Her Daughter, Barry and Myself.

Barry rarely strays from those subjects, he seems unable to take in anything else, it’s as if things run in a kind of “tape loop” in his head.

Barry grew up to be a very tall man, and quite good looking, And everything he grew to be, was wasted… as I feel that if he had grown up with a family on a farm, he probably would have been an excellent farm hand, and protected by Brothers and Sisters who loved him and looked after him.

I had Christmasses with my family till Mum passed away in 2006, He had a lot less.

When He got to his teenage years, Barry discovered that one of the things he could actually do was make phone calls. Now at this point, Yvonne was going through terrible problems with her marriage, Her Husband had walked out and suddenly there was no income.
There are details here that I won’t cover, but the whole thing was a complete disaster.

Then Yvonne got a phonecall from Telecom saying there had been complaints about a male, making obscene phonecalls from her line,
Then a huge bill turned up.

Barry had been making hundreds of random phonecalls while Yvonne was out, making a silly comment to anyone who answered and would then hang up and start again.

Barry was ejected from the house not long after.

He went from home to home, not being wanted anywhere, till he finally found this home for the homeless in Dandenong.

Once a week, he phones me, not to say all that much, sometimes he has nothing to say at all, but he does it because he allows himself a few phonecalls a week, and that’s ok. I certainly don’t mind talking to him, I’m about the only family he has who cares about him, I wish it was better for him, I really hate knowing he’s in a home… The people are kind enough, but it’s not family.

Two years from now, I may be sitting here with my internet, and my Mobile phone… and Barry won’t be phoning me because it costs too much, or maybe he will anyway, I don’t really know.

Wolfie!

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