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DON’T PHONE HOME IF YOU WANT GOOD NEWS

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Ever see the commercial where the husband and wife are becoming stressed out? Elevator doors slam in their faces, coffee spills over their desks, meetings are missed, tires go flat and dogs shake water over their power suits. What will they do?

To the rescue comes the telephone. They pick it up and call home, and everything seems right with the world. Mellowness once again flows through their veins.Right. And pigs have a new recreation: dirty dancing.

I have never in my life called home from an out-of-town trip that my heart rate has not accelerated to the same level as a farsighted bullfighter's. A typical call home sounds something like this:

"Hi, it's me."

"Could you hang on just a second?" (Muffled cries, a barking dog, doors slamming, voices I have never heard before, and an occasional phrase such as, "Don't bleed on that!")

When the voice returns, it says, "Could you give me a number where I can call you back?"

When I insist on knowing what is going on, the next line I hear is (a) "Are you sitting down?" (b) "Are you lying down?" (c) "Is there a physician nearby?"

People who have to work late and call home for a little sympathy and booster-upper are in for a shock. Are you going to get, "Daddy, we miss you" or "I'll keep your dinner warm"? Grow up. You're the capper on a day that already has seen a poker chip jammed in the VCR, a report card from a daughter who didn't pass so much as her eye examination, a call from the insurance company that just canceled your policy and a dog that looks fat - again. And you're going to hear about it now!

In airports, I've seen the line of daddies calling home to tell the family where they are. None of them is smiling. Most are just listening and nodding their heads.

When you think about it, it's probably why E.T. never called home. If anyone had a reason to be stressed out and in need of comfort, it was this little lost alien from another planet. Maybe he knew that on the other end would be a family who would get on all the extensions and duly report: "Boy, are you gonna get it, wandering away like that and getting lost. You've made Momma half-sick. There's been a galaxy-wide search. Dad lost his job. The lawn died. You failed third grade. Do you know how much it's going to cost to send a spaceship after you?"

Makes you think twice before you reach out and touch that phone.