Saturday, March 20, 2010

Phoney Solutions

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon, a problem occurred with our parish phones.  Somehow, when you called the parish, your calls were redirected to an *ahem* naughty phone number.  OK, not just naughty, but sick, twisted, and evil.

I was first alerted to this around 5 p.m. when I received a voicemail message (on the parish system) that this person had ‘trouble’ getting through to the parish, and kept getting “a party phone.”  So I picked up the phone, used an alternative number, and dialed our main number.  No problem.  Tried it again and no problem.  And the person had left me a VOICEMAIL message on our system, so they did get through – so apparently it was a transient problem that was fixed.

Not so.  It seems that using our own system to call ourselves would not trigger the problem.

We had our parish penance service last night, and no one there reported any problems to us.  A staff member called someone else to say that there was still a problem, but I was busy, and I couldn’t investigate right away.

Once I had time I used a cell phone to call the parish.  I was greeted with “Welcome to the Party Line!  For English, press 1.  Para Español, marque dos.”  Trust me, that is NOT our usual answering message.

I hung up, knowing there was a problem.  I didn’t need to call a second or third time.  I obviously wasn’t reaching the parish, even though I dialed the correct number.

I called the phone company and within seconds they told me what the problem was, and how I could fix it.  I did.  Problem solved in seconds.

But here’s the part that puzzles me, but maybe it doesn’t because there is a spiritual analogy to it.

When someone called and got the wrong number, the “Party Line,” rather than just hang up and wait for the problem to be fixed, or possibly even call the phone company FOR US and have the problem fixed by them.  THEY KEPT CALLING.  Not only did they keep calling, THEY STARTED LISTENING TO THE MESSAGES AND KEPT PUSHING BUTTONS.  Over and over and over again, calling the number, FOLLOWING THE DIRECTIONS, and getting nasty, nasty, nasty messages, AND THEY KEPT LISTENING.  TO THE ENTIRE MESSAGE.  OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  Thinking somehow, this time, it was going to be different.

Why?  Why keep calling?  Why listen to those nasty messages, not just once (and why keep listening the first time – did you expect to hear my voice saying APRIL FOOL or something), but again and again?  And then get upset at THE PARISH because of the nasty things they were hearing.

Don’t we do the same thing in our own lives.  We encounter a problem, and we try to fix it (maybe an addiction?).  Our fix doesn’t work.  So instead of taking a step back, realizing there is a bigger problem, we just try the same broken routine, over and over and over, and find ourselves getting into bigger and bigger problems.  But we don’t stop, ask someone (perhaps God?) for help, or ask the advice and counsel of a wise and holy person, we just keep going back, doing the same thing, and wondering why the problem isn’t solved.

Now I’m not equating God with the phone company, but the simple call for help and guidance set me on the right track right away.  But I had to admit there was a problem and that I WAS POWERLESS to change it (sound familiar, people), and turn to a HIGER POWER (or at least an expert in the field – the phone company) to fix the problem.  Then I had to follow their directions, and keep those directions handy in case the problem reoccurs.

By the way, I know that phone systems like ours can be hacked from the outside, and the problem we had can happen.  We are taking steps to prevent the problem from happening again.