What’s That Weird Buzzing Sound?

$30 Paperweight 

I picked up the phone the other day to call my dad, and got a busy signal. That took me aback – when was the last time I’d heard one of those?! It occurred to me then that busy signals also belong on my list of things that are obsolete nowadays. Thankfully, because they’re annoying. I tried calling back again and again, only to get that same ingratiating tone – one that is slightly less unpleasant than a buzzing alarm clock before the sun has come up. With cell phones, you don’t have this problem. The phone rings even if the person you’re calling is on the line, and either goes to voicemail, or the other person can pick up thanks to call waiting. I love the efficiency in that whole process.

As irritating as the busy signal was (it took twenty minutes of repeated attempts to finally get through), at least I knew what it was. A few weeks ago, Rusty had to call my parents for something, so I handed him my phone. He dialed the number, waited a few seconds, then gave it back to me.

“There’s something wrong with the phone,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“There’s a weird buzzing sound, and nobody is picking up.”

I snatched the phone from his hands, dialed it myself…and laughed. My son had no idea what a busy signal was! I was incredulous at first, but then realized that he probably had never heard one before. That’s either sad or incredibly funny. Maybe both.

My parents have a cell phone – they just never use it. Hell, not only do they have a landline, but the phone in the living room is a rotary dial. You should have seen the looks on my kids’ faces when they saw that for the first time. My parents aren’t exactly “early adopters.” I remember in the early 90s trying to convince them they should invest in an answering machine, and up until last year they still used a VCR to record shows. Thankfully, they converted to a DVR (which, naturally, they love).

Something tells me their cell phone is always going to be nothing more than a $30 a month paperweight, though.

Nature’s Air Conditioning was on Full Blast

Yesterday, my dad asked if I’d be interested in driving into the mountains for a nice little summer hike and an exploration of Ape Cave. I took him up on his offer, but insisted on driving because his car does not have air conditioning (see what I mean about not being “early adopters”?) and we would surely need it since it was, after all, the middle of summer.

We stopped for a picnic lunch at Beaver Bay, a nice little spot situated on the banks of Yale Lake. The sky was overcast, a stiff breeze was blowing off the lake, and we shivered beneath sweatshirts and jackets while eating our sandwiches. This may yet go down as The Summer That Wasn’t, I’m telling you. “It’s just the wind on the lake,” I told him optimistically, but when we arrived at the trailhead – 2700 feet in elevation – the air was every bit as cold. My dad said it felt like we were hiking in an air-conditioned room, and that was a pretty accurate description. The sky remained gray with clouds obscuring the tops of the trees, and the temperature couldn’t have been warmer than about 58. Regardless, it was beautiful, even if the hike to June Lake is all uphill and gains 700 feet. I have hiked many times when it was sunny and 85, and I would much rather have a cool, cloudy hike.

Breathtaking scenery despite low clouds and a crisp August chill.
The smaller of two waterfalls spilling into June Lake, elevation 3,400 feet.
My dad, navigating the entrance to Ape Cave.

Ape Cave was just a few miles away, so we hit that next. This nearly 3-mile long lava tube was formed 1,900 years ago when hot molten lava from Mount St. Helens poured down the volcano’s southern flank and entered a stream channel. The surface of the lava cooled, forming a hard crust, and insulated the lava flowing beneath, which was able to travel a great distance.

/geology lesson.

I had never been to Ape Cave before, despite living here for nearly seventeen years! My parents have gone many times, and even my kids have visited. It was nice to finally get out there and explore it. Caves are fascinating, and this one was fun.

On the drive back, I did turn the A/C on, just so I wouldn’t feel like I had driven my car all that way for nothing.

We didn’t really need it, though. The high in Portland was 69.

Good Things Come in Cardboard Boxes

Later in the evening, I stepped outside to check the mail, and found a package resting against my door. It was a book-shaped cardboard box, and I knew what it contained without even opening it. An advance copy of my novel was due to arrive any day from the printer, and so I tore into it eagerly. I cannot tell you the jubilation I felt when holding my book in my hands for the very first time.

Holding my book for the first time, I felt like a new father showing off his baby.

I stared at it. Flipped through the pages, read the back cover, the introduction. It is indistinguishable from any book you would pull off the shelf in your local bookstore. In other words, it looks “real.” It IS real, of course. I do not believe there is any stigma left in self-publishing these days. Not when the finished product turns out looking so professional.

In just a few more days, it will be available for sale!

I crawled into bed last night and, as I so often do, curled up with a book. Only this was my book, and I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it felt to be reading it. I’ve only ever seen it in manuscript form before, double-spaced on 8.5″ x 11″ paper, and even though I know how the story ends, it is so incredibly cool to be reading it as if it were a book I’d just purchased at Powell’s. I read the first three chapters and can’t wait to dive in again.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

30 thoughts on “What’s That Weird Buzzing Sound?

  1. Ah, Mark, congrats on getting your hands on that book! What a great accomplishment.

    It is so funny to think of someone not knowing what a busy signal sounds like–but it makes so much sense.

    And how hysterical your father does not have AC in his car. However, I don’t think it’s a matter of not being early adopters. If this were 20 years ago, yes, but, good God, this is 2011! Are you sure his AC maybe isn’t just broken, or did he really purchase a car without it. Do they even sell those any more?

    I hate to break it to you, but it won’t be long till that book you’ve enjoyed getting your hands on, will be obsolete, as well. Kind of ironic—————



    1. His car is a Kia that came without air-conditioning. And, it’s got manual windows and locks. I’m just as surprised as you, trust me.

      I’m offering an e-book version of my novel, as well – and also stubbornly optimistic that real books will never become obsolete. I have no desire to read on an electronic tablet! But that’s just me.


  2. So cool to see your book!
    And…you went DOWN Ape Cave? or did you do the UP portion?

    it’s super chilly in there…
    we are going soon, methinks.

    busy signal–we have that now, since we went super-cheap on our remaining landline (kept for 911purposes)…



    1. We did the lower portion, Jane. I may try the upper cave another time, but it’s a 2.5-hour round trip and we didn’t have that much time. Plus, it’s supposedly pretty challenging…you’ll have to let me know how you enjoy it! You’re going this weekend, right?


  3. Just during our hike to Cape Flattery yesterday, I was mentioning a hike I took a while back to Tara and holy smokes…just look at that picture of June Lake…that is the aforementioned hike where Dave and I went!! So, thanks for posting that and putting me out of my ‘unknown’ misery!!

    So, if you forget to mark your place in your book, can you just start anywhere since you already know what’s in it and you won’t miss what you haven’t read? Just wondering…lol

    Congrats again Mark and I really can’t wait to read it. I know I’m getting a very special, autographed copy of your book but I may still get it on my kindle as well. 🙂


    1. Seriously? You went to June Lake, and I happened to post about it? Weird!

      Ha…yes, I suppose I could pick up wherever I left off and know exactly what happened before, and what will happen next. But I’m still getting a kick out of reading it! It’s been a while.


  4. Two things, maybe more if I get to chattin:

    First: I’m glad you included the link to Ape Cave because I was mad after reading and not knowing why the place was called “Ape” cave. I’m not going to tell you all why it has that name, you’ll have to clink the link too. :p

    Second: Those photos are awesome and it looks creepy. You should rename it: Cave of the Ghouls.

    Third: (see, I’m chatty. just got done with work) Love the photo of you and your new book. I’m on vacation next week, which is when your book “hits the shelves”? I’d like to reserve one signed copy please. You can ship my complimentary voodoo donut maple bacon bar separately. I don’t want the pages getting sticky.


    1. I’m telling you, Jess, unless you eat the maple bacon bar fresh – like, when the bacon is still hot – it’s just not going to be the same! You’ll have to come here to get it again, but when you do? Totally my treat. 🙂


  5. “There’s a weird buzzing sound, and nobody is picking up.”

    I snatched the phone from his hands, dialed it myself…and laughed. My son had no idea what a busy signal was!”

    Mark….that is HILARIOUS! But I guess being a child of this technology age, he really wouldn’t have any idea what a busy signal was. It’s funny though, because sometimes I too will hear a busy signal on one of my friends phones who lives in Florida. She hates call waiting so she refuses to get it on her home phone service.

    Your day with your dad sounded wonderful.

    “and the temperature couldn’t have been warmer than about 58.”

    Oh gawd, I’m so envious!

    Great photos, Mark!

    And YAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOOO on receiving your book!!!!! I bet you were jumping up and down! I can’t tell ya how happy and excited I am for you, bud! And what an incredible feeling that must have been to curl up with your OWN book!!!!!

    Woot! Woot! Woot!


    1. I thought of you when I wrote that, Ron. Actually – I thought of you during the hike. I was wondering how hot and humid it was in Philly, and thinking about how you would have been thrilled to have been experiencing temperatures in the FIFTIES in August!


  6. Congrats on the book, and what a lovely explorations into all things obsolete. Beautiful pictures as well. That looks like someplace I would like to explore.


  7. Great blog. I had a car in the early 90’s that didn’t have power windows locks or A/C. What a mistake that was. Loved your pictures. Your book looks great can’t wait to read it. What a great accomplisment. Congratulations!!!


  8. Yay for the book! I am pleased that I almost never hear busy signals any more – your son’s reaction was funny!
    Your parents have a rotary dial?! Even my in-laws have had a push button phone for many years (though they were paying rent to AT&T for it for probably 25 years rather than buy a phone). When my father-in-law died, we got my mother-in-law a phone with caller id built in,so she could stop answering every dumb call that comes her way – but that was expecting way too much of her.


  9. The rotarty dial phone is from my mother’s house-it even works but it is mainly a keepsake memory of the “good old days”.


  10. We’ve had an unusually cool summer here, too. Days can get hot, but they cool down at about 6 pm and we can actually turn off the A/C. Something unheard of in the Central Valley.

    Totally cool about the book. I know the feeling. Had it when I watched our first few publications spin off the press. I couldn’t believe that the press-checkers were throwing copies in the dumpster! Whaddya mean, throwing them away? They’re all golden!!! So, I get it, Mark.

    I was talking to my girls the other day about how phones used to be stuck to the wall. My childhood phone was like that. I told them that their dad used to have to take the receiver….and its tremendously long cord…out in the backyard to talk to me when we were dating. They were like deer in the headlights. Didn’t understand.


    1. It was comical how long some of those cords were, Heidi! I’ve heard you guys are having a relatively cool summer, too. The west coast is the only part of the country that has lucked out this year, that’s for sure. I bet Ross will have stories to tell about the heat and humidity when he gets back!


  11. “That’s either sad or incredibly funny. Maybe both.” — Ask me, it’s incredibly amazing. I had never thought of this! Wow….

    Crisp August chill….hilarious

    Seriously, I know I’ve said it before, but every time you do a book update I get all sorts of excited for you. I mean, I’ve never fantasized about much more beyond the book deal. All I think about is getting a book deal – but I never think about the details, like the artwork, the holding the book in my hand. It’s so fun to watch this 🙂


  12. Wow – how exciting to receive the first copy of your book. I know how you feel about reading it in ‘book form’. Congratulations. And it is only 13 degrees here today (about 55 Fahrenheit) but it is winter.


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