The Chipmunks Sound Like Barry White

Last Friday, as soon as I got to work I realized that I had forgotten my phone at home. My reaction was completely reasonable under the circumstances.

I flat-out panicked.

I might add that “under the circumstances” doesn’t refer to any particularly compelling need for a phone that day. There was no impending crisis, and I wasn’t expecting any important calls or texts. But nowadays, I always bring my phone with me, wherever I go. And whenever I go. Some of my most spirited games of Angry Birds have taken place behind the privacy wall of a bathroom stall. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration.

I usually stick to Words With Friends.

Seriously though, my phone is always with me. It’s on the dining room table when I’m eating, on the nightstand when I’m sleeping, and on the couch beside me when I’m watching TV. And right there on the filing cabinet next to my desk at work. Is this an obsession? I guess so, but I’m far from alone. In this day and age, everybody takes their phone everywhere. Hell, you don’t even have to refer to it as a “cell” phone anymore. Does anybody still have a landline? I gave mine up 7 or 8 years ago, and have never once missed it. I remember when I first moved into my townhouse in the fall of 2006, I briefly toyed with the idea of adding a landline in case the kids were home alone and needed to reach me, but that became a moot point when their mom got them mobile phones of their own. So now I’ve got these white plastic plates with oddly-shaped holes in the wall that serve no purpose other than to let cold drafts of air into the house. The kids probably don’t even know what they are.

WTF is this?!
WTF is this?!

Then again, I’m all about the retro decor, so you’d think I’d be into ancient rotary-dial phones with big, looping cords. Maybe I can buy one for looks. I did, over the weekend, buy a vintage Zenith stereo console/cabinet complete with eight-track and turntable off of Craigslist. I’ve wanted one of these for a long time, and a woman in Kelso was selling one for $50 – an excellent price. So Tara and I drove up there (Kelso is a good 45 minutes north of here) to check it out. The piece was beautiful, and in excellent shape. Only we discovered the record player didn’t work. The seller offered to knock off $10 if we were still interested, and so I rolled the dice and bought the thing, hoping it would be a quick and easy fix. Keep in mind that I have no mechanical aptitude whatsoever – I’m the guy who was once assembling a Weber charcoal grill and put the wheels on upside down. Yeah, the ex never let me live that one down. So we got the thing home, and I spent the better part of the afternoon tinkering with it. At first the turntable wouldn’t spin at all. We inspected the wires and they were all in good shape, so I turned to my trusty research assistant, Dr. Google, for help. I ended up removing the platter and cleaning the idler wheel and pulley with isopropyl alcohol, and actually got it to work!* I couldn’t help but feel all smart and shit. I had never even “heard” of an idler wheel before, or seen the inner workings of a turntable. Suddenly I felt like an expert.

*Working, yes – only the speed is way off. You play a record on 33 1/3 RPM and it’s slowed way down. If you put on a Chipmunks record, they’d sound like Barry White. But, hey – it spins! I’m pretty confident there’s nothing too terribly wrong with the unit. I suspect, based on my internet findings, that some of the oils have caked up inside the unit. A little disassembly and lubrication should do the trick, but I’m going to let the pros handle this one. I’ve got a lead on a stereo repair shop in Portland that specializes in vintage equipment. True, the cabinet is going to end up costing me more than I’d hoped, but like I said, it’s really nice and worth the extra investment.

This was a steal for $40! If only the record player worked...
This was a steal for $40! If only the record player worked…

Published by Mark Petruska

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

18 thoughts on “The Chipmunks Sound Like Barry White

    1. My grandmother had one, and I was always enamored with it while growing up. Sadly, she got rid of it when she sold her house and moved into a retirement community. I would have gladly taken it off her hands!


  1. My ex and I had one of those consoles, too.

    I still have a home phone, but it’s VoIP through the cable company. So it doesn’t use the phone jack. But I still have a phone sitting on the now non-functional jack. Which every once in a while when I’m in the kitchen, I pick up as if to make a call. And then I remember what century I live in.


  2. Wow!! I love the Zenith! You didn’t mention the 8-track. Curious if it still works. Even though the Chimpmunks sounded like Barry, at least you could understand what they were saying. No?

    I keep our landline specifically for David. He is nor will he ever be electronic savvy. Leaving the house without your phone is like leaving the house without any clothes on…totally naked and vulnerable.


    1. They threw in an 8-track and I tried it but couldn’t get it to work, either. Then again, I didn’t really know what I was doing – I’ve never used an 8-track before. I care more about the record player, anyway.

      I meant to mention that I felt naked and vulnerable without my phone. I’m assuming that was implied through my “flat-out panicked” statement! 🙂


  3. How, exactly, does one put wheels on upside down?

    My folks still had a landline, until recently. If it were up to me, that’s be the only phone they had, since it was the one they could both work. That way I wouldn’t have to reprogram my dad’s phone every three weeks, or show mom how to answer voice mails, or remind her to take her “mobile phone” with her when she leaves the house!


    1. Ahh, yes. I still smile every time my parents call and announce, “this is your mother/father.” Yeah, I know. Caller ID and all.

      As far as the wheels go, I have no freakin’ idea. But somehow I figured out a way!


  4. I just learned about what you have, it’s called nomophobia. As in “NO-MObile phone”. It’s legit. But listen to your Barry “Chipmunk” White and chill! It’s probably good to tune out for a little bit.


    1. Nomophobia. That’s it! I thought I forgot my phone once before, years ago, but it turns out it had simply fallen out of my pocket and was sitting in my car, waiting for me at the end of the day. Oops.


  5. “You play a record on 33 1/3 RPM and it’s slowed way down. If you put on a Chipmunks record, they’d sound like Barry White.”

    Mark, that was HILARIOUS!!!!

    But I have to say, I am VERY impressed that you were able to get the turntable to work. You GO, boy!

    And from the photo of the console, the exterior looks in MINT condition! Yes, definitely a steal for $40!!!

    And can you believe I still have a landline phone?


    1. No, Ron. I don’t believe it. I’ll need pictures to serve as proof, if you’d be so kind.

      But I have to say, I am VERY impressed that you were able to get the turntable to work. You GO, boy!

      That makes two of us! Especially following the upside-down-wheels fiasco of ’93.


  6. Do you still have vinyl to play on the turntable? I didn’t think people even kept LP’s anymore. The last time I had a landline was when I lived in Pickle Lake where there was absolutely NO cell service. When we left we never had a landline again.


    1. Do we still have vinyl? Hmm…

      Maybe a few LPs somewhere.

      Actually, we are avid record collectors, and our collection is probably somewhere in the vicinity of 200 albums or so, and growing. Just picked up three new ones last weekend, as a matter of fact! 🙂


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