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September 4, 2007

Unknown Numbers

Filed under: Arlo and Janis, Bill Bickel, CIDU, college, comic strips, comics, humor, telephones — Cidu Bill @ 12:02 am


It so happens that my own son, like Arlo and Janis’s, just went off to college. Unlike Arlo and Janis, however, I know my son’s telephone number. 

Or am I missing another joke here?

A couple of weeks ago, by the way, Gene’s departure was the subject of a clever “breaking the fourth wall” strip:



  1. I read it as she was expecting/fearing calls from police/hospital/random strangers to tell her that either he’s injured, ill, or in trouble.

    Comment by Shah — September 4, 2007 @ 12:15 am

  2. I think that’s it. Police, hospitals, etc. often have unlisted, restricted, or otherwise unviewable numbers.

    Comment by Charlene — September 4, 2007 @ 3:36 am

  3. Nah, she doesn’t look worried in the second panel.

    Comment by Powers — September 4, 2007 @ 6:56 am

  4. She snatched that phone up pretty fast though. I’m never THAT anxious to answer an unlisted!

    Comment by Shah — September 4, 2007 @ 7:19 am

  5. ‘unknown numbers’ could be a reference to solving math problems. you know, solve for ‘x’ where x=blah blah blah. probably from helping ‘Gene’ with his/her math homework and such. maybe.

    Comment by lonemage — September 4, 2007 @ 7:36 am

  6. I didn’t see that strip with the wonderful reference to a fifty-five-year-old character in diapers. Or kindergarten. That’s pretty awesome, right there.

    An unlisted number might also be a cell-phone; or any unknown number calling you to let you know your son is harmed or injured. Those unlisted numbers take on an eerie quality when you’re expecting bad news.

    Comment by Steve — September 4, 2007 @ 8:30 am

  7. Some pay phones, and many calling cards, still show up on Caller ID as “unknown” or “out of area”. Whenever I called home when I was in College that’s how my calls showed up.

    Comment by Steven Hunter — September 4, 2007 @ 9:41 am

  8. Most of the time, it takes two rings for the number (or “unknown number”) to display. She’s so anxious, she doesn’t even wait for the display. Which makes you wonder why they’re paying for call display.

    Comment by Janice — September 4, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

  9. It’s not anxiety, it’s empty nest loneliness.

    She’s picking up calls she would normally ignore just to talk to someone (other than Arlo).

    Comment by DPWally — September 4, 2007 @ 4:33 pm

  10. I agree on the view that the caller ID is displaying “UNKNOWN CALLER”, not that she’s seeing a number she doesn’t recognize. And she’s so apron-string-desperate to hear from Gene that as long as she doesn’t have proof it’s not him, it might BE him.

    Comment by Dave Van Domelen — September 4, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

  11. I thought it was that his friends (girlfriends?!) were calling him at all hours and so she wasn’t answering because all of the calls were for him.

    but apparently I’m the only person who read it this way?!

    Comment by laterain — September 5, 2007 @ 7:47 am

  12. or maybe it is that she’s eager for her son to call. she seems to be giving her husband a “shut up!” look when he says what he says.

    Comment by laterain — September 5, 2007 @ 7:48 am

  13. Upon a second look at this it seems that she is waiting for Gene to call. First, when she picks up the phone it’s a cheery “Hello!” with an exclamation point instead of the question mark most people affix to it. Her face also seems to be happy there. When she realizes it’s a telemarketer or something similar on the other end, her face becomes mildly angry and she says she’s not interested right away.

    Also, I don’t think she’s looking at the caller ID at all, since she snatches the phone by the first ring and if she needs reading glasses for the newspaper, I doubt she could read the number off that quickly. Also, Arlo says “the unknown numbers” and not “the ‘unknown numbers'”, meaning it’s just a noun and modifier and not the specific phrase. Or a typo.

    Comment by bAT L. — September 6, 2007 @ 12:16 am

  14. Exactly, bAT L. is right. She is waiting for Gene to call. Since he left for school, he doesn’t call often or he doesn’t call at all. She does not know his new number, so she answers the unknown numbers. Unfortunately, those are telemarketers. It is not very funny, but jokes are sometimes just ironic…

    Comment by Jerry — December 4, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

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