Untangling a Telephone Cord

(and preventing it from tangling in the future)

Untangling a phone cord is easy; keeping it from tangling again is almost as easy.

1.     Why telephone cords tangle: an unconscious spiral motion.  A telephone cord will not tangle by itself.  Instead, it tangles because the user unwittingly completes a circle each time he or she uses the phone. 

With your telephone on your desk before you, pick up the phone using your normal hand and bring it to your normal ear.  Observe how the phone's angle rotates, from 180º away from you when at rest, to 90º closer (left or right depending on the ear). 

Now, if you hang up the phone by precisely reversing your actions, the phone will not tangle.  But many people don't do that; instead, when they replace the phone, they actually continue the circuit, perhaps by using a different hand to replace the phone, perhaps by an unconscious twist.  (Most people do this in the direction of the spirals; I don't know why.)  In any case, the critical element is each pickup-hangup sequence adds +1 twist to the phone.  Do enough +1 twists and any phone cord will eventually tangle --- and keep tangling until it is a tight knot and the user must crouch over the deskset as if conducting a clandestine conversation.

2.     To untangle the phone, reverse the twists.  All the tugging, pulling, and stretching in the world will not untangle the phone cord -- actually, it makes things worse.  To untangle, you simply must as many -1 twists as you previously did +1's.  There are several ways to do this:

3.     To prevent future tangles.  Either use a movement that prevents +1 twisting, or simply keep an eye on your phone cord after every few calls.  If you see meta-loops forming within the cord, it's a sure sign you have reverted to your previous unconscious behavior.  A flat phone cord on your desk is a happy phone cord.

David A. Smith


©Copyright 2006 David Alexander Smith