WHEN PHONE CALLS WERE FUN

A FRIDAY FLASHBACK AS TRUE NOW AS WHEN I ORIGINALLY WROTE IT

At 7 in the morning, I woke up. I tried to remember my dream. Something about cats made of smoke and a clothesline that was part of a computer game. A shrink who offered to scratch my back, but couldn’t find the right spot. I took a couple of Tylenol and a muscle relaxant. Rearranged the bed and tucked myself in for a few more hours of sleep. The singular benefit of retirement is not being on a schedule and being able to sleep late.

The phone rang. 

I looked at the caller ID. It showed a local number but I knew it was not a local call. I’ve been getting a spate of these “local” calls. All of them feature a guy with a heavy accent informing me that social security is closing my account. The scammer’s technology picks up a local number and displays it. I bought a new “landline” phone that has a “blocking” feature. Except each scammer uses a different number. They use auto-dialers, so almost never does the same number appear again. Blocking is more a matter of making you feel better than solving a problem. Often, the number I see on the phone is my number. I’m sure I am not calling myself. 

I answered the phone in what has become my surly morning greeting: “Who are you and what do you want?” There was no response. A bit of crackle on the line, but no voice. Not even a recording. I hung up. More accurately, pressed the OFF key

It has been a long time since I expected a ringing telephone to herald a call from a friend. I don’t even expect it to be a return call from someone with whom I do business. I expect all calls to be scams, surveys, or sales pitches.

Probably 90% of the calls I get are recorded. That takes away the one thing which used to help you feel better: insulting the dialer. Yes, I know he’s just the bottom rung of a ring of scammers, but just because he’s low level doesn’t mean he’s a good guy. This is work only a thief will accept. That I can’t even insult the caller or his or her fellow thieves is just one more layer of ugliness in an ugly situation. Insulting the person on the phone used to be the only positive side to these calls from anonymous people trying to steal our money. Even that tiny pleasure is gone.

It was President John F. Kennedy (JFK) in his inaugural address at the height of Cold War who said;  “So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is subject to proof.”  

Although I believe in civility, I have abandoned good telephone manners. Telephones are not a way to communicate unless I’m making the call. Otherwise, telephones are annoying and intrusive, one more attempt to steal personal data so someone can hack us, steal our identity, or scam us.

I can’t make them stop calling because the number on the Caller ID is a ripoff too. There’s nothing to report. Nothing makes these calls disappear, but I have to admit that their being recorded makes it easy to hang up. If I ask how they got the number — assuming there’s someone to ask — they tell me they got my telephone number from a form I filled out “online.”

I do not fill out forms online. Never. Ever. If you fill out one form, you will get a thousand calls in mere seconds.

I do not fill in forms online or any form that which requires I include a phone number unless it’s for my doctor or hospital and even then, I’m careful.

As part of the day’s epiphanies, I realized how technology steals pieces of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with technology. It’s neutral, neither good nor bad. It’s what people do with it that’s bad. Those people have ruined telephones for me, probably permanently.

Unwanted telephone calls may seem a minor detail in view of the many terrible things going on in our world, but I can remember waiting with pleasant anticipation for the phone to ring. It wasn’t so long ago.

Or was it?



Categories: Communications, Humor, manners & civility, Technology, Telephone

Tags: , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. Once upon a time a friend would ask to use your telephone, mainly because he/she was away from home where their own was kept and expediency prevented a quick run home. You would nod and only be concerned about one thing, that it not be a “long-distance” call for which the phone company, and there was only ONE, would charge you extra. It wasn’t that you minded letting your friend use the phone, even for a little LD call, it was just that it was considered bad manners to ask to use it and then make a long distance call without asking first, calling collect, or reversing the charges, not to mention, offering immediate compensation for charges you could incur  by contacting the operator after the call was completed. This is a lot of words to say it wasn’t a big deal, and the rules were simple.

    Now today? Today is another story. Today it’s personal.., someone asking to use your phone, or just grabbing it off the table is tantamount to walking in on you while you’re in the bathroom, taking a pee (or worse). We don’t even call them “telephones” anymore.., they are “devices” touching someone’s device is almost as inappropriate as feeling your friend’s wife’s/husband’s ass. These things are now very personal, the loss of which creates panic not unlike walking out of the house without some critical piece of clothing, or worse, naked. How many times have you jumped in the car, driven a few blocks, or further, only to realize you’ve forgotten your ph.., uh…device, and negotiated a quick U-turn, even if it was gonna make you late for work, just to retrieve your phone? So, let’s say you lend your phone/device to a friend or, God forbid, a complete stranger. Do you move out of ear shot to allow some privacy, or do you lurk nearby to grab it back as soon as the call is over? After all, it’s not wired to a fixed system, you use this thing for email, texting, paying bills, and other very personal things that, if it were to fall into the wrong hands, might trigger a national emergency, or maybe worse, get you into serious trouble with your spouse, or, God forbid, the government.

    Bottom line, these so-called “Robocalls” are an invasion of our personal space

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  2. When I moved from Massachusetts to San Francisco more than a dozen years ago, I kept the same area code (508) on my cellphone (I haven’t had a landline since moving west). Recently (over the past few months) I’ve been getting 3 to 4 (sometimes up to 6) daily calls from area code 508, most, but not all, with an exchange of 720. I never answer them and there’s never a voicemail message left. I’ve blocked each calling number, but for calls from (508) 720-xxxx, xxxx is 9,000 unique numbers. So at 3-4 calls from (508) 720-xxxx, it would take between 6 1/2 to 8+ years to block all calls from those numbers. 😠

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  3. So True! So True! I’ll give you a call, and we can discuss how much we hate these techno-pirates. 😉 😯

    Like

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