Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Past Deadline: Who's Calling, Please?

A friend of my mom's told me today that she reads my column in the paper and that I am "so normal!" I'm not sure if she had already read today's issue of The Perth Courier (Tuesday, May 5/09) when she said that....

Who’s calling, please?

Remember when the busy signal was king? When answering machines didn’t exist? How the phone would ring and ring if someone wasn’t home and you’d just hang up?

I do. I even remember rotary phones with their clickety dial and real-bell ring. Yes, kids, that’s why folks talk about “dialling” a number instead of calling or pressing it.

I think today we’re too connected and accessible. It just might lead to brain damage. (See below.)

This is a busy house filled with small kids, noisy cats and a Groom-boy. Sometimes when the phone rings I prefer to let the answering machine get it while the din dies down. I know it’s hard to believe, but occasionally people are shrieking at my house. Usually it’s not Groom-boy; it’s often the small blonde one who isn’t old enough to go to school yet.

There are some good things about call display. One is, as I’ve alluded to, that it gives you a chance to collect your thoughts or papers or small screaming children before answering the phone. This is especially handy when one wants to portray a somewhat professional appearance with one’s home-based communications business.

Another great thing is it lets you be a goof. When Groom-boy knows the caller, he can gruffly answer, “Puffy’s Pizza, Puffy speaking.” There’s a guy who knows how to have fun!

It’s also a reasonably good screen against telemarketers. Sometimes the telemarketers will give up after a few tries of no one answering. Not always, though. Even call display cannot counter persistence.

There is one drawback, though, for people who are compulsive about these sorts of things, and that is the “gotta know who’s calling” syndrome. With call display you start to recognize which numbers are probably telemarketers. That’s all fine and good, but sometimes people with legitimate-looking numbers and names have the nerve to call without leaving a message.


I’ll say, “Groom-boy,” because that’s what I call him at home, “do you know Joe Smith? It’s a Perth number.”

“Nope,” he’ll respond.

“Well he called here and didn’t leave a message.”

“Uh huh.”

So then you scratch your head and wonder what on earth Joe Smith could want. Who is he? Is it important? Are you missing out on something crucial? A new client? So you look it up in the phone book and see he lives on Hwy. 7. That sure narrows it down. “Aha!” you say. It still means nothing.

Eventually you slam your head against the wall with the futility of it all – these people who call once and never call back and leave you guessing as to why. And then you get a life and remember that, yes, sometimes people call wrong numbers. There’s no need to leave a message when you realize you’ve done such a thing.

Getting a grip, now.

Recently a number came up that had a 613 area code but no name. I bravely answered it. A very polite woman introduced herself and asked if Groom-boy was home (only she didn’t call him Groom-boy). I said he wasn’t and asked to take a message, whereupon she asked me if I was a supporter of a particular federal political party. There must have been something emphatic in the way I quickly said “NO!” because she thanked me and that was that.

Later, because we’re fun-loving folks with small children who go to bed early, we Googled the phone number. That can be a fun pastime – try it with your own number sometime! Invite your friends! Anyway, a long list of hits came up consisting chiefly of people posting notes on reverse-look-up websites complaining about harassing phone calls from this political party. One writer said the party is “annoying the entire country one phone number at a time.”

Hahaha! Ah, the Internet. What fun!

It was odd to see so many perplexed people posting rather desperate messages wondering why certain numbers had called them. (Kind of like this column, I guess.)It makes me think we were all better off when we had less of this sort of thing to contemplate.


Heather said...

First thing I do when a 8xx number calls me or an area code I don't recognize... I google it. If anyone has complained about it I block it. I might even be blocking my own credit card company. Who knows!!! :)

Gen said...

Eric likes to answer the phone as though he's a Chinese Restaurant. I'm sure the caller doesn't think its nearly as funny as he does. His accent is quite authentic though.

momma's heart said...

Just wanted to say Happy Mother's Day!