People were nicer when they had dumb phones.

“Is this the party to whom I am speaking?”

Maybe it’s just perception.  Perhaps it’s just skewed recollection.  But it does seem that manners were better before answering machines, voicemail, email, instant messaging, cell phones.  At that time, if you called someone and didn’t get an answer, you assumed they weren’t home, or busy at the time in some way or form and couldn’t take your call.  So you called back at another time.

These days it is assumed you are available 24/7 and if you don’t take the call, it is a deliberate snub.  You are absolutely vilified for not answering, sometimes quite publicly.  The caller is offended that you dared to be unavailable.  After all, how can there be anything more important in your life than that person’s phone call?

I am not available 24/7 for phone calls.  I prefer not to be tuned in or turned on to electronic devices 24/7.  I have a life.

There was a time when it was my job to be available 24/7 for system support.  The responsibility was rotated among the staff so that one person was primary for one week at a time – not 365 days continuously.

Sleep is not overrated.

It wasn’t just that the 2 am phone calls always happened on my watch, or the weekend that the calls were hourly beginning at 9 pm Friday night, or putting a crimp in a dinner date when the pager went off as I was about to get into my car in the office parking lot.  And then there was the ref  who refused to let my play with a pager.  Heck, surgeons are in the OR with pagers on.  Someone’s going to die on a volleyball court if my pager goes off?  And it was an outdoor beach court.  But I digress.

Manners.  Patience.  Two way communication.  They’re going the way of public phones, emergency call boxes on the highways.  And yet, talking/texting on a cell phone while driving is illegal in some states and a heck of a lot of people have proven that they can’t walk and talk at the same time without having an accident.

We’ve all received our share of wrong numbers:  The fire department wanting to order pizza.  No.   I could take the order, but you won’t be getting the food.  The doctors confirming appointments.  No, I have no need of that procedure.  The hospital calling doctors.  No again.  Even long distance.  Sorry guy, she really didn’t want to go out with you and deliberately gave you a wrong number.  (Been there.  Done that.)

The wrong numbers don’t necessarily stop with the use of an answering machine/voicemail.  There is an assumption that if you leave a message, it is received by the intended party.  However, that is predicated on listening to the machine message before leaving one.  Heck, glad you and the family are having fun on vacation and you may have enjoyed a visit if you had called the right number.  Then there was the angry guy whose complete message was “I’m in jail.  Get me out!”  I think not.  You’ll be even angrier when you realize you wasted your one phone call on a wrong number.

Manners.  Patience.

And while using a generic system message generally cuts down the number of  unwanted calls, it can also cause confusion to some callers.  My aunt thought she dialed wrong and hung up when she heard an unknown voice on the machine.  My mother, however, thought I got lucky the night before and hung up deliberately because she thought she was interrupting since she was the only person who would ever call at 8 am on a Saturday.

Polite recordings are no deterrent.  Perhaps I should try

“Hello and welcome to the psychiatric hotline.
If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 – repeatedly.
If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2.
If you have multiple personalities, please press 3,4,5 and 6.
If you are paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want.  Just stay on the line until we can trace the call.
If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.
If you are manic-depressive, it doesn’t matter which number you press.  No one will answer.”

I’ll probably still get messages for the wrong people.

Maybe we should just go back to the practice of using telephone operators to place all calls.

questions, comments, emotional outbursts....

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