Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hanging on the Telephone

Hey boy that's Balwyn calling
Get off the phone and get out of Balwyn - Skyhooks - "Balwyn Calling"

There's something about me and phones. I grew up in phone-less houses and didn't live anywhere with a phone until I was about 34.

First I didn't have a phone as my mother only earned half the wage of a man because until the seventies, women were not considered to be equal in Australia. After I left home I didn't have a phone because I was a poor university student living with other poor university students. And then it was because I was doing the post-university Australian thing of traveling around the world.

And then I married the-man-who-doesn't-believe-in-washing-machines-or-phones ... Ten more phone-less years went by until we divorced and I had the phone put on.

Of course now I have several phones but still I seem to experience phone weirdness. Take today for example, when my friend Samantha called. My Australian friends call me and ask me to call them back, as it costs me not a cent, and overseas calling is still relatively expensive from Australia. "It's Samantha please call me back," she said.

I never remember my friend's phone numbers and usually just look them up on whatever electronic device is closest to me. But this time I was feeling lazy so asked Samantha for her number. She rattled off a number and I wrote it down on a piece of paper, then dialed it. An elderly gentleman with an Australian accent answered. He appeared to be deaf. He certainly wasn't Samantha and I just didn't have the energy to explain that someone had given me a wrong number. So I just hung up on him and looked up Samantha's number on my computer. It was nothing like the one she'd given me.

So I called her back, and told her she'd given me the wrong number. I read it back to her.

That's not my number, what IS my number?" SHE was asking ME!!!

"I don't know," I snapped at her. "But you just called me," she answered in a puzzled voice.

Turns out she'd given me her parent's number. Yes, I have been told that I have unusual friends ...

In America when someone calls you, they just say, "It's me," when you answer the phone. Sometimes they don't even say that, but just launch straight in about whatever it is that they have phoned about. It isn't as bad now that caller-ID is commonplace, but this practice used to really annoy me way back a century ago.

It's almost as annoying as when you phone customer service somewhere and after an interminable wait on hold at last you get a human and are greeted with inane questions such as "Hello, my name is Brittany, how are you feeling today?"

Or people dining alone at restaurants who talk loudly into their cell phones. There's a wonderful Larry David "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode where Larry is sitting alone at a table with a diner also alone at the restaurant, conversing loudly into his cell phone. Annoyed Larry starts his own conversation with an imaginary companion. You can see it here on the left.

Or people with long recorded greetings on their voice-mail boxes. Or people who have their little kids give the greeting, punctuated with 'ums' and 'ahs' and giggles.

But perhaps the most annoying greeting I've heard about is one a friend told me about. She has a friend who never picks up and the recorded greeting is, "Hi, this is Jenny, please call me back."

Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

I get ticked when people call and expect that i recognize their voice. It seems to be a Mid West (USA) thing just like leaving garage doors open which seems to mean "I'm home" to some people. Duh.
But to have people assume that you can tell their voice particularly when I'm half deaf - at least to most frequencies, is, how can I say this, rude? Egotistical? Or when they say, "This is Shirley, Jack, or whatever" when I have several friends with the same name who call me frequently.
I just wish people would say, "Hi Bill, this is XXXX." It would be so much easier. Of course, caller ID is useful, but 50% of my callers have either blocked it, or it doesn't register.

Anonymous said...

Love Larry David. Why does my wife often say I remind her of him? Is that a compliment? An insult? Or is she trying to get a point across.?

Anonymous said...

Jane would die if she could get the blog about her voice message on her cell.Judy

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JR said...

I've always joked that I didn't have psychic powers but I whole-heartedly agree with your comment about people expecting you to know who they are when they call here in the US. It drives me crazy. I don't like talking on the phone at the best of times and rarely use my cell phone for actually making calls so I ignore caller ID. Sadly my husband is one of those talking too loud on the cell phone people, but I put that down to him being American ! :)

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