I have never liked the telephone! I know it’s a wonderful invention, a labour-sparing tool, a life-saver in time of emergency. I’m aware that it brings friends together and ties families more closely to one another. And I understand that it is, indeed, a technological marvel.
But I don’t like it, especially now when everyone but me carries one around in pocket or purse. For whatever reason, I’ve never felt at ease when I’m talking to someone on the phone. If I can’t be in front of the person to whom I’m speaking, it doesn’t feel right. And no, Skype and FaceTime do not resolve that problem for me.
Even before the days of smartphones, my home phone always seemed to ring at the most inopportune moments; for example, when I’d just sat down to dinner, when I was busily engrossed in some leisure activity, or (most annoying of all) when I was the only one home to answer it. That still happens.
But without a doubt, the worst thing about the telephone is the wrong number. It doesn’t matter whether I’m doing the calling or receiving the call. Wrong numbers are a pain!
Whenever I’ve entered a wrong number, I’m immediately apologetic to the person who answers. I know that my own carelessness has put the other party out, and I try to make amends. However, my efforts are invariably met with an angry or impolite reply. It begins right after I realize I’ve dialled the number incorrectly.
“Oh…oh, sorry,” I stammer. “I’m afraid I have the wrong number.”
“Obviously!” comes the reply. And if it’s a landline I’ve called in error, that response is followed closely by an abrupt banging of the receiver in my ear.
What bothers me more, though, is when I answer a call from someone who has the wrong number. For some reason, it’s still I who ends up being the bad guy. Where’s the justice in that?
“Hello?” I answer.
“Ah, no, sorry,” I begin. “You have the wrong…”
“Where is she?” the caller demands.
“Hey, man, I don’t know. You’ve got the wrong…”
“It’s me,” I reply lamely, “and there’s no one here by the name of…”
“What number is this?”
When I dutifully give it, I get a snarling rejoinder, “That’s not the number I want!”
I’m never quick enough to miss that banging receiver. And I’m left feeling it was all my fault for answering when the call was for Jenny.
I confess, back in those unlamented landline days, I resorted to dirty tricks on numerous occasions, more to avoid the unpleasantness than out of any malicious intent. Although, I must concede, I did derive some guilty pleasure from it.
“Just a minute,” I would reply when the caller asked for someone I’d never heard of. I’d lay the receiver by the phone, place a cushion on top, and forget about it. After a few minutes, the caller would get tired of waiting and hang up. When next I passed by the phone, I’d gently replace the receiver.
Or on occasion, I’d respond by saying, “Jenny? She left quite a while ago. She should be at your place any minute! Tell her to call when she gets there.”
And I’d hang up first.
Sometimes, I would ask the name of the caller, tell them to wait, then make a show of yelling for the non-existent person to come to the phone.
“Jenny! Phone for you. It’s Alice!”
After a few seconds, I’d yell again, “No way! If you don’t wanta talk to her, you tell her! Not me!”
In those cases, I could hear the receiver bang down from ten feet away.
I never believed any great harm came from such tactics, and it sure made me feel better. I always hoped it might even teach those careless callers to be a little more conscientious.
“They’re only getting what they deserve,” I rationalized. “Just desserts for them, justice for me!”
Needless to say, I was elated when—back then, before the introduction of caller ID—I hit upon the very best way to deal with those nuisance calls. Mind you, it took some measure of will-power, and it required a little practice at first to get the hang of it. But I persevered, and once I mastered it, I no longer had to waste precious hours dreaming up new tricks.
It was so simple. When the phone rang, if I thought it might be a wrong number, I didn’t answer! Ergo, no hassle, no stress. And in time, of course, no more calls!
Nevertheless, given the technological world in which I live, I suppose I’ll have to break down and get a smartphone of my own one of these days. I’ll be tempted to turn off the ringer, set it to vibrate, and leave it at home when I go out. But I probably won’t.
I still don’t like the telephone, but it’s lonely being a Luddite.