Hold That Call
There is not one ounce of longing for the good old days in my head. Because when I think back to Pacer cars and white-belted leisure suits and Spiro Agnew and Steve Perry of the band Journey, I come to the conclusion that life has gotten better in so many ways. Even Dick Cheney seems better than Agnew.
So bring on new music and new cars and new politicians and dump as much new technology on my head as I can handle. (Make sure it’s not in attachment form on the e-mail, though. I still can’t figure that one out.)
Still, occasionally, I do fall into the “good old days” syndrome, usually when it comes to technology. Computers are wonderful, despite the hours I spend each day deleting e-mails about penis enlargement. I used to have the choice of six tv channels on which there was never anything I wanted to watch; now I have to click through 150 channels before I come to the same conclusion. I long for the days when blogs and video podcasts and ESPN didn’t render daily newspapers boring and irrelevant. (OK, maybe things haven’t changed on that one.)
Which brings me to the simple phone service of caller ID. Used to be that you’d have to answer the phone to find out who was calling, and if they wanted you to know their number, they told it to you – or to your message machine.
But now, no one wants to leave a number, because they assume you will call back every number that pops up on your phone via caller ID. A skateboarder dude called my house, wanting to talk to my daughter. I told him she wasn’t home and asked if I could take a message. Tell her I called, he says, and he gives a name. And the number to call back? It’s the same one I’m calling from, he says, and hangs up.
So why don’t I just get caller ID like the rest of the world? First, I have an old phone, and it works very well. Second, I hate assumptions. If you want me to call you back, tell me that and leave a number. Otherwise, I’m not making any effort to find you.
My daughter never leaves messages. Such is her age group. Neither does her mother. Such is her way of thinking. Then there is me, the old coot who has not moved into the 21st century of phone service.
I used to have a cell phone, back when they couldn’t take pictures. I used it for one reason: The call-forwarding allowed me to patch through from my house while playing golf, and my bosses would think I was working hard at home. But then I stopped playing golf and didn’t need that feature.
For the most part, I enjoy being out of the phone-tech loop and feel sorry for those spoiled brats with their picture phones. I mean, can they even make prank calls anymore? Could Bart Simpson still call Moe the Bartender and ask for Mike Rotch, or Maya Buttreeks, or Hugh Jass or Oliver Clothesoff? If he tried that now, Moe could see which little shit was doing the calling.
Phones these days also no longer teach personal courage and responsibility. When I was 15 and calling to ask a girl out, I would hang up if her father answered. Sometimes I’d even hang up if she answered – never know when your mind is going to go blank. Now they’d know who the nervous silent breather was.
If caller ID had come along 15 years ago, I might not be in Fort Worth today. My boss in Ohio had not given me permission to go on a job interview down here, so I did it anyway, and called in sick for three days. If he had seen the 817 on his phone display, he would have known what I was up to.
Of course, I could get a cell phone and then just answer the calls I want to. But I’d still be tethered to the digital world, and I can’t do it. I’m too cheap, too set in my ways, and too tired to answer the phone every 15 minutes.
So if you are that skateboarder dude, please leave a number where I can find you in case my daughter hasn’t made it home at 2 a.m. If you are my kid, please let me know whether there is some emergency I need to take care of or if you just need a ride to the mall. And if you are I.P. Freely, let me know how I can catch up with you. I’d love to know how the prank call biz is going in the post-millennial world. Just remember to leave a number.