Thursday, February 09, 2006

2006, A Phone Odyssey

Remember Hal, the computer who went bad, in 2001, A Space Odyssey? Here’s a little bit of dialogue to refresh your memory:

Dave: Hello, HAL do you read me, HAL?

HAL: Affirmative, Dave, I read you.
Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.
What’s the problem?
I think you know what the problem is, just as well as I do.
What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: The mission is far too important for me to allow you to jeapardize it.

Those words were the first clue, for many of us, that new technology could fail to deliver.

A few years ago, the phone company offered a lot of packages of new technology that promised to make our lives simpler, but insofar as I'm concerned, like HAL, they have failed to deliver, and so I’m in the process of switching my phone service to something more basic. Currently, I have a package that includes Call Waiting, Caller ID, Call Blocking, Three-Way Calling, Call Forwarding, and Voice Mail. I don’t need or use all those services, but when I ordered them, a couple of light years ago, I didn’t know that. The conversation went something like this:

"Hello, I’d like to have Caller ID and Voicemail added to my phone service."
"Certainly, Ma’am. Caller ID comes in a package with Three-Way Calling and Call Blocking, and Voice Mail comes in a package with Call Return and Call Forwarding."
"Can’t I just get Caller ID and Voice Mail?"
"I’m afraid that’s not possible, ma’am."

I was then treated to a description of how wonderful each of these additional services were, and how I wouldn’t be able to imagine life without them once I had them...

Call Waiting
Don't miss an important call because your phone is tied up! When you are on the phone, Call Waiting lets you know another call is coming through! Your caller doesn't reach an annoying busy signal, and you have the option of answering the incoming call or not!

I was having a phone conversation this evening when my phone line sort of hiccupped twice, which is Call Waiting’s way of letting me know that I have another call. I ignored it. I ALWAYS ignore it, because if I don’t, I’d have to say something to the effect of, "Ohhhhh, I’m SO sorry to hear that you caught them in flagrante delicto, and of course I want to hear what happened when you got your gun, but...wait...can you hold for a minute while I answer the other line?" Then, when I pick up the other line, inevitably I have to tell the Association for Retarded Citizens solicitor that I don’t have any household items to be picked up next Thursday when their truck is on my street.

Caller ID
See who's calling before you pick up the phone! With Caller ID, your telephone shows the number of the caller when your phone rings!
With Caller ID, you can:
Choose whether to speak with the person calling!
Have an appropriate greeting or answer ready!
Know who called while you were out or unable to get to the phone!

As tempting as that was in some ways, I resisted getting Caller ID, because as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m highly intuitive, and in pre-caller ID days, I always enjoyed the little frisson that I felt those times when the phone rang and I’d think, "It’s --------(fill in the blank)" and I’d pick up the phone and I’d be right. The downside was that most of the time, I’d answer the phone and inevitably find myself feeling trapped by some soccer mom who wanted to know if I could provide 12 dozen cookies for a bake sale that evening, etc., etc. So the appeal of Caller ID was that it would enable me to screen my calls by showing me both the number and the name of the caller at the other end of the phone.
However, I’m farsighted...and I tend to take out my contacts early in the evening, and to leave my reading glasses beside my bed, with the result that although I can see well enough to walk through my house without tripping on the cats and killing myself, a lot of the time I can’t begin to read Caller ID, and when I can...well, I can’t help but notice that more and more calls are coming up showing the number and then beneath the number, "Unknown Name". Huh.

Call Blocking
Do you want to enhance your ability to control incoming calls? Are you annoyed by unwanted or harassing calls? Call Blocking allows you to block incoming calls from unwanted sources, on a temporary or permanent basis!

"Hallelujah," I thought when this service became available, "Finally, a way to block phone solicitors!" Except the phone company neglected to reveal that those calls are some of many that "can’t be blocked". Uh-huh. In Texas, you can pay the state a nominal fee to keep your number off the phone solicitor lists, and I’ve happily done that. I never use Call Blocking.

3-Way Calling
When you can't all be in the same place at the same time, 3-Way Calling brings you together! 3-Way Calling allows you to speak with two other people in different locations at the same time!

"Hello, Fred? Are you still in Omaha? This is Judi, in Dallas, and, by the way..."
"Hi Judi! Hi Monica! Well, the shipment has arrived...wait a minute...can you hold? I have an incoming call and I have to take it!"
"No problem Fred..."
"Sure, Fred, we’ll hold..."

3-way-calling allows you to speak with two other people in different locations who may be receiving additional calls from numerous other people in different locations...all at the same time...the possibilities are endless, but I can only handle one phone conversation at a time, so this service is worthless to me.

Call Forwarding
When you're on the go, your phone can follow you! With Call Forwarding, you can automatically forward calls to the number where you can be reached!

Um, that’s why I have a cellphone, so that my friends and family can reach me when I’m not at home, but, happily, the Association for Retarded Citizens solicitors cannot. I don’t use call forwarding.

Voice Mail is your 24-hour-a-day personalized answering service! With Voice Mail, you'll never miss another message, and your callers will never reach an annoying busy signal! Voice Mail allows callers to leave messages when you are away from your phone, having a telephone conversation, connected to the Internet, or sending/receiving a fax! Once you have Voice Mail, you'll wonder how you ever managed without it!

I have to admit that I love Voice Mail, but I don’t like some of the inane greetings that people come up with. I like anything that’s straightforward, but I still think the best Voice Mail greeting is the one I used for years:

No name, no number, just: "Don’t be afraid! It’s JUST a machine!"

That always seemed to stop solicitors cold.


Lisa :-] said...

Our phone company is about ten years behind everybody else. We JUST got DSL service available to us in the last year. So, I was able to get only caller ID and voice mail--no packages. You're right. Those other services are useless to me.

Tammy said...

We can't get DSL here and cell phone reception sucks! We only have two phones in the house (one , we turn off ringer) and an answering machine. I can never get to the phone quick enough so I never answer the phone. lol
My phone has no frills and I think call waiting is annoying. I don't own a cell phone, but for under $4, my computer tells me who calls when I'm on it. (Callwave)


I agree, simplify :)

dreaminglily said...

I only have a cell. That's all my family has ever had lol Probably because of the whole, you know, carnival thingy lol But I want a home phone. I know it's weird and invasive but, hey, it's like part of life that everyone goes through, I should have that. I think. Maybe. I might have a screw loose. lol


Paul said...

I have the phone mailbox, and I should get caller ID because of all my female stalkers.

I really think you should submit this to a would make a great Sunday magazine feature.

emmapeelDallas said...

Are you serious? What a great compliment, Paul, thanks, you made my day! Maybe I will try to submit's been a long time since I've taken that particular risk. Thanks again!


ckays1967 said...

Wanna know how much of a true blond I am???

whenever someone wants my home phone number I have to get out the white pages and look it up....good thing we are listed.


I don't know my home phone number. Now ask me if I get three way calling?