“The phone is an instrument of intrusion into order. It is a threat to control. Just when you think you are alone and safe, the call could come that changes your life. Or someone else’s. It makes the same flat, mechanical noise for everyone and gives no clues what’s waiting there on the other end of the line.”
― Janice Galloway, The Trick Is to Keep Breathing
The telephone in the living room rang on Tuesday morning at 9:02 a.m. I was in the kitchen sipping on my second cup of coffee and was nearby to intercept the call. I have caller Identification (ID) so I can tell at a glance who might be trying to contact me.
The illuminated face plate on the phone revealed the number and nothing else. I was curious as to whom it might be. I picked up the receiver and awaited the sound of a human voice saying “hello” to me.
I answered and then heard that familiar clicking and whirring of an Automated Intelligence Activated machine click into service. There was a few second pause and then a robotic- like voice informed me that a very important message was going to follow. The tinny voice kindly requested that I stay on the line and then informed me matter-of-factly that “the waiting time for this call will be two minutes”.
After the exact amount of time the recording chimed in again to relay the same urgent nature of this message but now the waiting time was five minutes. At that precise moment I realized that this was not that urgent a message and not necessarily directed to me. But my curiosity tempted me to wait online for the requested interval.
At the end of that waiting period there was a loud click and a human voice bade me good day and asked me my age. The call was only relevant for people of a certain market sector.
I have experienced enough of these “fishing” expeditionary type calls to know that this was a sales scheme. I told him “I am 97 years old.” The person on the other end of the line hung up abruptly. I guess they can’t take a joke. Too bad.
There was a time in the history of the ever popular contraption known as the telephone when common sense, courtesy and privacy were the most important elements governing its ever increasing importance in the realm of interpersonal communication.
When the telephone rang you knew outright that the call was important: a family member calling home to tell you that they would be arriving home late from work; a neighbor asking you for assistance; a chat line wherein two people could kick back and share a day’s gossip or local news update.