Did You Call?

Tyneham - old telephone

Tyneham - old telephone (Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barryslemmings/183306577/, CC:BY-NC-ND)

I don’t know anyone under 30 who has a home phone; their reliance on cell phones is complete.  We do have a vestigial home phone — and voice mail.   Problem is, we hardly check it.  The people closest to us have our cell phone numbers so we seldom feel the need.

But we recently got burned.  And our ears are still red from shame.  After not doing it for at least a week, I checked the voice mail the day after Thanksgiving and found:

  • Notification of the death of a distant relative
  • A thank-you message for some food we’d dropped off to a neighbor
  • An invitation to lunch
  • A heartfelt invitation to Thanksgiving dinner

Yikes!  My face flushed with shame.  We quickly tried to play catch-up, with the requisite return calls, apologies, mea culpas, etc.  And we promptly changed the greeting.  It used to be:  “Hi, we can’t take your call right now, but please leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.”

That was completely inaccurate–obviously.  Here’s the new one:  “Hi, you’ve reached the voice mail on our house line.  You’re welcome to leave a message, but we seldom think to check this line.  If your call’s important or time-sensitive, please try to reach us another way, too—just in case.  Thanks!”

Notice I don’t leave a cell phone number–I’m reluctant to give that out too freely.  As for reaching us “another way”?  I’d love to get a singing telegram sometime.  Also, carrier pigeons might have a certain charm.  And I’m completely open to receiving a smoke signal.  Your call.

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  • http://facebook Michele Mullaly

    so you must be like me, you give people that you don’t like your a phone number that they cannot reach you at?
    and now that you have changed it they “know” to reach you at your cell?

  • Weisun Chin

    Same applies to email, which in this era of social media options like Facebook and Twitter, is fast going the way of phone mail. In the earlier time, when a friend or relative just started with email, you might have to phone to alert them about that email you sent to them. Just recently, after no reply to one email, I had to send a message via Facebook to alert that person to reply.

    If we are expecting an important call, we have a device that will intercept our landline call and on our second line, phone me on my cell phone patching over that call. And if I’m not available, it can go on the cellular phone mail system. Talk about convoluted telephony!

  • Kayt Nelson

    Phil- you still have the same lithe turn of phrase with a fun “short topic” as you did with the Boy and the Butterfly story decades ago. I’m glad to re-connect w. you and discover your blog. Looking forward to catch-up reading in your archives. :)

    btw- re your previous topic- a fellow copywriter used to bring in his Sunday New York Times magazines for me after he did the crossword. I loved the articles, but somehow, never found time to go cover-to cover as I wished I could have. Have same issue w. Vanity Fair- I hoard those.

  • John Hahn

    It’s December 13th, late…and I’ve JUST gotten to this blog. So, I know what you feel – I haven’t even read these for SO long. Join the club. (By the way I have landline, but NO other type of phone!) I love the old way.

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  • Larry Schmidt

    I also rely on my land line at home and only use a cell phone in the car.
    I don’t need to use the cell phone at home (because I already have a land line). And I only use the cell phone in the car if I absolutely HAVE to talk to someone immediately.
    As for toting the cell phone around with me all the time, it is not that important to me to be in communication 100% of the time. I can wait until I get home or in the office to get my messages and return my calls.
    And my two sons call me old-fashioned!