Is Anybody Home?

Alexander Graham Bell Source: Wired

Do you answer your phone every time it rings? Or do you consider all the various options at your disposal within microseconds of noticing that someone unknown to you is calling?

Do you pick up? Let it go to voice mail? Just ignore it?

I have to admit I hit the decline button on my cell phone most of the time. Calls come in frequently enough from phone numbers that are either strangely similar to my own, or they’re from locations where I’m quite certain I don’t know anyone. I assume each of them are yet another robocall trying to hustle money out of me.

Sometimes I’m wrong, though. A few weeks ago I declined a call from my own cousin. She called me three times in a row before I finally answered and discovered to my utter embarrassment that she had never been entered in my contacts. I felt so bad about it that I actually paid her the suspicious penalty she claims I owe the IRS. She may be a scammer but she’s family after all.

This week, however, I found myself on the other side of the proverbial fence. A precinct captain of the local Democratic Party office contacted me to ask if I could help call Democrats living in our surrounding neighborhood. I was told to encourage them to get to the polls now during early voting or on election day itself. He sent me a 10 page list containing names of voters along with their addresses, phone numbers, gender, and age.

The last two threw me at first. I couldn’t fathom how I would possibly use someone’s sex or age in motivating them to vote. But it didn’t take long before I began to fancy myself a smooth-talking salesman, tailoring my sales pitch to selected target audiences.

I ruminated over sweet-talking the older ladies, commiserating with the senior gents, being “crisp and brief” to those between 30 and 50, and praying to God that I didn’t say anything too dumb to Millennials and Post-Millennials.

But none of that happened.

My pre-conceived ideas fell victim to the fact that only on TV are people so easily pigeonholed. The first person on my list — a woman, age 74 — politely listened to me for probably ten seconds before interrupting with an energetic voice.

“I mailed in my absentee ballot last week,” she said. “Thanks!” while politely and firmly ending the call.

So it went for the next three hours.

I spoke to both chatty and abrupt seniors, calm and harried professionals, engaging and flippant Generation Y’s, etc, etc.. It was the same hodgepodge of personalities which we consistently find amongst our neighbors, fellow congregants, and bar stool cronies.

Madison Avenue won’t be calling for my expertise anytime soon; I am clearly no Don Draper.

But fortunately for me, because we were all ostensibly on the same team, no one yelled or verbally besmirched my maternal lineage either. And truth be told, I probably only spoke to half of the people on the list anyway.

I left a lot of messages on voice mails and answering machines. Which in fact brings me to the primary reason for this post: there are some awfully funky telephone habits out there!

For one thing, I was surprised by the number of actual telephone answering machines still in use on home land lines. You know it’s most likely an old model when you hear that muffled speaking voice of someone standing six feet away from the machine’s microphone and an air conditioner blower running in the background.

Source: YouTube

With most people now using voice mail, leaving a message on one of these old machines is a little daunting because I’m never sure if I even hear the beep to begin speaking. Each time I called into one, the goof in me wanted to leave a “vintage” message to announce how imperative it is that we keep Bob Dole out of the White House and re-elect President Clinton!

I didn’t do that. But I really wanted to.

It’s good that I already know I’ll never run for public office. Ever.

And speaking of voice mail, people, will you please delete some of those messages piling up in your mailboxes? I was taken aback by the number of my neighbors whose voice mail boxes are completely full and no longer accepting messages. I suppose this could be a resolute decision on some of their parts; avoiding that annual call from Aunt Ellen about Thanksgiving, or perhaps a credit agency inquiring about an unpaid bill. But honestly, as a caller it’s really infuriating to hear that message. Stop being so lazy and empty your voicemail boxes!

Another surprise was just how many people don’t record their own message greeting and instead opt for the default one, where a generic computer voice reads out your phone number. Whenever I hear that, I always feel as if I’m leaving a message that will be sent permanently into the ether, never to be heard by anyone.

Ironically, while writing this post I checked my own phone’s greeting, and discovered it too had somehow switched to the default option without my knowledge. Oops. So I do recommend that you check your own phone because it could unintentionally happen to you sometime.

Finally, there are also a fair number of people out there, using either land lines or cell phones, who don’t even bother to give callers opportunities to leave a message. It reminds me of earlier days when we phoned someone and kept the line ringing persistently, convinced that someone was otherwise occupied, and just needed a little extra time to come to the phone.

Licensed source: Clipartof

I eventually finished my big list of Democratic voters and made contact with nearly everyone on it. Some numbers were disconnected or no longer in service, and I made notations for them so party admin staff can later update the records.

I now have faint respect for people who earn a living making cold calls, though that sentiment is decidedly thin given the insane number of telemarketing and swindlers who ruin our dinner hour.

So please answer my calls. My election volunteer work is finished, and I won’t do this again for another two years. And do remember to vote in the midterms, especially if you’re a kindred spirit.

Until next time…

29 thoughts on “Is Anybody Home?

  1. I don’t ever answer unless I know who’s calling! I have an old fashioned answering machine but I dispensed with all the niceties like “Your call is important to me.” It’s not. It has our first names and leave a message. I don’t even ask people to wait for the beep. I don’t give out my cell phone number except to friends and they are instructed to text me. I never answer that at all so my queue may be full. This is so different from when I was a teenager and flew to answer the phone which was tethered to the wall. Or when I was a young adult and worked to put cutesy messages on the machine. Now if my friends want to get a hold of me they email me. I check that several times a day. Right now we are getting 15 to 20 calls a day between robocalls and elections. Gah! Can’t wait until it’s over. My party should not worry. I will vote and they are getting it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankfully I didn’t hear any of the cutesy messages; those seem to be out of style now. Jerry Seinfeld has a stand-up bit reminiscent of our teen years running to the phone and yelling “I”ll get it!” No one does that anymore. No one wants to talk! I realize I was temporarily part of the problem with calling people, but at least they had ostensibly signed up for that. I think… I hope. I did keep the message really short at least.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Do I answer the phone if I don’t know the caller? That is for to laugh…BUT…if I, like the other day, get a voicemail telling me that they are the IRS and there is a warrant out for my arrest due to unpaid taxes…well, you know me. “Let’s play.”
    I called he number and “Lucita” answered and wanted to know how she could help.
    I explained that I was returning her call.
    She called me by name and wanted address and SS confirmation.
    I told her that if she was with the IRS, she should know.
    I called back and “Lucita” answered again.
    I said “now Lucita…how are you going to scam people if you hang up on them?
    I called a third time and good ole Lucita answered.
    I said “it’s me!”
    She said “will you PLEASE stop calling me?” LOL
    After a few minutes I called back.
    Wasn’t Lucita this time. It was “Renaldo.”
    He called me by name and went straight to the “tell me. When was the last one you had sex?”
    I said “well…I’ll tell you if you’ll tell me…when was the last time YOU had sexual?”
    He said “oh…unfortunately, it’s been a long time.
    I said “really?” He said “yes, I’m afraid so.”
    I said “awww…tiny little d**k?”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, Marty – You pose such good questions here, and generate many new ones.
    If “no one wants to talk on the phone anymore” (which definitely includes me)….then why are all those people on the streets, shops and restaurants speaking into their phones? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought about you as well, Marty. I am so saddened by the senseless and evil acts of violence and murder on such precious and innocent human life. Now more than ever, we need principled, competent, and courageous leadership.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. First, thank you so much for doing the good work to get out the (blue) vote. I live in a bright blue state but there are a few contests that could go either way. Perhaps I should make some calls…

    I’m one of those who never answers the phone if I don’t know who is calling (and, sometimes even when I do know 🙂 ). We got rid of our regular land line but still have an VoIP phone ($4.45 a month!) so we have a number to give out when we don’t want to have someone call our cell phones.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, wow, I never heard of VoIP. I’ll check it out. I kept my Fresno phone number out of laziness, but it’s turned into something helpful since most of the robocalls are similar to your actual cell number. I usually just hit ignore.

      It was uplifting to try and get out the vote. Of course, since I was calling blue voters, nearly all I spoke to were kind. I was fortunate not to have any negative experiences. Today I went to a rally for Andrew Gillum here. He’s fired up the crowd!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We use Ooma for our VoIP service. We bought the machine at Costco so there was an initial expense but the ongoing bill for less than $5 a month for a phone we hardly use is very doable. I will be on my blogging break when the election happens, but all my fingers and toes will be crossed. If we don’t do this, I think I may go into a tailspin.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post Marty. A good reminder to go out and get something that actually answers our house phone. Can’t stand the phone and will not pick it up unless I know who’s on the other end. And up here in Connecticut, everyone’s texting to get the vote out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re getting lots of texts here too. Some of them have been pretty nasty also, and I’ve attempted to type “stop” on some of them, which ostensibly removes you from their lists. I have my doubts, though. It is good to just ignore those calls if you can.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m not a fan of phones, in any form. I rarely answer either our landline phone or my cell phone UNLESS I know who it is. We still have an answering machine on the landline phone and we use the automated ‘hello’ message because I don’t want anyone to know who lives here. Let the robo-callers keep guessing about whether the landline number is active or not. *bwha-ha-ha*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I mock for fun but really I love when people still use older technology. Honestly, if I had an 8 track player I’d use it, especially in my car. 🙂 Phones are just another form of warfare these days with us fighting to retain our privacy and peace of mind. When we first moved to Florida I thought we should change our cell phone numbers, but now I’m glad I kept my California one. I almost always know it’s a robocaller when they call now.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m impressed by your commitment to the party, but I agree that it is a very important cause! I never pick up the phone if I don’t know the number, but I always look up the number afterward and more often than not, it is someone wanting to sell me something. Then I just put the number on ignore and I don’t have to deal with them calling anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In the past two months, my cousin, dermatologist, and former co-worker have all been hung up on by me and had to call back! I probably would have done the same anyway because I didn’t recognize their numbers, but I’m grateful they persevered. We live in strange times.


  8. I just loved this. I actually turned my land line volume off because no one uses it but scammers and Republican campaign volunteers – oh and my uncle. I’m not sure why I have it any more. I’m following both O’Rourke and Cruz and noticed that O’Rourke campaign volunteers use text and Facebook. Cruz uses land line and US Mail. Hmmmm? But good for you getting involved in the election and thank you! My big contribution was putting a “vote for” sign in my yard for the first time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tracey! We have a land line for my wife’s business, but other than that it never gets used. If I ever invite your uncle over, he’s free to use it to his heart’s content. 😉 Interesting about the differences in O’Rourke and Cruz’s outreach strategy. Hmmm indeed! And good for you on getting active this year.


  9. You are now talking about my nightmare job – talking to people on the phone. Ugh!!!

    … and even if you are in my contact list, there is a high probability that I won’t answer your call. Not because I’m screening calls, but because at any point in time, it’s unlikely I’m where my phone is. In fact, most of the time I’m not even sure where the damn thing is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to laugh, Joanne. It seems people hold onto their phones now like they’re a security blanket of some kind. When cell phones first starting being omnipresent, they were, well, just phones. You pretty much only took it out if you had to speak to someone. But now it’s all people seem to look at. I went to a doctor’s appointment not that long ago and brought a book with me. I was the only person in that waiting room not looking at my phone!


      1. Ahhh – but admittedly, I have Kindle on my phone which means I always have my book with me when I’m in a waiting room or on transit. I’m one of those people who sit staring at a phone screen.

        I used to groan at my sons who read books on that tiny screen on their phones – until I tried it. It’s not bad at all and I like not having to carry something extra with me. At home I read on an iPad and the 2 devices synch with each other.
        I still read the occasional book-book, especially if I want to mark it up and make notes, but for the most part, I’ve gone digital.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I tried it on my tablet a few years ago in preparation for a long day of flying, and I do have to admit it was very convenient. I haven’t done it since (probably because I haven’t traveled very far!), but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that I’ll do it again. I think the librarian in me can be a cranky purist about books. But I do get the convenient of e-books; it sure cuts down on the weight when you’re on the road.


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