Yesterday I had to answer my phone.
Does that sound odd? First of all, what’s a phone for if you don’t answer it? But second, who answers the phone any more, given the overwhelming volume of spam calls we receive every day?
You’re probably thinking “Why is he even asking this? When was the last time I answered a phone call?”
Why do I say I had to answer my phone? Well, I had called a US government agency in order to set up an appointment at that government office. First, I waited on hold for 50 minutes trying to reach them. They have no “local” phone number here in San Francisco, only a big national call center. So to make a local appointment, you have to reach the call center, which means waiting 50 minutes. Then talking with them, they agreed it made the best sense to go to the local office. “We’ll give you a callback to schedule that appointment.” Huh? I wait for 50 minutes and then they can’t make an appointment, they have to call me back?
“So what’s the best time to reach you?” “Well,” I answer, “Daytime. Nighttime. Anytime. I don’t care.” And they respond “We can’t do that. We need a one-hour window. We will attempt to call you during that one hour window some time during the next five days.” In other words, they pick a single hour during which I have to answer my phone for possibly five days in a row. Well how hard would it be for them to just call me whenever they have an agent available? Like maybe on Tuesday. Nope. Instead they have to use one single hour of the day, but any time in the next five days.
(This is worse than waiting for the cable company to fix my equipment. At least they tell me what day they’ll be here.)
OK, I thought that was bade enough, but… they won’t tell me what number they will call from. They’ll just call from some random phone number. Meaning that during my availability times I have to answer every call that comes in — something I never do because of the volume of spam calls.
So I tried it because I had no alternative. During my first day of availability, during my “best time to call me hour,” I got a call in the first 4 minutes. Spam. Of course. Then after 20 minutes, another. Spam again. And so forth. During the four hours I answered calls that day, I got a dozen calls. All spam. Yes 12 spam calls. No real people at all.
It occurred to me that actually I hardly ever answer my phone any more unless the caller is in my address book. And that in trying to schedule things, I actually never call people on my phone. Instead I email them or “text message” them. And, in fact, email is increasingly going unanswered by my friends. The only way to really reach someone is to message them. I know this has happened with the younger generation, but now I find it extending up into people in their 70s.
So my question is — and you can just think about this if you want to — no need to really answer: 1. Do you still answer your phone (if the caller isn’t in your address book); 2. When did you stop?
If you do answer, I probably won’t answer your call. Hahahah. Just think about how your own behavior has changed.