Sorry, Wrong Number!
In this age of texting and portable access to online social media, I often wonder if people still use their smart phones. Oh, I should be more specific: I wonder if people use their smart phones for talking to people. I know these phones are called “smart” because they can multitask better than the mother of triplets or the Administrative Assistant of the CEO for any corporation. As you know, these phones are also alarms, navigators, mp3 players, game stations, keyboards, cameras, video players, calendars, fashion statements and portals to galaxies far, far away. But, I hear, they are capable of functioning as voice communicators, too. I know they can. I have one. I just talked to my sisters on my cell phone, although my phone is dumb (meaning it’s not smart because I’m too cheap to pay for the monthly “data package” that my telecommunications provider keeps telling me will change my life). I’m old school.
Beyond the possible proliferation of a shorthand language harder to understand than Klingon, neck crickification and brain tumors that future generations will have to deal with as they age, what other issues will we, as a society, have to face as smart phones take over our lives?
Wrong numbers and disrespectful telephone conversations, that’s what. When you have built-in address books and voice commands, remembering and dialing (or punching) actual numbers is a skill that shrivels like last week’s birthday balloon. And the terse nature of texting or Twitter makes a real phone conversation seem slow, awkward and painful.
This is not to say that everyone’s phone manners deserve reporting to the Courtesy Police, or that in the good old days (when one heavy telephone was hardwired inside a home and “mobile” meant you had an extra long twisty cord attached to it) people never miss-dialed or were always polite; BUT there may be a case to be made that today’s telephone talkers aren’t as smooth as they were in the past (by “past” I mean when I was young and things were better).
What makes me even venture a guess like this? Funny I should ask. Phil came home and told me about a phone call he received at work. It was a wrong number. Keep in mind that I don’t call Phil at work unless I’m on fire (when I say “on fire” I’m not being coy and alluding to something naughty; I mean “engulfed in flames”–please keep your mind on the clean side of the gutter). He is one busy guy and I don’t like to interrupt him. The conversation went like this:
Phil: This is Phil.
Caller: Who is this?
Phil: This is Phil.
Caller: Phil who?
Phil: Phil [gives last name].
Caller: I don’t know who you are.
Phil: Sir, I believe you have the wrong number.
Caller: What number have I got?
Phil: [gives the number]
Caller: Well, that’s the number I dialed. Who are you?
Phil: I’m Phil, Sir, and you must have the wrong number.
Caller: Maybe you are the wrong person.
Phil: [looks at phone and puts it back to his ear] Sir…
Caller: Forget it. [click]
My last name used to sound and was spelled similar to a word that has something to do with lots of trees. For the purposes of this illustration, let’s say my last name used to be “Woods.” My ex-husband has a first name that, when read quickly could be misunderstood for a common word. For the purposes of this illustration, let’s say his name is “Guy.” Except for the made-up name, this conversation actually took place on a Saturday morning.
Caller: Yeah, I was wonderin’ if I could cut some trees across the road from my place.
Me: Excuse me?
Caller: [Audible sigh.] I need to cut some trees.
Me: Yes, I understand, but why did you call this number?
Caller: Well, it says here in the phone book that you’re the guy to call if I have a question about the woods. What’s so hard to understand about that, Lady?
Me: Our name is Woods, but we don’t have anything to do with trees, Sir. You probably need to call the Department of Environmental Conservation and they aren’t open on the weekend. Might I suggest you call them on Monday?
Caller: I work on Monday and I need to deal with these trees today. Plus why would the phone book list Woods Guy and your number?
Me: My husband’s first name is Guy.
Caller: What kind of a name is that?
Me: That’s his name, Sir. Good luck to you and your trees.
Caller: Hey wait. I’m done talkin’ to you.
Me: Sir, I can’t help you. I’m just a woman who happens to be married to a man named Guy Woods. We don’t have any authority to tell you what to do with your trees.
Caller: Then you shouldn’t have your name in the phone book, Lady. [click]
Are these “wrong number” rude conversations aberrations? Phil was polite to the caller. I was polite and even helpful to the caller. The two callers were, what’s the word? Offensive. Belligerent. Demanding. (Okay, three words.) So I have four people: 2 with decent telephone manners and 2
poopy-pants impolite callers. As a sociologist, 4 people does not a study make, so you’ll have to help me out.
Tell me about your telephone mishaps.