Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Which part of this do you not understand?

As I explained recently, I hate talking on the phone, and rarely answer it.

The other day, I was out and about in the afternoon. After a meeting, I happened to notice that I'd missed a call. Luckily, the caller had sent me a text message to explain who he was.

However, I didn't feel like talking to him right away, since the cocktail hour was just about upon us and I wanted to cast aside any thoughts of work. Moreover, I was walking from Jianguomen to Sanlitun, alongside the monstrous cacophony of the 2nd Ringroad in the middle of the rush hour - so, it wasn't practical to attempt to speak on the phone anyway.

So, I sent the guy a text message: "Sorry, busy in meetings all afternoon, not convenient to talk. Please send me an e-mail, and I will respond later tonight."

Whereupon, of course, he immediately tried to call me back.

I did not answer. No. But I did pause for a moment to bang my head three or four times against a convenient lamp-post.


The Weeble said...

Yes. This.

Frankly, I hate talking on the phone at the best of times -- it just strikes me as rude to assume that somebody at a distance will immediately drop whatever it is that they're doing to speak to me NOW NOW NOW, and it's not as if anything I do is important enough to demand an immediate response. Text messages and e-mail -- asynchronous communication -- are civil forms of correspondence that allow both parties to spend some time thinking about their responses.

What I don't get is why some people's immediate response, upon seeing that I haven't answered my phone after ten rings, is to call me back again. Will Ring #16 be the lucky one? If I have failed to hear their call coming in throughout the first 30 rings, will my ringer suddenly become louder the fourth time they call me? Could they not perhaps have used the time they spent listening to whatever soulful Kenny G number China Mobile has assigned me as a ringback tone to instead just write me a fucking text message stating what it is they want?

Fuck 'em, I say. I don't need more people in my life, and I certainly don't need more work. Anyone who doesn't write me a text message doesn't get a call back, and they don't get their calls answered, ever. Christ, the nerve of some people.

JES said...

We all seem to be in agreement here.

Maybe we need an organization like Fight Club or something, where we all just sit around behind our keyboards and glare at one another all surly-like (any phones having been checked at the door).

Froog said...

Weebs, how nice to have you back!

I hope you felt better after that obviously much needed bout of catharsis.

I also hope that I have never called you on the telephone, and that you might one day find it in your heart to forgive me if I have.

Froog said...

This is, I think, a very interesting shift in social relations over the past decade or two. (Weeble, you are probably too young to really appreciate this.)

Time was when it was quite exciting to receive a phone call - because there was no other convenient medium of quick-turnaround communication, and because only people you knew well and wanted to hear from would usually have your number.

Now, it is so very different.

John said...

This is the sad reality in most places these days but I expect in China people don't give it a second thought judging on what I've learnt of social society there. Like unpaid overtime the only way we can fight it (brothers) is to defiantly stick to our guns and leave the phone in its, er, holster.

JES said...

I worked for a large telephone company from 1979 until sometime in 1992. (THE telephone company, widely recognizable for its three-letter abbreviation.) This period of time overlapped the introduction of answering machines.

It was quite instructive to hear the answering-machine evangelists' sales pitch in internal meetings and conferences. Of course it's a customer convenience!... BUT Now every phone call will go through unless the line is busy! This was important because a call which was never completed (a) tied up some network resources, however briefly, yet (b) brought in no revenue at all. By bumping the call-completion rate to nearly 100%, we got at least the minimum return for nearly 100% of all phone calls. (That's why -- for a while -- some of the more eager cheerleaders were pushing us to give answering machines away to our customers.)

Froog said...

Interesting point, JES. I think I had pondered that economic aspect to the introduction of answerphones when it happened, but it's such a long time ago now, I can't really remember.

I suspect there was sound logic behind the 'give them away free' logic. Uptake, as far as I recall, wasn't all that quick in the UK; but eventually we reached a point where handset units with an answering feature were cheaper than those without.

Tony said...

Yes, I agree that phoning is an intrusion. When one rings someone just to talk (as opposed to make an arrangement or impart information), then one is in effect saying: “I have something of no particular urgency or importance to tell you: drop whatever you are doing and listen”.

But perhaps the main reason why I hate telephones is that in 1942, when my mother had the phone put in for the first (THO 3094), I rushed to it in great excitement as soon as it had been installed and tried to dial TIM. A grumpy voice said “This is the engineer. Ring off, you’re not connected yet”. Oh, the humiliation! The trauma scarred me, and I was well into my teens before I dared pick up a phone again.