dial phoneIn the little ranch style house I grew up in in East Haven Connecticut, there was one phone.  It looked like this one, a masterpiece of efficient electro-mechanical machinery, weighing about 2 pounds.  By placing your finger in the hole of the number you wished to dial, rotating the dial until your finger was against the stopper, then releasing it, the internal mechanism would generate that number of pulses and sent them out on the phone line.  I think that phone rang two or three times a day, always answered by my Mom.   It was usually a call from a friend or family, but occasionally it would be a business inquiry from an establishment where my parents did business.  There was a small pad next to the phone for messages in case the call was for someone that wasn’t home.

In our 2,200 square foot house in Anaheim Hills California we have … let’s see … seven phones.    Four are wireless push-button phones, what we used to call landlines, except they utilize the internet as the communication medium and provide a myriad of options like call waiting, sophisticated answering service,cell tower and specialized rings for certain people.  The other three phones are mobile phones, electronic wonders which are actually highly miniaturized computers communicating over a network of cell-towers sprinkled across the countryside.   These little wonders allow us to stay in touch with friends and family, as well as access all the wonders of the internet wherever we go.  They also allow those we don’t want to hear from to track us down … or even locate us using the GPS built into each phone … should we try to run away.  There are probably four or five retired cellphones in various drawers around the house.

Our house phone rings, I’d guess, 25 time a day and you can probably add 25 more for our cell phones.  If the number shown on caller-ID is unfamiliar … or shown as unavailable … and I answer, chances are I will hear a 2-3 second silence, then a click as someone comes on the line.  I have been Robo-called, a machine automatically dialing numbers then passing the call to a human operator once someone answers.  Sometimes, the call is passed to a recorded message that sounds so much like a real person, I begin to talk to it.  It babbles on, though, as do the real life, human operator pitching anything from solar panels to low-interest loans.  For I time, I answered and hung up as soon as it was obvious it was a Robo-call.   After all, it might be an important call, right?

At his point, though, I’ve given up answering calls from unfamiliar numbers, even when the number is close to one I know.  After all, Robo-callers can spoof the caller ID to look familiar.  On our house phone, we have enabled an application called NomoRobo (if only).  It maintains a database of known Robo-call sources and rings our phone only once before blocking the calls from those numbers.  That allows us to periodically check to make sure we are not missing useful calls.  So far its record is perfect.  We have also blocked calls from a few numbers that call again and again.   To handle those that leak through, answering machine now states that Because of the large number of Robo-calls we receive, we no longer answer calls from unfamiliar numbers.  If you want to speak to us, leave a message.   So far, no Robo-caller has.   I haven’t missed any appointment reminders or emergency messages, partly because I’ve arranged for those to be sent to me by text message.   I am looking into Robo-call apps from my cellphone but so far, not answering unfamiliar numbers works just fine.

There are days I look at what our marvelous communication technology has wrought … not just Robo-calls but teenage zombies roaming about staring at screens while real life goes on around them … idiotic games like Pokemon Go and HQ


Image courtesy the Cagle Post

Trivia sweeping the country … friends and family sitting around the table playing with their phones, ignoring each other … constant babble on Twitter, only made worse by our Twitterer-in-chief … the constant narcissism of selfies … and I long for a home with only that dull black dial phone, ringing twice a day in the corner of the living room.   But then I wonder how I’d ever recall who sang Come Go with Me* or who played the seductive Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate**.  After all, it’s hard to Goggle on a dial phone.   So I let my Inner Curmudgeon write this blog post to let off steam (he can be a pain if I don’t) and go on with my life, technology and all.  After all, the Serenity Prayer advises me to Accept the things I cannot change.  Sometimes that’s hard.

Have a great weekend.

* It  was the Dell Vikings

** It was Anne Bancroft

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