A LENGTHY REBOOT

By Richard Hsu
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Phones

I wish a phone call is still about something other than a donation, credit card, survey, vacation, or duct cleaning. Most of the time it isn't, so I hardly pick up phones now. If I am nearby, I will glance at the caller ID and see if I recognise the name or number. Most of the time I don't, so it goes unanswered and the automated voice messaging system takes over. If I am still nearby, I will listen to the voice message. Most of the time, there is none. If the message is from someone that isn't soliciting, I will call back.

It is sad that marketing calls have turned a simple, elegant solution into a nuisance.

When I was a kid (90s in Kolkata, India), my elderly neighbour had the first phone in the entire building! Her son in Germany sponsored what was then a luxurious gadget. The ring of the phone was distinct and eventful for everyone in the building (we had open doors and windows during the day). Others in the building or nearby also benefited as they got prearranged calls from distant places. It was a magical gadget. Eventually, we got one as well. Having a phone at home eliminated errands I despised. I didn't have to bike to the residential gas cylinder office and stand in line for an hour to book a replacement. A phone call worked.

The Canadian National Do Not Call List and regulatory enforcement has helped but it hasn’t eliminated marketing calls completely. I am looking forward to a screening solution like Adblockers, firewalls, etc. for computers. Hopefully, it will bring the magic back, when the voice of a person follows my Hello and we have a delightful conversation.