This Call’s For You

I like it when people call my cell phone from their cell phone. Campus phones just list caller ID as “Brandeis University,” which is unhelpful. We have a complicated little ritual here in America. “Hello?” “Hello, is Frank home?” “This is Frank.” “Hi Frank, this is Bob.” It is a silly, four-part process for establishing something that should be readily apparent. Why the questioning hello? Why the challenge response? In Germany, you answer the phone with your name, and the other person resonds with theirs. *ring “Frank Brown.” “This is Bob Jones.” And so on. Much more convenient.

I might not want to put arbitrary “value” on my time, but I do know when I feel I can be disturbed and when I would whether not be. What is tremendously helpful in these situations, which include most times of the day, is to know who is calling me. I can prioritize calls based on necessity, schedule, and feelings, and take only those calls that are important. At the same time, I can avoid the tedious four-step process and just answer the phone with, “Hello Bob.” This instantly establishes that I am myself and I know who the person is who is calling. We can get to the point quickly and without awkwardness. This is only effective, however, with personal phones, which today means cell phones, because home phones can be shared, dorm phones are without caller ID, and pay phones are anonymous.

Finally the powers that be are allowing us number portability so that we can carry cell phone numbers with us across carriers and throughout our lives. The next step are whitelists and blacklists, explicitly allowing or denying access to our phones based on various criteria, the first being who is trying to call us. Since phones are increasingly location-aware, the next step can be restricting calls based on proximity. No business calls while I’m on vacation, unless it is the boss. No non-urgent calls during class. Etc. These advances will make telephone conversations much more useful.

As I get more involved in student government, I start to rely on my cell phone more and more.

3 replies on “This Call’s For You”

  1. A great post – and I agree with the convenience of cell phones displaying other cell phones as a step to person-specific phone numbers… Perhaps number issuance at birth will follow shortly. 🙂

  2. To futher this up, I’ve often noticed different conventions on telephone answering in various institutions I’ve been in.

    At the place I’ve worked for four summers, most people answer their phones with their department names only, even on lines that are direct-dial personalized lines for specific individuals. At Brandeis, thought, it seems that most administrative-type people do answer their phones with their names. Department lines are answered with department names.

    I’ve been chided for years by friends for answering my phone by saying, “This is Adam Herman.” but I’ve found that it does cut down on the number of people that say “Is Adam there?”

    When I had Danny’s new job (Student Union Secretary), I always implored people to say their name in addition to “Student Union” when they answered the phone their. About half of the officers did, half didn’t.

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