December 27, 2005

What good is it?

As most of you know, I answer phones for a living. Yes, I get paid for doing something where many women can compete only at the amateur level. And no, these calls do not involve a 900 number or the requirement of a valid credit card.

Most nights, between 2:30 and 10:30 I take between 250 and 300 calls from people trying to reach friends and family in the hospital, people within the hospital trying to call home, doctors seeking doctors, nurses seeking doctors, medical personnel seeking techs of all sorts... Well, you get the picture.

Often we get calls from people who are trying to return a call that they received earlier in the day from someone at the hospital. They know they got a call, it's on their caller ID, and they want to know exactly who called them and for what purpose.

Let me let you in on a little secret: caller ID is worthless when the call you receive is from a business or concern with a large phone system. And I do mean completely, totally, unrepentingly, non-negotiably and utterly worthless. The only thing that will show up on your caller ID is a "trunk number." It will never, ever, in a million years show you the number of the extension that called you. You can call that trunk number as many times as you like, make it your life's holy and G-d given mission from now until the end of time as we know it and it will never miraculously change into the extension you desire. Never. Give it up, please.

Caller ID is not a suitable replacement for voicemail. Caller ID is not a reasonable facsimile for an answering machine. Caller ID does not absolve you from prying your ample and underworked bottom from the confines of your vinyl clad Lazy-boy with the duct tape repairs and the off-color afghan, ambling clumsily across the room while the crumbly remains of your last several hours of snacking tumble from the portion of your anatomy formerly recognizable as a lap, turning down the volume of your television where Jerry Springer is once again staging a malignant and disgusting tableau of social fraud and abject inhumanity, picking up the receiver and actually taking your calls.

If you're not at home all day and arrive to find a strange number on your caller ID that shows itself to be from a business or hospital or other such source, don't wait until 9:00 at night to call and demand to know who called you. No one is able to tell you if your outpatient MRI appointment in February has been cancelled, whether or not your doctor's office needed to give you the results of your drug screening, that Aunt Mable was in the ER at noon after she fell over an unattended pallet in the aisle at walmart and needed a ride home in time for lunch, or that "Lost and Found" finally found your lower plate. None of these departments works at 9:00 at night and your Aunt Mable has been gone for hours, as have the overworked and exhausted ER staff that listened to her grumble and complain for hours that you never answered your calls.

*takes a deep breath*

I feel much better. Now answer your phone.

Posted by Mamamontezz at December 27, 2005 03:05 PM | TrackBack

You go, sister!

Posted by: Hugh at December 28, 2005 10:04 AM

After packing a pager for 19 years plus Motorola radio too, I can fully sympathize with the futility of the Caller ID. Nothing is more infuriating than having an emergency and calling one of those canned answering machines so I do appreciate having a human at the other end. People don't think, when you call a crisis center for info you're tying up essential services. I've been known to put the phone on the counter so that the idiot can talk to the ether while we dealt with the crisis at hand. Caller ID is only good for screening your calls, the rest of the time it's a PITA.

Posted by: Jack at December 29, 2005 08:36 AM
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