The Screener

I like to think of myself as an outgoing gal, standing ready with an open ear and an open door to all who grace my life. But truth be told, I'm not always that kind a person.

I am a screener.

Before the advent of Caller Id, just the sound of my ringing phone brought a tingle to my soul. Thrill, based on expectation or the sometimes random nature of communication, pulsed through my body. Just who was on the other end of that ring? Was it the object of my desire? A pesky telemarketer? My mother!? Back in the day, you wouldn't know unless you answered the beckoning call. Obligated to answer (unless I was punishing a boyfriend by ignoring him), every time I picked up the receiver I felt as if I were a contestant on a game show. Who was behind phone number one? Could I handle who and what were on the other side of that ring?

But those days are long over. Voicemail and Caller Id revolutionized life as we knew it. The excitement of the unknown was gone, replaced by a calmness associated with the absolute power of not only knowing who was calling, but also the discretion in choosing to answer. In other words, I was no longer the game show contestant, I was the show's executive producer, creating the rules of engagement and controlling the direction of the very game itself. But I was not alone. The world it seems was also playing along and, just like that, the word and concept of "screening" became part of every day life and social norms.

At first, I screened those unfortunate people who incurred my wrath or indignation. I justified my actions by convincing myself that I wasn't ignoring my caller. I was simply waiting for a more appropriate time when tensions cooled. Later, however, screening developed into a rule and not the exception for me. I fell into the habit of screening just because I could or for murkier, somewhat less justifiable reasons--I was tired, busy, didn't feel like talking. Some people, I have routinely screened; others, I have never screened. But somehow, I consistently fail to admit the inherent rudeness of these actions. I didn't invent this technology, after all. I am merely using it appropriately.

But what happens when the reverse occurs? With suspicions that I am a screenee, I become appalled and incensed. How hard is it to answer a simple phone call? Am I really viewed as a burden or interruption in someone's day? Of course, a person never really knows when he or she is, in fact, a screenee. It's not as if anyone ever admits that your call was screened. And because technology is still infallible, there are a host of reasons calls go unanswered. Maybe, just maybe, my intended didn't get my message. Perhaps my call went unnoticed.

But what if a second call goes unreturned? It's only then that I notice an ugly little trend. Not only have my calls been going unreturned, my phone also hasn't been ringing as often. It's as if the ratings dropped and the network decided to pull the plug on my little game show.

There's only one thing to do--change the rules, speak when spoken to, answer when called. I may never again experience the excitement of the unknown at the end of that ring, but it certainly would be a shame to lose out on the comfortable feeling of the caring, familiar voice that reaches out to me today.


TamWill said...

Oh I how I relate to your post!
I screen my calls with an obsession. My family takes the time to leave messages stating "STOP SCREENING your damn phone and PICK UP!"

I think my Mom has left 15 messages this week, not one phone call returned by me.

I will definitely reflect on my behavior, now that you have shed new light on the matter. Thanks ;)

David said...

I usually just answer the phone. Never know what that person might have to say. My wife on the other hand stares at the caller ID and if no information shows up, she won't pick up.

Jaws said...

I am like Daves' wife.. If info doesn't show up I don't answere. If they need to tell me some thing they can tell the machine and I will call them back in 5 minutes.

I think that goes back to my mid 20's when I was in HUGE debt. I was scared of the phone. The phone ringing gave me a instant head ache. Some one wanting money. I worked hard I don't have that problem any more but you know it still gets me to me.

utenzi said...

I'm the other side of the coin from you, personality wise, Diane. When the phone rings I immediately think "oh no!". I just don't want to deal with other people. LOL

I don't have a landline anymore and my cellphone is programmed with individual rings for anyone I am willing to talk to--which is a VERY short list. If anyone else calls I almost never answer. On the other hand, I love Email.

Ms Bees Knees said...

i have a phone in my house that i never answer. my mom and sister know to email me. isn't that awful? i just hate talking on the phone. and cell phones? forget it. i won't even go there... those fucking things terrify me. LOL!

3rdtimesacharm( 3T ) said...

I rarely EVER answer my phone, thanks to Caller ID. (I know, not nice) There is of course an exception list to that. ;-)


Xavierism said...

I had my landline and cell service remove my name from Caller ID. So I call someone, my calls will show as "unavailable" or such. I really don't care. Most of the time, I'm happy to leave a message. Sometimes if I'm in a hurry and can't chat with the person, leaving a message works for me.

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!