Open Thread

Open Thread Update: Call Me…Maybe

Last time, I mentioned several frustrating examples of miscommunications among friends and financial and medical professionals about how best to contact me, among other communications pet peeves.

Not alone!

Seems like my issues touched a chord  Several respondents said “thanks” or “Glad to see this” in the comments. (Thanks!) They weighed in with their comments, complaints and solutions.

Cellphone use (and abuse) is a big issue – many people (like me) reserve them for emergency use only, not day to day. Several readers simply don’t list or reveal their cellphone number to anyone but close family.

“I resolved the cellphone problem by not giving anyone the number! No point calling it, when it’s turned off and not on my person. It’s for my use when I’m out and need a phone.”

Helen W. 

Several people bemoaned the complexity of communications technology.

“it’s become ridiculously difficult to communicate.”

K. Dyani 

The comments also reveal issues with passwords and their complexity, robocalls, and people who prioritize the cellphone contacts over the person right in front of them – we really hit a nerve!

Your communications pet peeves?

Reader Bella’s comments are pretty long but very thoughtful – check it out as well as the rest of the comments, and make sure to add your own!


Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send your suggestions for Open Threads to her at


20 responses to “Open Thread Update: Call Me…Maybe

  1. I’m hard of hearing and have difficulty on the phone, and especially with messages on my answering machine, so I prefer texts. I have the same issue as many others with doctor’s offices calling my cell phone, which goes immediately to voice mail because I don’t have good voice service in my rural area. (No problem receiving texts!) Then I’m unable to reach my mailbox to get the message. I’ve told these folks about this problem, and asked them to use my landline for voice calls, but they all seem to use my cell. We only have 2 prefixes here, so it’s not like they don’t know the difference! I regularly use a computer, email, and do lots of online ordering, and reading news articles.

  2. What can I do with friends around my age (65) who say, when I ask if they received my call, “oh, I left my cell phone at home”. They don’t seem to understand the whole reason for having a cell phone. And, to make things worse, they say “oh, it’s turned off”. What are they thinking?
    1) calls are for truly communicating, short of seeing someone in person.
    2) emails are for giving detailed information, something which you can go back and look at, so that you don’t forget.
    3) text messages are for short communication such as “I’m running late. Be there in 10 minutes” or “I’m in the vegetable aisle”.
    For those who are afraid about our government or google having too much information about us, tell them that it’s too late. It has already happened and cannot be reversed.
    Thank you.

    1. I text the person I wish to call to see if they are available before I try to call. I hate lugging my cell phone all over the house with me. I leave it inside the house while I garden so it is safe. I am not happy with the idea that just because someone calls you on your cell-you feel you have to take the call-some of us have lives off the phone so I resent the intrusion on my time. Leave a voice mail and I will return your call when I have time.

  3. I agree with the annoyances most commenters mentioned but I don’t ask or apologize for a ‘preferred’ method of communication with anyone but close friends. I’m not sure this is as much a ‘phone’ problem as a courtesy problem. Too many people have allowed their devices to overshadow their common sense.

  4. I did not see the original article because I was traveling and use my data sparingly, but boy it seems to have touched a nerve judging by the comments. I no longer use a landline and my cell is only the 2nd phone number I have ever had. Remember the teenage lines? I had mine until just 4 years ago!

    My pet peeve is those who want to have long conversations by text. I text for check-ins (how are you, etc) and essential information. To keep going back and forth by text is a phone conversation, not an exchange of information. If you do not wish to talk, then don’t; just let me know you’re fine and that we will talk another time.

    Oh, and those abbreviations invented when text messages were limited – STOP IT! I have no clue what you are saying. That’s my $.02; you can give me change if you wish.

  5. Hi there
    I’m going on 73 and do not have a cell phone. Why? Because currently I have no use for one. I have a landline. When I leave my house I do not want to be bothered with a call(s) nor do I need to call anyone unless it is in person.
    I get tired when on transit – walking down the street – sitting in restaurants etc hearing people shouting into their cell phones. Really, I do not want to hear nor am I interested in your conversation.
    I do have an iPad but am not on Facebook (heard an interview by the developers how unsafe it can be!) twitter etc.

  6. I have a landline, cell phone and computer. I use email to communicate with a few people because I don’t use social media platforms. If I can’t see someone in person, I prefer to talk rather than email. If you want to actually speak with me you’d have to call my landline. When anyone, including the doctor’s office, asks for my cell number, I tell them I don’t have a cell phone. When I tell them that they look like they’ve been electrocuted, lol! NO ONE but my husband has ever had my cell number. I take the phone with me when I go out in case he wants to reach me and for emergency use. Otherwise it’s off.

    When people call my landline, if I can’t pick up it goes to voicemail and I’ll return the call in a timely manner. Often if I don’t immediately call back it’s, “I left a message and you didn’t call back!” Excuse me, is this an emergency? If it’s an emergency then say so and I’ll call you back as soon as I possibly can. If it isn’t an emergency then STFU and have a little patience! Everything in this world is not instant! Sheesh. The last thing I want is to be at someone’s beck and call at ALL times. And that’s one reason why I don’t give out my cell number!

    I also have difficulty talking with people on their cell phones. So far my hearing is fine. It’s not me, it’s their cell phone. Often the “conversation” goes like this, “What did you say? Say that again? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you, you’re breaking up.” Their response, “Can ya hear me now?” LOL. It’s annoying/frustrating.

    Cell phones have definitely changed the way people behave. The summer before Covid hit I was at a family reunion. We were sitting around tables outdoors. All but three people had their phones in front of them on the table. I had a conversation with the two other people who weren’t glued to their phone appendages, lol. Most people I know can’t be more than six inches from their cell phone and check it a hundred times a day! When I’m with people, I don’t mind them checking their phones a few times. I can understand the need to feel connected but every second of everyday? Yes, if you’re a doctor, EMT, are on call, have kids you worry about, or are expecting an important call you can’t miss but other than that I find it rude when in the company of others.

    One night my husband and I were at the local ice cream parlor when a group of five girls came in. As they were walking to a table they were all on their cell phones. They sat down while on their cell phones. The waitress came to the table asking for their orders. They ordered while still on their phones then sat there, together, texting/talking on their phones while they ate! My husband and I just looked at each other, lol.

    Recently I was having coffee with a friend I only see once in a while and his hand was resting on his phone the entire time. It didn’t ring but he kept checking it every minute. I asked him if he was expecting a call. He said no but still kept checking it. After about fifteen minutes of non-stop checking I stood up and said I had to go. He looked up from his phone and said, “You just got here!”. I said, “Yeah, I thought we were going to have a conversation and catch up but you’re not paying attention to me, you’re with your phone.” He said he was sorry. I went to sit down but before my keister could hit the seat, he was checking his phone again! I stood up and said maybe we could try this another time, if he could manage to pay attention to me instead of his phone. I haven’t heard from him since, lol! I guess he thinks I’M rude, lol. That’s fine with me, he can think whatever he wants to think. I’ve pretty much had it with people who prefer to pay attention to their cell phones rather than communicate with the people they’re actually with. Frankly, I’d rather enjoy my own company than compete with an electronic device.

    Another communications peeve is … automated answering systems … and being stuck on hold FOREVER while trying to reach a customer service rep with questions. Not to mention some of the music you have to endure while waiting and waiting. The Social Security answering system is a disgrace. Y’all know exactly what I mean. I’ve been on hold for over two hours waiting to speak with someone. I know you can leave your number and they say they’ll call you back and I’ve left my number. Sometimes they called me back and sometimes they didn’t. So, I hung on, literally.

    However, just to end on an up note, Amazon is great with their Call Me Service. You call the number, get connected, and within seconds a representative picks up to answer your call. And when I called the courthouse the other day, I expected to have to jump through the usual hoops one must navigate to speak with a live person. I was surprised and amazed when the phone rang exactly once and a live person who could actually help me answered! I was so happy I was almost giddy, lol!


  7. I am a telephone talker from way back. I remember how excited I was as a teenager many years ago, when my parents gave me my very own pink princess phone for Christmas. Today, I do not have a land line. I find talking on my cell to be challenging, and I always feel like I have to shout. My son gave me ear pods, which I love, but they are not always with me when I need to use my phone. I have two very hard of hearing people in my life, my brother and my best friend. They both have their hearing aids calibrated to their iPhones, and that works very well for them. My brother and I have had some really wonderful conversations over this past year since he got this set up with his phone (he lives in Florida and I in Denver). I feel so reconnected to him – what a gift. And finally, I also use facebook, messenger and text, and sometimes Instagram. Also, I work with students studying for a professional licensing exam, and I find the best way to get their attention when I need to remind them of something is to text. My students are mainly millennials, and email is not their jam – its all about the texts and sliding into their DM’s (ok I don’t talk like that, just being a little silly).

  8. Thank you! So glad to see this. So many think I just can’t keep up with technology, but it’s become ridiculously difficult to communicate.

    Even when young, I favored email, or writing letters, or face to face visits.

    Phone calls leave so many cues out, I need and favor visual cues more than other audible or tactile cues. They help me remember, understand, and process info so much better.

    The world is moving too fast, As soon as smart phones made an appearance I knew they were not for me. Then I woke up and world was filled with apps. It is a mystery why so many are plugged so much to all this. Thanks for giving words to this.

  9. I agree with your article. I ask doctor’s ofc personnel to please call me on my landline first and if I don’t answer, then try the cellphone. I hear best on my landline phone. Inevitably they call the cellphone number anyway. I used to only turn on my cellphone when I went out, but I now leave it on during the day, because so much communication now with family and friends is via text. And I am now used to texting and it makes sense because I know I am not interrupting anyone’s busy day and they get back to me as soon as they can.

  10. I have a landline (36 years same #), email address, cell phone, and I do use Twitter and Facebook a bit. Only friends/family have my cell number, and they all know to use the landline for talking, and the cell for texting. Facebook and Twitter are just amusements for me, not to be used for ongoing contact. Yes, I think your friends should contact you the way you prefer. Just don’t give your cell number to the professionals if you don’t want them to use it.

  11. I am probably the youngest resident at the assisted living facility where I live and maybe the most “computer literate.” I have and use an iPhone, an iPad, and a laptop computer, and I use texting, my cellphone exclusively, Facebook, a yahoo email preferably, but also a gmail account to keep in touch with people. Even so, I’m constantly missing calls or emails or texts for ridiculous reasons: the phone has gone into silent ringer mode without me telling it to, the “ring” sound I chose to alert me to texts has suddenly disappeared from the list of those available, so I’m no longer alerted, or, worst of all, each and every doctor’s office has its own quirky interface that’s harder to use than the last one, and all of these require usernames and passwords, which of course you must make distinct and in memorable so no one will guess them, and change every so often, but somehow keep track of…oy oy oy! My brain is like Swiss cheese, with the cheese holes getting bigger by the day!!

  12. I agree with the previous posters! I resolved the cellphone problem by not giving anyone the number! No point calling it, when it’s turned off and not on my person. It’s for my use when I’m out and need a phone. Facebook is similar: I “lurk”: i want to see family posts, but rarely post. If I want to reply to someone, I use email.

    Messages : sparingly. And the few people (family) I accept messages from know not to expect an instant reply.
    But my biggest gripe: the robocalls/ scammers, etc who persist in disturbing me. I block unidentified callers who do not leave messages, but I’ve still been interrupted. Why can’t the governments do something to stop this assault on our privacy.

  13. Glad this subject was brought up! I have considerable hearing loss, so really need email for all communication with anyone. I can not hear on the phone, so that’s out. I do have a CapTel phone with captions that I can use to make an occasional necessary call somewhere, but hate that there’s no way to have a record of what was said. With email I have a record of each word! And there is no way I could get to the CapTel if it should ring, so i never answer a phone call. I have a small cell phone I carry in my pocket, but use only for an emergency. And I prefer not to do things like Facebook or Twitter or any social media. Maybe I would if I were younger, but I’m 95!

  14. I do not use Facebook at all. I also have an ancient flip phone that requires triple tap texting and is only used infrequently. 99% of my communication is done via email but people insist that I join Facebook groups ( I don’t and I won’t) or try to engage me in long dialogues via text no matter what I say to the contrary.

    I have a landline and a work number where I can be reached but people still seem set in their preferred mode of communication and unwilling to be open to mine. I have lost ‘friends’ (or perhaps I should say ‘prospective friends’) as a result. It astounds me that there are still people who think an afternoon or evening spent on the telephone several times a week is enjoyable and relaxing. To me, it most certainly is NOT. In an ideal world, I want to see people face to face. Send me an email, set up a time to get together and we go from there. I spend my work week in front of a screen and on business phone calls. I want the personal, non-work time that I am out in the world to be time where I am interacting on a human level-not through devices.

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