Recently, I escaped from the cubicle farm after seven years working as a human resources coordinator and started working from home. This has wrought many changes in my life, not least the fact that my social skills vanished in a month, but by far the greatest is the phone, which is blissfully, endlessly silent.
Here are the five phone calls that probably take a year off your life, every time you get them. I know they helped shorten mine.
5) The Sales Call
One of these days, sales departments will eventually figure out that for every sale they make over the phone, there are one hundred low level drones taking their calls who really want to do nothing more than tell them to burn in hell for wasting their time and trying to get the name of somebody else to annoy.
To be fair, the guy on the other end is just doing his job: salesmen can be required to make up to 150 cold calls, all day, every day. It’s not his fault: he has to throw strangers into an ax-murdering rage because otherwise he isn’t going to get his sales commission. Still, you’d think companies would learn that making people want to ax-murder their salesmen probably doesn’t do much for their reputation in the long run. It certainly reduces the customer base.
4) The Follow-Up Call
Email has done absolutely wonderful things for us. It’s brought us closer as a people, it’s sped up communication by incredible degrees, and above all, it’s subtracted a lot of the phone calls we used to have to do on a regular basis out of our lives. No more calling every single friend to tell them the good news: now you blast out an email. Or update your social media accounts. Or both.
Still, not everyone has gotten the memo, and occasionally you’ll find yourself on the phone with somebody you spoke to for five minutes three weeks ago acting like they’re your best friend. Send email, OK? At least with email, we can put you in the priority queue at the bottom where you belong, unless we actually want to talk to you, in which case it will be somebody much more important and able to answer your detailed questions who will be calling you.
3) The Wrong Number
One thing the Internet, cell phone technology, and faster processors should have been able to solve a decade ago, and somehow hasn’t, is the wrong number.
These are short, at least, but there’s nothing quite as irritating as getting dozens of them because some idiot on a website can’t be bothered to double-check his business’s advertising materials. This sounds like a weird scenario, but it happened to me at least once a year, every single year, and was one of the reasons I quit.
2) The Robot
I’m not talking about the pre-recorded calls you get sometimes: those I can deal with. I’m talking about “predictive dialers,” the computers that literally do nothing but call random sequences of digits and see if anybody picks up.
Seriously: that’s their job. That’s all these things are designed to do: dial your number, see if you pick up, and if so, sell that number to every single sales department willing to pay for it as a “hot lead”. Predictive dialers are why I’ve been paid at least ten thousand dollars in my lifetime to explain to Chad the Overenthusiastic Salesman or Joey the Guy Who’s Working This Job for Weed Money that he is calling my work phone and I don’t want to buy Hoodie-Footie Pajamas, goddamn it.
1) The Co-Worker on Vacation
This comes in two flavors: the guy who just cannot let go of the office, and the guy who wants to torture everyone in the office, and God help me, I really can’t decide who’s worse.
They’ve got their pros and their cons. The guy who can’t let go at least cares and wants to quickly check in to make sure he hasn’t screwed you over, which is nice of him. On the other hand, he’s ignoring his family to do this, so you find yourself wanting to scream at him “Go see your wife and lovely children, at the beach. Away from your cell phone! NOW!”
Then there’s the guy who calls in: “Hey, man, how are you? Me? Man, Montego Bay is so great! The weather here is perfect! I’ve been drinking rum since 8am and I’m not going to stop for five straight days! Ha haaaaaaaa! Anyway, tell me about this totally insignificant thing you’re working on that I’m using as an excuse to call you and gloat.” Bonus dickbag points if he times this right when a winter storm is about to hit.
OK, yes, that guy needs to be punched until his face and penis are both concave. But consider that you, as his co-worker, are literally the only human being he has to brag to. Everyone else has either ignored him on Facebook, or doesn’t care enough about him to pick up the phone. You are the closest thing he has to a friend.
All the rum in the world can’t make up for that. Although it probably helps.
By Dan Seitz