Friday, January 22, 2010

Ringy Dingy

I don't like phones. At my first job, I used to keep the phone in the desk drawer. I was in a new city at a new company in a brand new industry. There was no reason for anyone to call me and I didn't know anyone. And if I had, they could have called my as-big-as-a-brick Nokia 100. It wasn't as big as the ones that they had on The A-Team, but it was pretty large. At my second job, I used my phone a little more, but there was a lot of email or I'd go visit my salespeople in person. At my third job, email and when necessary I'd go visit people. And here at this job, the phone is a little more crucial, but even still, what passes as an office phone solution leaves me deeply unsatisfied.

First, the phone itself. Ugly beige oversized thing. Why? Why is it so utterly huge? And ugly? It would make that old Nokia look tiny. And so I don't keep it on my work surface, instead opting to put it nearby on a shelf so I can hear it ring. (And that's another thing... why must all office phones have annoying rings and why must so many people turn them up so loud? I've been sneaking into people's cubes and offices for over a decade now turning down their phones. In all but one case, they've never turned it back up.) And why is it so beige? I hear you can get a nice black fancy phone with more features, but it'll cost your department like $200. We accidentally did that for one of my staff, just trying to get him a display for his phone. Apparently he was getting a lot more calls and there were a number of them that he was better off letting go to voicemail.

Now, voicemail - that's another thing. How does it make any sense for a little red light on the phone to signify voicemail? You never know how many voicemails there on there. If it's just one, what's the point? But if you leave it for a few days, then it just leads to a potential for dread - because now there could be a thousand on there. Or there could still be just one, so why bother? I've been inclined to just put a post-it note over the voicemail light and call it good. Even at home I can go online to Comcast and see a list of voicemails and listen to them and jump back and forth and replay without trying to remember if 4 means rewind or super-secret-double-immediate-delete-forever.

Sometimes when people leave a long message, I just call them or I go visit their office and say "Hey, your message was too long. What's up?" Usually that gets things solved quicker than me trying to maintain focus and consciousness while listening to a long voicemail.

Which is why I never give out my office number, I don't publicize it on my signature block, I don't tell it to people and I figure that anyone who calls *just* that number doesn't have a good idea of how to reach me. Because anyone who's paying attention will have my Google Voice (Grand Central) number and when they call that, my desk phone and my Blackberry (and sometimes my cell phone) all ring simultaneously and I can choose which to answer, which will typically be one of the mobile phones because then I'll also have my Bluetooth headset and can take the call while I walk. Because, believe it or not, if someone wants to talk to me on the phone, rarely do I end up needing access to a computer while I'm talking to them.

And if I can't take their call (or don't want to take their call), they go to voicemail. Which I can listen to online, and which is transcribed and sent to me as email and as a text message.

For months, my phone has been on a different floor in my old cube and all calls immediately went to voicemail and I'd go down there once every week or two to check to see if I had new messages. I had it moved up here last week and then while I was out sick earlier this week, the light came on and I let it go a few days (because there could be 1,000 messages on there and who wants to deal with that? or maybe it was one lone message with little value) and finally caved in and checked it this morning. EIGHT MESSAGES. Ugh. I endured my way through them all and at the end there were six dealing with stuff that had already been discussed and resolved in email and two that were a cold call from some guy who saw our organization as a way that he could make some money off the Haiti crisis.

So yeah, I don't like office phones. If I could get all my calls forwarded to my cell phone or Skype or softphone or anything but the ugly tethered beige monstrosity of doom, that would be awesome.