I was quite perturbed the other day when a woman dialed my number in search of a “Mr. Jackson” (who apparently last occupied my phone number, as I”m forced to turn away his calls on an almost daily basis).

Paul Wong
A woman weaves while sitting on top of a hill in Kinaur, India. This northern part of the country lies in the Himalayas<br><br>SAM HOLLENSHEAD/Daily

Naturally, I informed her that there was no Mr. Jackson available at the number she had reached, which I hoped was a polite way of saying “good-bye.”

Undeterred, the madam informed me that she was speaking on behalf of a local cancer charity and that she wouldn”t “take much” of my time.

Not wanting to abruptly alter my patient tone of abiding tolerance, I heard her out and explained that I was a broke student with no source of income. No, not even ten dollars to spare. (Which was a blatant lie I knew damn well that I had a ten dollar bill in my pocket.)

Should I really have to put up with this two-faced shit? Isn”t it invasive for a stranger to enter into someone”s private domain and ask for money?

Perhaps some digression on the development of telephones is in order. Originally, the telephone was created by Alexander Graham Bell as an extension of Samuel Morse”s earlier invention, the telegraph, which transmitted words through a wire via electronic signals.

Although it was the first major step in achieving efficient trans-continental communication, the telegraph was limited insofar as its ability to allow for an exchange of information.

No one ever sent a telegram that said “whazzup?” and expected a response like “ain”t shit new” telegrams weren”t for conversing.

The advent of the telephone, however, represented the ability to both send and receive information simultaneously.

Thus, the 20th century”s embracement of phones effectively represents the acceptance of a symbiotic system of information transaction. Which means that no one who owns a phone and expects an unlimited ability to make phone calls can deny that the calls he or she receives should be any more restricted … especially if that someone has allowed his or her name to be published in a phone book. Getting upset at a stranger”s call is no different than getting upset at a friend”s call, because the essence of the phone network is that it enables all points within it to have equal access to each other.

Does this mean that, say, Mr. Richard Less has to put up with anonymous curse-laden calls from listless caffeinated teenagers?

Well, if I may return to my initial concern, the inquiries of my solicitory madam are slightly problematic since the supposed goal of her phone call was to reach one Mr. Jackson, who, as I pointed out to her, was someone other than myself.

That she proceeded with her beseechment despite the apparent lack of a Mr. Jackson indicates that she was not really interested in him at all, but rather she was only concerned with reaching someone, anyone at my phone number. I imagine she scanned down some long list of phone numbers, a phone book perhaps, dialing each of them with the equal assumption that the names of the purported owners was accurate.

But that”s less like communication and more like throwing darts. Moreover, it implies that she wasn”t at all interested in me as a person. She was only interested in what I could provide her or her cause, and as such reduced me from a human being with something to say to a means to an end (which I don”t appreciate).

This same principle applies to prank calls, which are simply the means of providing amusement to bored individuals with phones.

Thus, I”ve returned to the plight of Mr. Richard Less, whose phone book listing regularly requires him to field midnight questions from curious youngsters about whether his handicap makes it difficult for him to go to the bathroom.

I”m sorry, Mr. Less. All those nameless whipersnaps are wrong, because it”s only appropriate to make a prank call if you know the person you”re calling. And anyway, I”ve always found this to be the most satisfying way to prank, since it allows one to more accurately imagine the expression on a victim”s face when he or she is woken by the phone at five in the morning.

If you”d like to get in touch with John about his column, please don”t because he really hates being bothered (psssst … juhl@umich.edu).

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