Monday, October 12, 2015

52 Weeks to a Simpler Life – Tip #6 – You Don't Have To Answer The Telephone

This is the sixth week of the 52 weekly tips to a simpler life. You have likely noticed some of these tips are easier and simpler to implement than others. This week's tip is one of the simpler and easier to implement. Actually, it's three tips in one and implementing any one of them will simplify your life. Implementing all three will greatly simplify your life.

So, let's get started.

Tip #6A Stop Answering The Telephone Every Time It Rings!

Yes! That's right. There is no mandatory law or rule that states because you have a phone, whether it's an “old fashioned” land line, wired telephone or a wireless cellular or smart phone, you must answer it when it rings. As a matter of fact, there has never been any mandatory reason anyone has to answer a telephone except if it is required as part of your occupation/job.

People call you when it's convenient for them or they had nothing better to do than call and chit chat. This is very typical of friends and family. It's usually not in their consideration that because it's convenient for them that it might not be convenient for you. But, for some reason, we are ridden with guilt if we don't answer a phone call at the instant someone wants us.

I know I've done this and I've heard most other people do the same thing. You probably have, too. You were out taking care of some chores, errands, taking care of family needs or even in the bathroom addressing a biological need. You have either an old fashioned answering machine or voice-mail. You get a message to return someone's call and you apologize for not being at your phone when that person called you. Why do you feel guilty? Even if it's the spouse or one of the kids calling, life is not the military. You are not on duty 24/7/365.

A business may be calling to tell you something you ordered is ready to be picked up or your car repairs are complete or to remind you of a doctor, dental, group therapy session about being over stressed by telephone calls or some other appointments you may have. If they leave the message on the voice-mail/answering machine, will you not get the message?

The telephone is a wonderful convenience. Since the day Alexander Graham Bell uttered the words heard over a pair of wires in the next room, “Mr. Watson, come here! I want to see you.” the telephone has continued to make our lives better and more convenient. Unfortunately, along with all the conveniences and improvements to our lifestyles, a number of abuses have come along with the phone.

First, of course, is when people calling don't think you may be busy at your end. Or, you may be addressing some personal biological needs. Or, you may be out and about running errands, doing some chores, at your job or taking care of family matters, etc. Of course, one of my special pet peeves about phone abuse is when people call you during your “down time.” I don't know why anyone believes I'm awake at 1:30 to 2:30 in the morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, awaiting his or her phone call and ready to chat for an hour or two. News Flash! I'M NOT! I'm 99.9% sure I'll be sleeping. The same thinking applies for night shift people who sleep during the day.

Next, there are the infernal telemarketing calls. Yes! The federal government has established a “Do Not Call” list for people desiring to opt out of telemarketing calls. But, there are lots of loopholes in that list. One of them, the list does not apply to “non-profit” organizations. Boy, does that leave the barn door wide open.

Now, we have the delightful “robo” calls (short for robot calls). You answer the phone and there is a short silence and then immediately you hear, “DON'T HANG UP THE PHONE, I have an important message that will change your life.” Personally, if I happen to receive a call like that, I never even hear the part about changing my life. I started hanging up as soon as I heard the first five words.

I have a little confession to make. In the early days of the “robo” calls, as one of the many kinds of voice-over gigs I've done during my professional career, I was actually the voice of one of numerous robo calls. They were basically generic messages promoting a variety of different businesses. That was then. This is now. I have seen the “error in my ways” and have repented. I have no desire to harass people like that now or anytime in the future.

Get ready for the next major barrage. You may already be receiving political campaign calls soliciting campaign contributions, asking polling questions or asking for your support and vote for a plethora of candidates – for local, state and national offices. They are especially annoying.

We are in trying times and whether we like it or not, the amount of scams seems to increase. The telephone is a prime tool. Probably the most targeted segment of the population are the seniors, especially those 75, 80 and older. The same old scams continue morphing and going around and around. But, there a new phone scams created all the time. And, once again, because of the advances in telephone technology, these calls are most often originating from countries like the Ukraine, Russia, China, African countries and even some of the Caribbean island countries. Beware!

There are also the calls from various religious organizations wanting to save your soul and deliver a brief, uplifting message. And, let's not forget the occasional wrong numbers and crank calls.

We put up with all of this because we feel guilty if we don't answer the phone when it rings. STOP! YOU DON'T HAVE TO ANSWER THE PHONE JUST BECAUSE IT RINGS! If you have caller ID, and I hope you do, do like me, if I don't recognize the phone number or see the caller's name or it says “Unknown Caller,” I automatically don't answer the phone. I have voice-mail and if it's someone who knows me, they'll leave me a message and I'll call back at my convenience. If there is no message, I deduce, either the call wasn't important or I didn't want to talk to that party anyway.

Nobody has priority over your time. True! It could be an emergency. But, unless every member of your family and all your friends are emergency prone, these calls are extremely infrequent. And, again, they can leave a voice-mail message and you can check that.

All you need to do is stop answering the phone every time it rings. I will not answer my phone, even though it's in my pocket, when I'm sitting on the porcelain throne, taking a shower, enjoying a favorite TV show (since I watch very little TV), reading a book I'm engrossed in or even when I'm composing an article for this blog. I'm not really that important to anyone else and I'm simply not available at everyone else's beck and call. You aren't either.

Tip #6B Get Rid Of Your Land Line Wired Telephone

You read that right! It's an antique. There are only three reasons I can think of that might justify a wired phone line. One, you still need a fax machine, another technology becoming obsolete. Two, you have terrible or no cellular, wireless phone service at your home location. Three, you have a security system requiring a phone line to the security company's monitoring location (get a dedicated line for that purpose only). That's it! The wired telephone is a technology that has become outdated. It's one more thing you have to deal with in a lifestyle you're working toward simplifying.

Additionally, it's also a redundant expense. If you don't have a wireless service, you're one of the very few who doesn't have it and you should. It provides everything the wired service does and more, including mobility and a phone in your pocket, purse or car in case of emergency.

Another disclosure, my father, by my same name, has two inventions and patents registered in his name for components of the fax machine. I was going through a variety of legal papers just yesterday and found copies of the patents. Needless to say, I'm proud of that legacy. These inventions date back to the early 1950's, so fax technology goes back almost 65 years.

If my father didn't have to sign over the patent rights to the U.S. government because they were created as part of a government contract, he likely would have become wealthy from them. And, yes, I'd be promoting everyone buying fax machines if there were still royalties to be paid out. But, the facts are the facts. The fax is obsolete technology.

Set a time definite to terminate your wired phone service. Make the date, perhaps, 60 or 90 days from the day you make your decision. This will allow enough time to put a message on your answering machine or voice-mail indicating that the telephone number will cease to reach you after the chosen date. Tell people to ask for your new (cellular) number so they can change their address books (which are probably kept in their smart phones, anyway).

DO NOT announce your cellular number on the message you put on your answering machine or voice-mail. You want to be selective in who you give that number to. Since cell phone numbers are not listed in phone directories, printed or on-line, this will keep the robo calls, telemarketers, etc. all at bay for a while. The 60 to 90 day period should allow adequate time for everyone you keep in regular contact with to make the changeover. Ask everyone you give the cellular number to, to start using that number immediately. That way they'll make the change in their address books, manual or electronic.

By the way, if you have a bundled service that includes cable TV, Internet and telephone service, tell the provider to unbundle it and just provide the cable TV and Internet service. This is easier if you have a bundle from a cable company. The wired, local telephone companies don't usually like doing this. If it doesn't change your cost for your wired telephone company bundle, just unplug your phone on the appointed day you've chosen and have the phone company shut off your voice-mail. Anyone who calls that number will just get a ringing sound, but it will never be answered.

One final advantage of eliminating your wired telephone service in favor of a cellular service is mobility. If you move from your present location and leave the area covered by your wired phone exchange, you will lose your current number, like it or not. However, your wireless, cellular phone number is mobile and follows you anywhere you move in the U.S. and probably in some other countries, too. If you're going away on a vacation for a couple weeks or a couple months, your cellular phone number follows you wherever you are during that period. You can actually keep that number for the rest of your life, even if you change wireless providers.

Tip #6C Get A FREE Google Voice Telephone Number

You read that right! You can apply on line to Google for a free Google-Voice phone number. You can get that number in any area code and hundreds of exchanges anywhere in the U.S. To the best of my knowledge, it's not available outside the U.S. at this time.

So, here's the deal. Go to Google, look for their Google-Voice service and apply for your phone number. I received mine years ago. I wanted the last four numbers of the phone number to correspond to the letters FREE to use as a form of “vanity” number with my Living Free philosophy. So, I did a number search and, viola, I have a phone number in the 703 area code ending in FREE. It didn't matter where the area code was, to me, since my lifestyle is a mobile lifestyle anyway.

Once this number is assigned, it is yours for the rest of your life as long as you actively use it. Calls coming to that number will be forwarded to any cellular, residential, business, etc. phone you want to receive the calls on. Additionally, you can make outgoing calls using that same phone number. In other words, you now have a second phone number at no charge that you can use for any purpose you choose.

In my case, I primarily use it as my business phone number or my "daytime number" as often requested when buying something or by government agencies. I have my Google-Voice number printed on my business cards and all other places I want to use a phone number other than my direct cell phone number. When you apply for a credit card, give your phone number out when you purchase something on line or for any other reason, you give the Google-Voice number. That prevents any of these organizations or businesses from selling your private cell phone number. Once again, this affords you an additional layer of privacy and security, both of which are becoming difficult commodities to retain in today's society.

There is a long list of features with a Google-Voice phone number that are all free, including most U.S. and Canadian calls. International rates are extremely low and significantly lower than traditional phone company rates. Additionally, Google-Voice email can be integrated so all your regular cell phone calls go to the Google-Voice email. Google-Voice email is far more comprehensive than regular phone company email. You can even read or listen to your voice-mails on line, you'll be notified by email you have voice-mail. It also provides a written transcript of the voice mails. You can screen calls. You can record calls.

Don't already have a Google-Voice phone number? I strongly recommend you go to the Google-Voice site and read all the features you get. I keep scratching my head wondering how they can do this for free. But, they do and we are the beneficiaries of this fantastic service.

The Bottom Line

Any single one of these tips in this troika will simplify your life and, most likely, in the long run, save you some money. But, applying the triple header and using all three will definitely improve your life and make it a lot simpler in the realm of communication and keeping in contact with everyone you choose to. Pass this article on to family, friends and colleagues. They'll appreciate it and everyone wins. Let me know your thoughts. Leave comments below or on Google + or the Living Free Facebook fan page. 


Anonymous said...

Theoretically what U propose is practical & will save U money, BUT... what if the person is hearing impaired & needs a special phone ? could a cell phone do the job of a landline one ?

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Hi Anonymous -- Thanks for your comment. You bring up an interesting point. I have not researched the field, but in a casual Google search it appears this problem has been addressed in several ways by the phone manufacturers and the wireless service providers. And, since almost all cell phones have texting capability, email and even chat, they can also be part of the solutions. So, in general with a cursory look, I'd say, yes, a cell phone could do the job. And, add to that, if you have a smart phone and an Internet data package, you can use Skype on a smart phone and with the video capability, even sign language becomes a possibility.


Scott Baldassari said...

I'm with you! The age of cell phones and instant communication have people believing they instantly HAVE TO ANSWER the phone also. Not so. Answering machines and recordings are there for that. Personally, I find it a bit rude when you are having a conversation with someone, their phone rings, and they put their hand up to put YOU on "Hold", so they can answer their phone. The person in front of you should take precedence over a phone call in all but emergency situations... Let the phone ring.

...And don't even get me started about people who go out to eat "with" someone, and then sit across from them and text, communicate, or otherwise do "screen time"... :-\

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

You're on the nose with your comment, Scott. If I'm with someone and they excuse them self for a rest room break or some other reason, I might quickly check my email and texts. If something has come in, I'll check it. IF I have time before the other person returns, I might answer the email or text. But, if the other person returns right away, unless, like you suggested, it's an emergency, and it seldom is, I can always respond to the email or text later. Thanks for your comment.