The Caller ID Rant

Definitely Not Old School

You want to talk to someone, so you call them, but they’re not there. You don’t want to talk to them later. The moment is now. Gone. This is a spontaneous phone call. If you wanted them to call back, you'd leave a message, but you don’t, so you don’t. But what happens when they call you back anyway? You just became a victim of caller ID.

Argument one (philosophical argument): caller ID is an affront to spontaneity. It should be the privilege of the caller, the person who has taken the initiative, to not leave a message. This classic privilege is, however, bitch-slapped around by caller ID.

Argument two (humanitarian argument): caller ID or the fear of caller ID fosters a generalized anxiety among callers, particularly effecting those already at risk for anxiety. Do they have it? Do they not have it? Will it detect me if I hang up fast enough? How much is too much? One solution is to have a caller ID warning system, which informs the caller when someone is using caller ID against them. At least then one could make an educated choice whether or not to be friends with that person. Note, I am certainly in favor of call blocking, court restraining orders and trap door mats to stem stalkers and stamp out solicitors, whom everyone agrees are bad.

Argument three (political argument) is quite simple: Why the hell does anyone need caller ID in the first place? Using caller ID to “foil people” who choose not to leave messages has already been debunked in argument one. But then you'll say it's precisely these “spontaneous” friends who might hang up when you don’t get to the phone on time. And you wouldn't want to miss them. Listen, you don’t deserve them. And besides, there already is an automatic call back feature. The aptly named *69 feature. Using caller ID instead of writing down people's phone numbers means you either don't have any pens, you're a lazy piece of shit or both. Using caller ID as a means of “screening calls” is overkill considering that an answering machine already does that. Caller ID is like sex or Tevo. If it's free, then maybe, but I sure as hell ain't payin' for it.

The most Machiavellian use for caller ID I’ve heard is as a means of gaining a few seconds mental preparation before taking a call. This is actually not all that unreasonable considering the caller has always enjoyed a disproportionate advantage in planning. 'King Mustafa, Alexander the Great here, I'm giving you ten seconds to pray before I lob fifty tons of man-crushing stone on your sorry-ass palace.' Or, 'Hello, this is your wife. Just what the hell-' You can see how an extra couple of seconds might be useful, especially if you’re up to no good. And believe me, you're up to no good. 'My dearest Alexander, that's what she said.' But despite this one potentially valid use for caller ID, the other ills are too great. In the end, caller ID amounts to legalized espionage and sanctioned neuroticism, and people who use it do so at their own risk, and mine.
What a load of crap. I love my caller ID.

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