Just Call Back

Man on the phone, Generic, Frustration
CBSNews.com special contributor Lloyd Garver thinks telephone call waiting is just plain rude.
I'm about to do something that goes completely against all common sense. Here I am, a new columnist trying to get more and more readers, yet I've chosen to express a position that most of you probably disagree with. I can't remain silent any longer: I hate telephone call waiting.

They should have named it, "Call Rudeness." When you get that signal and put me on hold, you might as well be saying, "I just want to see if this caller is more important than you."

Many of you are now saying defensively, "That's not true. I use my call waiting to check out who's calling me no matter who I'm talking to." Who are you kidding? I have a feeling you'd ignore that call waiting signal if you were talking to your boss or your grandchild, or Julia Roberts, or Bill Gates, or that person you always wanted to go out with in high school who just got divorced and has looked you up after all these years and happens to be in town just for one night. So, why can't you be just as considerate with your friends?

Some of you are honest enough to admit to yourselves that you have call waiting for precisely this reason -- in case somebody really important calls while you're talking to somebody who's not important. You don't want to miss out on the Big Call. I don't buy this. If your line's busy, people will do what they have done for generations – they'll call back. How often do you think an employer tells a colleague, "I was going to hire Jack, but his line was busy so I hired someone less qualified?" I've never heard a guy say, "I would have proposed to Mary, but when I called to ask her out for the big date, her line was busy. So, I decided to marry someone I don't love instead." I haven't read all the news this morning, but I doubt that I missed a quote from either Arafat or Sharon along the lines of: "I called him, wanting to ask for compromise and peace, but his line was busy. So, we'll just have to keep fighting."

So, if it's not actually a device to insure that you won't miss the Big Call, what is call waiting really about? Impatience. This is the era of instant gratification. Everybody's rushing so they can get to the next thing to rush through. You want proof? How about the gasoline Speed Pass? These passes are little plastic cards that customers wave at gas pumps. "Fast Company" magazine estimated that a Speed Pass could "cut thirty seconds or so from a 3 1/2 minute transaction." Millions of people have signed up for the service, and the pass will soon be tested at places like McDonald's, drugstores, and supermarkets. All of this to save 30 seconds. How are these people spending that precious 30 seconds? I doubt that they're doing something important like working on global warming, or trying to figure out what Cirque du Soleil has to do with the Oscars. They're probably using this extra time to get on their car phone to call home to check for messages. I hope they're not interrupted by call waiting.

People have actually gotten angry with me for not having call waiting. They resented that they would have to call back a few minutes later. I don't get it. I'm sure if we were at a party, they wouldn't resent that I was paying attention to them instead of looking around to see if there were somebody better to talk to.

If I'm way off base about this, let me know. Or if you agree with me, let me know. But you'd better use e-mail. If you call me, you might get a busy signal.

E-mail your questions and comments to Lloyd Garver

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver