Monday, March 4, 2024

PHALON’S FILE #1

Making and receiving calls used to be a relatively simple affair. The hardest it got was remembering to dial an area code if necessary. Which, by the way, wasn’t done lightly. One wrong digit of the area code and your call to Scranton was routed to Scottsdale. When a child picked up a phone and started playing with it, they might as well have picked up a loaded weapon for all the panic that ensued.

“Oh my God! Stop him before he calls Long Distance!”

And there were a few other minor challenges. We were often vexed with the dilemma of whether we had to dial nine first when making a call from a business environment. You could be made to feel like an idiot either way, so you were a little hesitant to ask, “do I have to dial 9 first?”

You held your breath. “Why the hell would you dial 9 first?” remarked some smarmy cubicle dweller. “Just dial the number!” Busted.

You only ask because the last time you tried to make a call from a business you did “just dial the number” and three digits into the call you got an ear-piercing alert that could be heard across the cubicle prairie. You would invariably be on the receiving end of a cacophony of sarcasm-laced scoldings of “You have to dial 9 first!” Busted. Again.

We survived. My big peeve these days is unmarked robocalls. Half of them don’t even have a human or robot at the other end, just dead air. Somebody somewhere on the other side of the world went to the trouble to set up a computer program that would launch a call that would evade several robo-detectors, screening systems and other billion-dollar technologies to call Joe Phalon in New Jersey and hang up on him. I’m flattered that somebody would go to such lengths but a bit puzzled.

We used to do that to kids we didn’t like for laughs. But let’s just suppose the phone rings and it shows one of those clever numbers that matches the first three digits of your number to make you think its friendly. I’m old school. When I answer the phone, I say, “hello,” in a jovial manner. Ordinarily the person at the other end who placed the call would say, “Hi, I’m John and I’m calling on behalf of your local PBA to raise money.” At least the person had responded properly.

Then I would ask what number my PBA local is and when they invariably can’t answer, I know it’s a scam and hang up. Then there’s the other one. You again answer the call with a friendly, “hello,” but there is a brief pause and then the caller says “hello?” but I said “hello” before the agent at the call center picked up one of the “live ones.” I would respond, “That’s my line.” “What? Hello?” the flustered agent would often say. “You called me, I offered a jovial ‘hello,’ now it’s your turn to introduce yourself and explain the reason for your call.

Now I just hang up. I know I might be throwing away my chance for a tropical vacation or an opportunity to renew my car’s warranty, but I’ll live with it.

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.