Do You Still Use a Landline? Lessons Learned By JH Mae – June 19, 2014

shelley mae hazenCFN – A ringing phone is not a welcome thing in my house.

It usually heralds a conversation with someone I don’t like, news that someone’s sick or dead, unpleasant family gossip, or maybe – my favorite – a telemarketer or wrong number.

I barely ever use my landline. The most frequent human caller is my mother – who, by the way, is always welcome to call – but more often than not it’s a computer calling to tell me a car I don’t own has been recalled, a Congressman asking for money or Peebles letting me know about a sale.

And then there’s the telemarketers. My husband’s brother-in-law once kept a telemarketer on the phone for an hour and talked about random nonsense, luring the telemarketer into the belief that he was going to buy or sign up for whatever was being offered. He didn’t – he was just torturing the guy.

I’ve had a couple heated confrontations with telemarketers. I screamed obscenities at an Amnesty International rep for her daily calls asking me for money (I made a donation once). I told her that because of the organization’s nagging, I’d never donate again. It’s not my proudest moment.

My parents do the same – threatening these random strangers whose annoying sales calls are just part of their jobs. My father gave one a heated lecture, the vein in his red forehead that warns of an impending explosion popping out three inches. My husband is the only person who will actually listen to a telemarketer run through his speech before politely telling him he’s not interested. He’s a rare species.

What about unwelcome calls gets people so riled? It’s not like anyone is splitting the atom when the phone rings, interrupting groundbreaking, history-altering scientific research.

Even a wrong number sends me into a tailspin. Someone in a neighboring town called my cell phone the other day after I’d gone to bed. I didn’t much mind that. But the next day, I went for a walk with my cell phone in my pocket and I accidentally “butt-dialed” the number, unbeknownst to me.

Suddenly, my phone started ringing and when I answered, a peeved young man asked me: “Why did you just call my mother’s house?”

“I did no such thing,” I said. “I don’t even know who you are!” And I hung up.

Yes, I behaved poorly. But in my defense, why was that guy so angry? His absentminded mother dialed me first, let us not forget! I couldn’t enjoy the rest of my walk I was so upset by the interruption.

I remember a day when there was no caller ID. The rotary phone rang and you had to answer without knowing who was on the other end, clearing risking life and limb in the process. The caller was an unwelcome surprise, so be it. Today when the phone rings at my mother’s house she always screams “don’t answer it! I want to know who it is first!”

I think it boils down to control. We can control nearly everything these days – we can pause live TV, instantly download music, ignore an incoming call. Caller ID allows us to avoid people. Texting lets us have a conversation without really being committed to it. We don’t need to be stuck on the phone with a chatterbox anymore.

Perhaps the unwanted call reminds us that we can’t control everything. That we have to give our time and energy where we don’t want to, if only for five seconds. And that we should be nicer to telemarketers.

Maybe that’s a stretch.

JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.

She worked for five years at a local newspaper, followed by three years as a secretary.

She recently left the office life to pursue a full-time writing career and now works in her pajamas.

To learn more about here you can visit her website by clicking HERE


  1. We have a “land-line” in our house. I refuse to go without one. Cell phones are nice. However there are times a land-line is needed, like for 911 calls. Yes, a cell phone can do 911 calls. But it can’t tell the 911 operator exactly where you are. And being close to the St. Lawrence River my cell phone sometimes jumps onto a U.S. tower and I get to discuss this with my cell phone carrier on a semi-regular basis.

  2. Yes we sure do have a land line here in Ottawa and my husband keeps wanting to get rid of it. I say no way when there is an emergency that damn thing is mighty important to have. We only have pay as you go cell phones since we don’t use those things and only take them with us when we go out because of things that do go on here in Ottawa and people need that at all times for safety and other things. We get bothered as well with tele marketers and we mostly have the telephone unplugged and plug it when we need to use it or when we know that family will call. Yes we sure do get upset just like you described and we keep it off. Newspapers are not selling and people are desperate for sales. I haven’t read a print newspaper in so many years that I can’t remember when I last picked one up in my hands to read. It is all on its way out. We have cable, etc., internet and I don’t watch TV – only my family watches that idiot box.

  3. I grew up with a landline and I will never give it up. A landline phone always works, even during power failures and there is no battery charging to worry about. With Caller ID, I only pick up the phone when I recognize the name or number. I noticed that if I never pick up for a telemarketer, they stop calling – but then another pest eventually starts calling!

  4. I am very glad you screamed at Amnesty
    When money ran short at NYC office they treated the staff far worse than any DICTATOR would

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