Ask Not For Whom The Ring Tones

HijiNKS ENSUE At Dallas Animefest

This weekend (STARTING TODAY!) I’ll be at Dallas Animefest with Rob from Explosm. We’ll be in the dealer room, terrified of glomping cat-girls and Sailor Bubbas alike. I’ll have both HE Books, Prints, sketch cards, “Grammar Dalek” Shirts and “The Doctor Is In” shirts.

Podcast Episode 86 “Oh No! Promotheus!” is live.

The site seems to be having RSS feed problems again. Working on it, but for now the Fancy Full Feed for donors seems to be good and rightly borked.

My phone “rings” so infrequently, that when it does I am completely unprepared and incapable of dealing with it. Sometimes I get confused and angry all at once and start yelling, “WHY ARE YOU SCREAMING AT ME ROBOT!? I DON’T HAVE ANY FUEL FOR YOUR INTAKE PORT! BAD ROBOT! BAD!” Other times I get suspicious. The only people I like (my wife and my daughter) are IN THE HOUSE with me. Who the hell else could possibly be trying to talk to me unless they are an enemy agent of THE MOST UNCLEAN trying to trick me into a fiddle contest or a game of Words With Friends with their cloven-hoofed master? Oh Christicles! Is the call coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE!?!?!? Did someone sign my 5 year old daughter up for a 2 year commitment calling plan!? WHAT KIND OF DATA PACKAGE DID SHE GET!? EVEN IF THEY SAID IT WAS UNLIMITED, THEY ARE RARELY ACTUALLY UNLIMITED! WHAT DID YOU DO MY DAUGHTER!?

I also have weird hangup about voicemails. I get all of 1, maybe 2 voicemails a month and I NEVER want to check them. I can see the name of the caller, and the time they called, and I can see the length of the voicemail they left. Somehow that seems like it should be enough information to discern their unheard message. What could they have possibly said in 14 seconds that was all that important? “HELP! FIRE! FACE FIRE! FIRE ON FACE!!!” That only took 8 seconds. Something seems fishy. What were they trying to convince me to do with those last 6 seconds? I’d better change my number and never talk to them again. WAIT! How long does it take to invite me to a super fun birthday party with bouncy castles!? FUCK. Only 11 seconds.

COMMENTERS: How has the changing telecommunications landscape altered your phone using habits? Are you annoyed by people that ONLY text or are you one of them? Does anyone use IM services anymore? Do you get frustrated that all of your friends aren’t on Skype video ALL OF THE TIME like you are?

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78 Comments

  1. Not using phones to speak to people is an American thing. Here in the UK we prefer to use shyness disguised as politeness to avoid talking to each other.

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    • As an American living in the UK, I can say this is absolutely 100% true.

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  2. I have hearing issues, so the phone is a horrible device for me, except to text.

    I much prefer email, but since I also don't have one of them new-fangled Smart phones, if people need to get in contact with me while I'm out, text is pretty much the only way.

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    • I know this is crazy of me, but I always get so frustrated when I send an important email and it isnt responded to for hours if not days. I have to constantly remind myself that not everyone wears their email in their pocket 24 hours a day. Some people actually "check their email" on purpose a couple of times a day. It still infuriates me, but I realize that I am the dumb one in this scenario.

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  3. Sometimes I use SMS Twitter on my notsmartphone and I forget to turn it off before I turn my phone off, and then when I turn it on again I get 60 texts from Twitter and my phone vibrates for 5 minutes straight and I can't make it stop.

    The other day my socially awkward friend left me a voicemail in which he rambled for so long he got cut off at the end, and nothing he said was of any substance. Really, he could have just texted. That's why I prefer texting. You don't say things that are beside the point in a text, generally.

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  4. Service in my area is so bad that using my phone as a phone is nearly impossible.Its kind of sad, but my main communication device is my laptop.

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    • The one and only reason we still have phone numbers is that we dont yet have another universal "this is how to get ahold of me" signifier. I wish something like a phone number/email hybrid could be widely adopted by nearly everyone and funnel into some sort of Google Voice type switchboard to get ahold of people. This tech has existed for years but until the majority of the world adopts it (and on the same or at least interoperable platforms) it's not going to catch on. I remember when I was an AIM guy and that meant I never logged into MSN. So I was hardly ever able to chat with my MSN using friends. Then multi chat programs like Adium and Trillian came out and you never again cared what service people were using. We need a single point communication open-id type login that does that for phone numbers and let's us abandon cellular tech entirely.

      I was talking to a friend last weekend in Toronto and he commented that Skyping (voice) over his phone was 1000 times more clear than a regular phone call. Of course it was! Cellular tech is 30+ years old. Skype uses your full available bandwidth and can at times be perfectly crystal clear. Cell calls on a brand new phone on the best network available ALWAYS sound like garbage.

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      • We had a veep at my previous job who insisted we use an expensive, horrible call-in conference bridge for any meeting he was on. Every time we told him that we had already scheduled to do it over Skype, he told us that the company could not use Skype for official meetings because the quality was just too poor.

        It turns out, years ago he was using Skype on some crappy DSL line and the call dropped. That was his only Skype experience, and he hadn't bothered to try it again.

        We used Skype for every meeting he wasn't on, and eventually we just stopped inviting him to meetings. When he muscled in, we told him "sorry, we have to use Skype." He'd spend the whole meeting complaining about how bad the call was going to be.

        I wanted to meet him in the alley and beat him for 2 hours with pillow cases full of hummus.

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      • And see, I was just going to suggest that Skype pretty much does that. As soon as Skype has phone numbers available in Canada, I will not ever have to use anything ever again.

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      • BALLOT
        Earth president > Joel Watson

        Institutionalized, pointless inefficiency drives me CRAZY.

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  5. I ration my battery out at the end of the day for my train ride home – making sure I have enough for the pron and lolcats and additional pron I need to see.

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    • A good remedy for this is a little external battery pack. They range from $5 for a cheap knock off the size of a credit card that will give you another few hours (and last a month or two before dying) to $50 for a nice one about the size of a phone that can charge your phone totally 2-3 times. I never travel without one.

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  6. About 2 months after we got rid of our dumb phones and upgraded to since Samsung Galaxies, my wife received her first phone call, and she couldn’t figure out how to answer it before it went to voicemail

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    • That means it's working.

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  7. Calls do nothing but make my ear sweaty.

    Also, most calls I get are for people I’ve never met (or absorbed in the womb only to later have them assert themselves as a new, terrifying personality bent on revenge). So far I’ve been “Ruby” (very angry debt collectors wanted to talk to her), “Matt” (alternating drunk friends and telemarketers wanted to talk to him), and “Bruce Warman” (EVERYONE wants to talk to Bruce).

    I’ve had this number for almost seven years.

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    • Been here for three years. Still getting calls for Steve Burns, who apparently owes a lot of people money. I keep explaining to them that the only Steve Burns I know is the guy on "Blue's Clues" (one of the many side effects of having children), but that has yet to make an impression on the callers.

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    • The "bad number debt collectors" are the worst because they WILL NEVER change your number as they assume you are the person they are looking for just trying to get out of paying their bills.

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    • This was very annoying back in the day when I was both waiting for important calls and charged per minute for calls received. In the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota), two new area codes had just been introduced, which made all the confusion twice as confusing.

      Add to that the typical hostile response of the idiot who can't admit he's gotten the wrong number.

      Reply
  8. I hate the "Rotators" – People who text, email, phone, Tweet, Facebook, Instagram and Friendster their conversations and expect you to follow along.

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    • oh god those people are the worst

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      • Yes, I prefer the people like you who never post anything anywhere (public at least) so I have to find out after the fact that you've been murdered in a race riot in Greece. Come back to the internet. It misses you.

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        • We had a friend deathly ill in the hospital for almost three months and didn't even find out that he was sick at all until another friend mentioned that he'd just died. We had moved about 6 hours away and rarely saw him anymore, but we'd been in town during his last week and could have come by to see him and say goodbye, but we didn't know and no one bothered to tell us because it was all over FaceBook, and everyone uses FaceBook. Right?

          Wrong.

          ><

          If someone is dying please plaster that shit *everywhere*, okay??

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          • I used to get a lot of "why weren't you at the party?" To which I replied "I wasnt invited." To which they said "I invited you on Facebook" to which I rereplied "Im not on Facebook." Then i got a fucking Facebook.

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            • Well, I hear that … but somehow, nobody could pick up a phone and give me a date for my father's funeral. The excuse … "We made it a Facebook event, didn't you see?"

              FACEBOOK?

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            • I hate Facebook…. -_- I have the same thing happen all the time….I swear people forget that if they really want certain people to come to these kind of things, they could, oh, I don't know…CALL them…

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        • I know right? I was posting pictures of my balls and tagging josh over and over and he'll at least usually bitch at me because they showed up at work on his G+ feed but like NOTHING and then "lol I was in greece and turkey" WTF JOSH

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          • LOL. I know your balls get all bitchy when they don't get enough attention.

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  9. The best part of this comic is the eggs and bacon apron.

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    • I don't know if it's the *best* thing, but if you made it *A THING*, Joel, I would want to buy one.

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  10. I have actually had to explain to more than one offended person that a) I never answer the phone because b) I own a phone for my convenience, not theirs. And thanks to Google Voice, now I don't even have to check voicemail — they send me a spiffy email of the translated-to-text version, which is often incredibly amusing and usually decipherable without having to listen to actual recording.

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    • I love this, as Voicemails always sat there and I was kind of annoyed and didn't want to listen to them. GVoice usually does a good enough job of translating it, except my mom, who manages to confound both google voice and myself as to the intent of her message, albeit in completely different ways.

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      • Google Voice does the same thing to my mom's voicemails – it's now officially become a family tradition to review the transcriptions of her voicemails and laugh hysterically. An example:

        "Hello. This is your mother. Have you been up to contact with 5 A liens. Where Art Thou, you're not answering the that one of your phones. So give me a call when you get a chance. Love you bye."

        heh

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      • run her poorly translated gvoice msg's through a google translate converter of at least 3 languages then back into English. I bet it makes perfect sense.

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    • Oh, and also, it annoys the crap out of me that Verizon won't let me get rid of my voice plan and just have a data plan. OTOH, I'm grandfathered in on the "unlimited" plan, so there's that. And they were *superb* about handling the tech issues I had (by eventually – and reasonably painlessly as far as dealing with them went – upgrading me to a 4G Droid Razr at no cost after 2 Xperia Plays and 2 Droid 3s all experienced serious operational failure due to the 2.3.4 OS). So overall I'm pretty pleased with Verizon Wireless right now, and honestly, I wouldn't mind paying the same amount I pay monthly now just for the data plan, but it irks me to see the itemized bill every month with $50 for a voice plan I use seldom if at all (that's the cheapest one I could get — 450 minutes/mo. and I usually use <10).

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      • The bulk of my voice plan use is made up of 1-3 "business" calls a month. Sometimes I have to call the bank or a utility company and that almost always involves being on hold for 30 minutes before another 30 minutes of troubleshooting. I also tend to call my wife (And no other living human) fairly often.

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        • I looked through my actual phone call log after reading this, and it goes

          My wife
          My wife
          My wife
          My wife
          My wife
          My wife
          Library database tech support
          My wife
          My wife

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    • A) is absolutely correct. I keep having to explain to people (some of whom live in this actual house) that the phone is there to serve me; I am not there to serve it. And if it does not suit me to pick the bloody thing up at that particular moment, I'm not going to. I am not obligated to interrupt my day just because somebody managed to successfully punch seven buttons on a keypad.

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    • As ATT has decided our geographical area (read state capitol) doesn't need good or even consistent signal, in one bar land it is impossible to listen to voice mail. So of course, I don't either. I am now motivated to find the recommended google service and stop getting the irate in person "didn't you get my message?!?" ("Why no. I ONLY HAVE ONE BAR!")

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  11. Obligatory "cake is a lie" reference.

    Is "I don't use my phone for calls" the new "I don't watch TV" badge?

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    • It's close. "I dont watch TV" seems to have an air of self importance or snobbishness. "I dont use my phone for calls" or closer to saying "how am I supposed to fax you this form? I dont have a fax machine!"

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  12. My wife used to leave me (and everyone else) voicemails of long rambling streams of rudderless conversation, however I've since switched off voicemail functionality. If folks really want to get hold of me and phoning doesn't work they can email or text.

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    • My mom did that. She'd call to say what she wanted to say, then just verbalize every thought that came to her afterwards. Sometimes it was a list of things she had to do for the rest of the day. Laundry, groceries, cleaning, etc. A list FOR ME to listen to. She has no respect for her audience. She also responds to every txt with a "K" or "OK" as if to always have the last word. I KNOW you got the text. My phone will tell me if you didnt. Your confirmation costs me 10 cents because I dont have unlimited texts (which she knows).

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      • Wait wait wait – you have to pay when you RECEIVE a text?! How does that even make sense? Is this a US thing?

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        • Im grandfathered into an VERY old texting plan. I pay $5 a month for 200 txts coming or going. Anything above and beyond costs me like 10 cents.

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          • And yet you want to abandon the system of phone number identification? If there were a simpler ID system for contact identification, people could SMS-bomb you into a rate of poverty that would make starving Third World types seem like robber barons.

            It seems to me that those ten arcane digits might just save your wallet.

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      • Once I turned off my voicemail for like a year and a half. It was glorious.
        I can see the "missed call" popup on my phone and call you back when I have a second. Why do I need a whole system so that you can create a voicemail that says "Hey I called you, please call me back" and make me go retrieve it and waste precious seconds listening to it in case you used that message to tell me the location of the passageway to the secret Illuminati library, which you didn't?

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  13. Total opposite here… I tried to cling to a button-based, text-and-call-only phone for so long…
    Finally my provider foisted a touch screen Sony Walkman thing upon me, and it makes my life difficult by turning on Speakerphone and ending calls by touching my face. That's not me being too dumb to use it, the screen lock during calls turns off… if you touch it.

    Voice mail still terrifies me though. Mostly because I don't know what it's going to say, party because it usually says, "WHERE ARE YOU THIS IS RIDICULOUS I AM SO ANGRY."

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  14. If someone calls me I almost always let it go to voicemail and then check the voicemail, then I’ll text them back. Why on Earth would you want to actually call someone? Then you’re stuck with the obligatory “Hello, how are you, I’m fine thanks, anyway, the reason I called was….*stuff*…Ok, I’ll talk to you later, have a good one, bye” instead of just BZZZZ *stuff*

    Also, while this type of commentary isn’t particularly new, I’m sure, to any of us, I thought this one was particularly well done. Loved it.

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  15. Real conversation I had with a friends' 14-year old nephew this week:

    Can you dial 611#?

    No. My phone is broken (the LCD display only, the physical keyboard was fine).

    Can you press the button '6'?

    Yeah.

    Can you remember that YOU JUST PRESSED THE BUTTON '6'?

    Huh?

    Can you then press the button '1'?

    Huh? No, my phone is broken…

    [And so on…that kid better do something smart around me soon or he's never going to hear the end of it]

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  16. but, but, but…the cake is a lie!

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  17. Don’t own a cell phone of any variety, let alone a “smart” one.

    My corded telephone here sitting on my desk rings occasionally. I pick it up and tell people they have the wrong number. Even if they don’t.

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    • I usually indicate that I am Dominos Pizza.

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    • Sometimes you pick it up and tell people that they have the wrong number, even when the phone didn't ring at all…

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  18. I hate voicemail. But mainly it's because I hate that I have to A. enter a password and B. press 1 to hear the new message. WHY AM I CALLING IF NOT TO HEAR THE NEW MESSAGE.

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    • OMG yes this. My work phone does this – I have to hit 1 twice to actually get to the message. Hate hate hate.

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      • See, and the one thing I do really like about my ancient Nokia Shortie (aside from a battery that will keep it on in standby for almost a week– as opposed to my husband's Android, which will limp for about an hour without external power and then die) is that when I get a message, there is a button I push to get the message, and then it dials in and starts playing them for me. No password-entering or anything.

        Adding minutes is really easy too. I dial 11# or whatever, press 1 for type of top-up, and then it prompts me to enter my new code and that's it, I'm done. My husband's old phone, you'd have to give it your phone number (dudes it's the one I'm calling from DUH), then a password, then you still had to go through a few more menu selections before you could punch in your code. RIGHT pain in the ass.

        When I was a kid if no one answered it meant they weren't home or were busy. If I wanted to talk to my best friend and she wasn't home, I'd just walk next door and scratch CALL ME in the dirt by her door. And my Mum *never* hurried to answer the phone before whoever was calling gave up and hung up; she said if it was important they'd call back later.

        Cell phones are marvously convenient things that let me stay in contact with my family when I'm out shopping and taking longer than expected. Smart "phones" are awesome toys that are virtually completely useless as phones. I got so tired of our Android's crappy battery that I replaced it. Spent $5 and got a map of the city and a phone book. I just leave them in the car, and if I need to check in I use a pay phone. Most grocery stores, gas stations, and strip malls still have them about.

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  19. Well, apparently I'm the old geezer here. If it's important, I want to hear a voice and, y'know, dialogue instead of alternate monologues (it's slower to alter the course of a text-based conversation). If I get it in text form, I assume it can be safely ignored until I feel like getting around to it.

    While I prefer oral communication, text does have the advantage of documentation, so it is the best way for someone to give complicated directions to someplace that none of the mapsites or GPSs can figure out for some reason. It also doesn't create the "creepy stranger" look that folks on Bluetooth generate.

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    • Ha! Totally agree with the "creepy stranger" look. I always pretend I'm holding the phone or something when talking through Bluetooth headphones.

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  20. I guess it's more common to use the cellphone for calls where I live.
    One thing I really hate is people that believe that a phone is an extention of the person that makes it always available. I sometimes get people telling me "I called you and you did not answer to ME" after seeing the missed call and calling back.

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    • This! Oh God, so much this! People seem to get really pissed off if you don't answer or text back RIGHT AWAY! If you call back say 45 minutes later (after class lets out, for example) you get "WHY DIDN'T YOU CALL ME RIGHT BACK!!!!" I don't even bring my nonsmartphone every where. Sometimes it needs charging, and if I am not going somewhere I risk dismemberment, or major inconveneience, I probably don't need it.

      Also, my skin is insufficiently capacitive to use touch based smartphones reliably. So I talk, and sometimes text, and that is it. No Google voice, no skype, no twitter or facebook or anything else. I see no value in thsoe things for me, so I say "Meh" to them all.

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      • I agree as well, to everything! I text people when I have time, not on their timeline! People get mad about that with me on Facebook as well. They send me a message….I answer them three weeks later…because I'm not GLUED to it…

        As for the "dumbphone" factor, I too have kept my phone free of internet, as I don't feel I need to be attached to it when I am outside of my home…the only reason I can think of that it would be useful, is for maps. That is a perfectly reasonable use for a smartphone I think….oh wait, two. The star chart app would be handy. ._.

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  21. For a while, I set my phone ringtone to the Cloister Bell from Doctor Who, in the hopes of inspiring the same dread in others. That lasted until the first wrong number call, entirely too effective.

    For years after we got this landline number, we got wrong number calls for an 'escort' service. The kicker came when I was in high school, and my mother got a call from the right school – but for the wrong kid.

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  22. People… talk? On phones? When NOT driving? Are you shitting me?

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  23. As a geek with such horrible social anxiety that I have to some one else call to schedule my car's oil changes, the option to only text is awesome! I'm glad I never have to speak. If it wasn't for fast food drive thrus, I would never utter a sound.

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  24. Brilliant comic! So true. Getting a voicemail now is like getting a letter in the mail.

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  25. Oh yes, indeed, the advent of modern tele-technology has TOTALLY altered my communications habits. It's caused me to call a lot more people morons a lot more often. Smartphones and twitter only lead to dumbpeople and twits.

    Long ago, humanity developed a form of text communication. It was called "writing." We decided that was horribly time consuming and inconvenient, so we developed a form of long-range, fast text communication. It was called "telegraph." THEN we developed a FAR MORE CONVENIENT method of long-range, fast communication. It was called "telephone," and it allowed you to @#$%ING TALK TO PEOPLE LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING.

    I got no problems with video chat. Universal, direct video-to-video communication, that would be progress. Text communication, however, is REGRESSION. It has exactly three justifiable purposes. 1) It allows you to communicate clearly in really loud environments. 2) It allows you to communicate small, simple thoughts where a conversation is not necessary, basic yes-and-no stuff. And 3) It allows you to communicate with people you hate without actually talking to them. Using it for anything else – people who text for hours back and forth and have entire communications that could have been achieved in a matter of MINUTES just talking – that is deliberate antisocial behavior or laziness.

    Which is basically why America has embraced it.

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    • Jeez, I'm off your lawn already. Stop shaking the rake.

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      • Heh . . . sorry if that came off as angry old geezer rant. Texting is just one of those, "Augh, seriously? WHY??" issues for me.

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  26. I use my phone for actual phone calls so infrequently I forgot I'd long ago set my ringtone to be an earsplitting heavy metal guitar riff so I could hear it at work. Cut to a few months later when I'm composing a text to a friend when my boss calls me to get an update on a project.

    I may have screamed like a frightened little girl if I'm being completely honest here.

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  27. This makes me think of Futurama… Hmm….I wonder if Josh has a boil that sings showtunes…

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    • Hahaha, I knew what that was going to be before I clicked through. Sums up this topic pretty well, if not by age than by time.

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  28. YESSS! I talk on the phone all day and the last thing I want to do is talk on my phone! Like you, Joel, my family are the people I talk to and I have ringtones for when they call me. Anyone else gets the generic "Who Are You?" from The Who. If I don't know you, chances are, I don't talk to you. "Tell me, who are you. Who, who, who are you?"

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  29. I know how to answer the phone. Sometimes I do. Mostly it's either my mother, my father, my brother or my girlfriend. Well, that is, since I installed an app that 'handles' anyone with a blocked caller ID. 99% of those were marketeers.

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  30. Many of my clients work in companies that engage in regular conference calls. They're often dealing with native English speakers of wildly varying accents (Irish, Indian, Australian, Texan, Californian) and plenty of non-native speakers from various parts of the globe. I've asked why they don't try using something like Google Hangouts or maybe supplementing their voice chats with text chats, but management is set in its ways. This isn't just one business but several, and all are high-tech companies.

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  31. Yes, well, I too have a smart phone which rings VERY infrequently…except for the last 4 days. In the last 4 days I have had 17 wrong number calls. All from the same number.

    Which is from Tonga. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonga

    I live in California.

    To make it so much better, the connection is, of course, crap. Therefore it has been damned near impossible to communicate that they've got the wrong #%^$&@#&$ number.

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  32. My favorite part of this comic is how suspicious Joel looks in the second panel. It just makes me smile.

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  33. I rarely get calls on my cell, only because the top half of my phone is entirely dead. No ringing. No sound from speaker. Dead. On the plus side, I maybe used 15 minutes max of my bazillion minutes for calls of like, 15-30 seconds when it worked anyway, lol. I text a lot, mostly because I have a lot of friends overseas, and because I don't really feel like I need to talk someone's ear off when all I need to say is "Meet you here, at this time. Bring caffeine.". I do use Skype however, I'm in a long distance relationship and the video chat, while buggy and sorta crap, is a life saver. Free crap video/audio unlimited instead of a cruddy normal phonecall costing me a bazillion cents a minute? Yes please!

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