Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Moral Dilemma Presents Itself

Weirdest thing happened this afternoon.

I'm sitting at my desk, squirreling away at some technical documentation. My cell phone rings.

This pretty much never happens. The cell is for emergencies and for telling Wonder Woman
I'm going to be late for dinner. I've given my cell number to about four people outside my immediate family. I've always detested the idea that I can be immediately reachable at any moment. One values one's privacy.

The display shows an unfamiliar but local number. I answer.

A recording begins:

"You have a collect call from [at this point a burst of unintelligible static is played] at the Loudoun County Jail. To accept this call, press one. To hear the fee for accepting this call, press two."


Somebody who has my cell phone number is in jail?

I ran down the list of people who know my number. The likelihood of any of them being in chokey at two o'clock on a Thursday afternoon is vanishingly small.

What to do? What to do? If the caller had been a little more clear in identifying himself (the voice was, if garbled, at least definitely male), I might have been able to make an informed decision.

I pressed two, to hear what accepting the call would set me back. Fifty cents, according to the recording.

So I was faced with the dilemma: Four bits to tell some hapless miscreant he'd called the wrong number -- perhaps even wasted the one phone call Hollywood has convinced us is all you get when you're busted? Or hang up?

And if I hung up, would the goober at the other end think that whoever he thought he was dialing wouldn't even accept the piddling charge it took to inform the Outside World that he'd been nabbed by John Law?

After a moment's consideration, I hung up. I reckoned that if the Hapless M. really needed to talk to me, he'd call back.

The phone didn't ring again.

Later edit: Scam. Thanks, J.


blue girl said...

Guess what? My cell rang out of the blue yesterday afternoon, too. It was just a guy who had the wrong number.

But, I'm like you, Jeddie. I hardly ever use my cell. So, when it rings, it's like I don't even know what it is, even though I've been answering phones now for, oh, I don't know, all of my 29 years! Maybe it has something to do with Blue Kid setting up my ring to sound like "Crazy Train."

I'm not sure what I would've done in that situation. Do I give in to my curiosity? Or decide not to answer, so as not to encourage a jailbird (possibly a murderer!) stalker?

After having some experience with some nutty people in the last year, I probably would've just hung up.

blue girl said...

Also meant to say...

I've always detested the idea that I can be immediately reachable at any moment. One values one's privacy.

Me too! Most people don't get this. They look at me like I'm nuts. But, I really don't feel you have to be tracking me down every two seconds for small talk. There are only a couple of people I would care to chit chat with like that.

cleek said...

speaking of wrong numbers..

the guy in the cube next to me started getting these messages on his v-mail at work, from someone he didn't know who. the person had apparently just lost a family member, and was apologizing to whoever she thought she was talking to for not being as close with and as supportive of this person as she should've been. the messages were long and rambling and the woman was clearly bummed out about the way things had turned out in the relationship. so that was sad. but then she started getting upset because whoever she thought she was talking to wasn't returning the calls, and her messages started getting even more depressing because she thought she had offended everyone and was being shunned, etc..

i don't think we had caller ID on the phones, and it took a couple of weeks before she finally called while he was at his desk and could tell her she had the wrong number. and when he did finally tell her, she just said "OK, thanks", as if that was the first time she'd ever called that number. we don't think she even realized all those other calls had gone to the wrong person.

Neddie said...

BG: The one that really irritates me is the person on the phone in the checkout line at the grocery store. They cut themselves off from the transaction of buying their groceries, and, profoundly rudely IMHO, from the cashier.

Is there any conversation that's so goddamned important that it has to take place now and not ten minutes from now so you can interact with the grocery cashier like a human being and not some cogwheel in a machine that exists solely for your pleasure? I want to spank these people.

Cleek: Yikes! The poor woman!

Kevin Wolf said...

I'm in a bind entirely of my own making. I dumped my land line and my cell is the only connection I've got. Even so, I use it sparingly.

My pet peeve is the idiots on public tranportaion who have the inevitable and wildly annoying "I'm on the train" conversation with a dolt on the other end who's just got to know that already. A few annoyed looks usually do the trick, and they switch to the "I gotta hang up" conversation.

blue girl said...

A few years back when I walked into Subway and saw that they had a handwritten sign that said, Please do not talk on your cell phones while ordering, I knew we had hit rock bottom.

It amazes me that a business had to put up a sign like that.

What has happened to common sense and manners?

....the 123 year old woman said!


But, seriously. Enough.

I have, though, been at the grocery store trying to choose dinner for the night. And have called home to see what the boys wanted. But, I hide behind the giant rolls of paper towels or something so someone walking by doesn't peg me as that person who just can't shup up while she shops.

David Harmon said...

That burst of static was almost surely meant to be unintelligible, probably this was indeed the lead-in to some sort of scam (perhaps just for the use of your phone line!). I once got a collect call whose "from" soundbite was sort of an auditory "scribble" -- some quasi-phonemic babble that was clearly meant to make people react with "oh, I didn't get that...". (I didn't take the call.)

JD said...

I was never so happy in my life as when I realized that our local grocery was in a "dead zone". No calls from my sixteen year-old adding on grocery items!

XTCfan said...

As the grocery shopper in my household, I've found that the grocery store is one of the few places that the cell phone is actually useful. If I've forgotten something, or want to check on quantities, I can. Then I hang up.

Ned, it's good you didn't answer. I'm almost positive there was a scam behind that call.

I was wondering today as I drove along how nice (and how much safer) the world would be if cell phones were simply unable to operate inside vehicles of any kind....

Neddie said...

A few years ago I sat on a plane from Denver to Washington next to an absolute dillhole who was loudly proclaiming over the phone, so that it could be heard in Rows C through G, that he was on his way to testify before Congress. What a putz. I bet there wasn't even anybody on the other end of the line.

I don't think there's any shame in using the cellie in the grocery store -- I've done it myself, calling home to check on quantities and recipe ingredients. No, it's the continuation of the conversation through the checkout line that I think is so rude.

It truly never occurred to me that it could have been a scammer. But now that you mention it, that sounds increasingly likely.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

Dude I ended up calling mom.

Anonymous said...

hello neddie jingo, i think you have a really funny, interesting, and intelligent web log. i think i will be coming back to have more chuckles in the future. thank you.

p.s. i have a blog too -- although i am just using it to host a math paper i wrote. but i have some photos of flowers as well there that your wonder woman too may like.

Jennifer said...

There was some scam going on not too long ago that involved prisoners accessing cell phones and then somehow using your number in the future. The only thing I remember was that you were not supposed to accept the call. You might want to keep an eye on your bill.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

Hey they let me go online at th' Loudoun lockup yesterday for a while and I checked out the flower blog above. It's great!

The math paper is super-duper!

Roger D. Parish said...

Neddie, while the customer ignoring the check-out clerk whilst chatting on their mobile might be rude, in my experience it is usually the other way 'round: the clerk is chatting with another co-worker and completly ignoring the customer! Drives me freakin' nuts!

Buttermilk Sky said...

Mr. Jingo, I once got a letter from a prisoner who had read a letter I wrote to a magazine (the fools printed my address). I never wrote back. I don't know what he was in for, but he just seemed lonely. I wasn't up for starting a dialogue with someone who might eventually get out. Maybe he was harmless; I regret never finding out.