We are being scammed and spammed by the phone companies. I know that hardly anyone talks on the actual telephone anymore, but when you do, it sucks. They are keeping us on the line when we could be updating our Facebook status. Dropping a bunch of hurried, misspelled texts seems to be the method of choice. No wonder everyone’s texting. It’s sloppy but quicker and you don’t actually have to talk to a person. We are hooked on being hooked up.

Time is the only thing that we have too little of. If I had a parking token for every minute that I allowed a machine to waste my time, I’d be token-rich, token all the time. If you have ever stared at a “progress bar” on a computer screen, you know what I mean. Time is money. If you add wasting money to the time equation, welcome to the world.

Am I alone in feeling acutely foolish every time I leave a message on someone’s cell phone or every time I check my cell phone messages? It’s not the leaving or checking of the message, it’s the infernal computerized rituals that we are forced to endure that are so aggravating.

You can’t just leave a message at the tone anymore. You first must listen to an inane message from the person you are calling, which is often tedious and lengthy. (We know to leave a message and that you are not available).

This is followed by your cell provider’s time-gobbling nonsense:

“Leave your message at the tone. When you are finished you may hang up or press one for more options. To leave a callback number, press five.”

That message steals ten more seconds of your life every time you sit through it. That could be ten seconds spent eating tacos, carving on a snowboard or flipping back your hair. Ten seconds added to ten seconds added to ten seconds added to ten seconds adds up to a lot after ten years or more.

What does it mean to leave a callback number? I have never pressed “five” nor do I know anyone who has ever pressed “five.” I wonder what happens when you press “five.” You probably enter a labyrinth of options for English, Spanish, etcetera, etcetera and whatnot. Is a callback number different than the number you are calling from? It could be, but isn’t that what the message is for?

“Joe. It’s Steve. Call me back at 726-5555.”


Instead we continue to be faced with a bizarre grouping of shifting options that no one wants and you can’t turn off. The phone companies need us to use up those precious minutes and this is their way of keeping us on the line.

Even when you check your messages you have to listen to a litany of useless, time-wasting computer-generated talk.

“Your message from 970 726-5555 sent on Wednesday, January 9th at 6:29 a.m. will be deleted from your mailbox. You have four unheard messages. First unheard message sent Monday, August 26 at 10:27 pm. To reply to this message press five, to page this person, press five, to give an electric shock to this person, keep pressing five … ”

I just want to hear the message! It’s most likely a wrong number anyway.

When you hear the statistics on traffic accidents and cell phones it’s a wonder that the cell phone companies want to keep you on the line at all. I’ll bet half the traffic accidents that happen while someone is using a mobile device occur while the cell phone company is wasting their time with computerized messages about their messages.

Talking on a cell phone causes nearly 25 percent of auto accidents. One-fifth of “experienced adult drivers” in the United States send text messages while driving. I have passed the age group to qualify for the experienced adult category. I can no longer see the text on a telephone, whether I am driving or not. I can’t text when I am hunched over a phone is a clean white room, never mind while I am hurtling up Highway 40 in my Toyota pickup at 70 miles-per-hour.

According to U.S. government statistics in 2011, 3,331 people were killed and 387,000 injured in accidents involving a distracted driver.

What in the world is so important? And what is everyone texting about? Of course, I am pretty good at talking on my cell phone while driving but the other guy is what I’m worried about. I mean, chances are, that he’s like, texting!

Someone needs to sue the phone companies for keeping us on the line while we should be driving. Stop wasting our time. Stop wasting life. Stop. Just stop.

Steve Skinner is distracted by and addicted to time wasters. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.