TGIF: Sorting through the clutter while waiting for an important call

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Gene Deason

Until recently, I didn’t realize how much I use caller ID to screen incoming telephone calls. But when you’re waiting for an important call from an unknown source, caller ID doesn’t matter. Every call that comes in might be the one you’re waiting for.

Please understand: That call is not going to come from that national clearing house sweepstakes that gives away thousands of dollars for life, while also offering magazine subscriptions. I’ve given up on winning that. I don’t even enter any more.

Nor am I expecting the Pulitzer Prize committee to be ringing my line. Frankly, that’s never been on my radar.

Instead, the call I’m waiting to receive brings an even greater prize, or at least that’s what I’m thinking right now. It will come from a representative of the local health department with news of my appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination. The public has been advised that your caller ID may or may not reflect the source of this important call, so my wife and I have decided that no call will be ignored. We’re even answering calls that the phone company labels “Potential Spam.”

So far, answering the phone every time has been a chore.

First of all, I didn’t realize how many people were involved in the automobile extended warranty business.

For the longest time, if a call didn’t come from a person or business I know, but rather from a city — like Junction, Texas, or Jackson, Mississippi — I would just let it go to voice mail. I figured it was probably someone trying to sell me something — like an extended warranty for my car. If I was wrong, I’d get a message.

Telemarketing must be a frustrating job. The majority of potential buyers don’t answer the phone, thanks to that caller ID thing. Then, the few people who do answer will either listen for 10 seconds before saying “no,” or hang up without saying anything. I wonder if anyone ever agrees to purchase an extended auto warranty.

I fall into the category of people who listen for 10 seconds before saying “no.” OK, maybe not as long as 10 seconds, but just long enough to establish that the person on the other end of the line isn’t asking me to show up for my vaccination.

And don’t fall for that gambit of “we’re giving you one final chance to take advantage of this offer before closing your file.” Wrong. You will get another chance, In fact, you will get dozens of chances. All you have to do is answer the phone each time it rings.

Our friends in larger cities, including some in other states, seem to have quicker access to vaccinations than we do — at least for the time being. Having said that, I’ve just heard from a friend in Dallas who drove to Temple to get an appointment. I guess it pays to work at it by exploring multiple options, rather than submitting an online request and waiting to see what happens.

I’m confident I’m not the only person patiently waiting for such a call. These shots are in high demand, as evidenced by the video of long lines of people waiting in metropolitan areas. Some people aren’t interested in this — or any other — vaccination, but we all have that choice to make.

For the millions of Americans who are waiting for the shots to become available for them, the news is good. Four pharmaceutical giants are manufacturing vaccine now, and the process of distributing the medication is getting faster every week. It’s been projected that by the end of May, there should be enough vaccine to give shots to every American who wants one.

The news is so promising that Governor Greg Abbott announced that requirements regarding the use of masks and occupancy of businesses will be lifted next Wednesday. That decision was welcomed by many, because the past 12 months have been anything but easy. At the same time, the move was described by others as premature — something akin to taking off your parachute while you’re still 100 feet off the ground.

I’m one of those who prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to this virus. I will gamble, though, and go without an auto repair warranty.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at