I love it when technology coughs and the rest of us have to clear our throats. Sometimes the onus is on us, and our tricksy ears, and sometimes the blame for the bits is placed squarely at the feet of our invisible mechanical overlords like Skype and Google Voice.
A long while ago, I had a special Skype telephone number that was — technically speaking only — “located” in California. It was great fun having a bi-coastal telephone numbers for business, but with Skype, at that time, you could not set your Caller ID to anything other than the default city of “origin.” My California number was located in Los Angeles — “Beverly Hills” to be exact — and for some reason that neighborhood was used as the Caller ID whenever I used that phone number on Skype.
Except, there was one problem. Skype misspelled “Beverly Hills” on the Caller ID by leaving off the “s” in “Hills” — so anytime I called someone, my Caller ID would tell people a lovely woman named “Beverly Hill” was calling, when it was really big, fat, old, stinky, male, me calling.
When I contacted Skype about the obvious spelling error, they acknowledged the problem was on their end and that they would fix it. For four years they fixed nothing, and I finally cancelled my subscription with the service because I was tired of being identified as a woman instead of a rich Los Angeles suburb.
Google Voice is a wondersend — I use my 212 Area Code to run my personal and business life through that Google service — but Google Voice also has contextual misfirings that drive me crazy. One example is when my wife’s doctor calls and Google Voice pronounces her Caller ID name for me before I click to accept the call.
Google Voice says, “Linda Shaw, Maryland” is calling — and it has taken me months to finally figure out that Google Voice is pronouncing the Caller ID “MD” — as in “Dr. Linda Shaw, MD” — as “Maryland” because Google Voice is too cute and too keen to just pronounce “MD” as two letters in the alphabet and not as an abbreviation.
At least now I know when “Maryland” is calling, I’m pretty certain it’s a doctor on the other end of the line and not the State, and yes, I admit I’m thinking about setting up a whole new phone number with Skype and having my Caller ID read, “Beverly Hill, MD” so I can then call my own Google Voice number and rip with laughter as “Beverly Hill Maryland” is announced in my burning ear.