I have never had a cell phone, and I don’t really want one. But now that I’m in college I have a phone in dorm room. I actually do have to use a phone every day or two, so I guess it’s useful.
But I don’t really like having it. Here’s an example of why. Last night I was awoken about half an hour past midnight by an idiot (I’m still not sure who it was, and I really don’t care) making a crank call. It was really obvious, too. He claimed to be someone from CSO (Campus Safety Office) who had gotten a tip from my dorm room’s extension that something or other had happened (he was really vague on this point) and my roommate was in trouble, and for some reason they wanted to talk to me. Obvious tip-offs were, he didn’t know my dorm room number or my name (I would assume CSO had access to that information given my extension), he didn’t know my roommate’s name, and he didn’t know whether or not my roommate was in my room or not.
He said that he was in the lounge, which is about 50 feet from my room. Which wasn’t plausible either, since if he was there he would have just came and knocked on my door. But anyway, he said to go and talk to him.
At this point, I had already been woken up, and I wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep immediately anyways, so I wandered out of my room down to where the guy had said he was. I assumed the guy would be watching through the window and would see me there, and I might find out who it was. There were people out there, but I didn’t bring my glasses so I was too blind to see who it was… not that I would have recognized them anyways. I suspect they enjoyed themselves laughing at me.
The question is, what should I have done in that situation? As I see it, what I did was as good as anything. It gave me minimal inconvenience (just ~30s of my time, which I would only have wasted anyway, to paraphrase Hans Moleman), it gave them amusement, and there was a miniscule (~0.001%, maybe) chance that it was real, in which case I should definitely go down and talk to them. So I think I did the right thing.
I’m reminded of the story about Thomas Aquinas. His fellow Dominicans came up to him and said there was a dragon out the window. So of course Thomas went over and looked out the window. When they started laughing at him, he said that he’d rather believe that there was a dragon out the window, improbably as that was, than that one of his fellow brothers would lie to him. When someone gives you a crank call, it’s not your fault that they’re being idiots, you should just go along with it. Definitely if it won’t cause you much inconvenience, and perhaps even if it will.
The problem with this philosophy is that it encourages the pranksters. It would be nice if people didn’t do stuff like that once they realized you went along with it not out of stupidity, but out of not caring, but it won’t happen. I’m not sure what the solution to that is, but perhaps it is that that isn’t a problem at all. After all, God allows man free will even though it often results in evil.
Still, I prefer not having my time wasted. I think the next time someone tries something like that on me, I’m just going to ask them, is there a dragon outside your window?