I don’t know about you, but I get a whole bunch of unwanted phone calls. They are a scourge, though some have a certain black humor to them.
I work from home and still have a land line, so a couple of times a day – or night – a ringing phone disturbs my peace of mind, announcing the presence of some unwelcome caller. Because of Caller ID, I can recognize and screen out most of the nuisance calls, but not always. I often have messages out for people I’ve contacted for stories I’m writing for the newspaper, so when I’m in doubt about whether an incoming call is legit, I pick up.
And, gawd, the pitches I hear … or start to hear. Once I recognize a robocall, I hang up. If it’s a live caller – and sometimes it’s hard to tell right away – I just say “no thank you” and hang up. And sometimes the live callers know things about me, like where I shop. Creepy, but not unexpected, I suppose.
And they just don’t stop. Yes, I know, there are registries one can employ to prevent such calls from getting through, but I know people who have done all they know how to do in order to be removed from call lists – and they’re still getting calls.
There is one politically oriented call center that rings my house every day. And if they knew anything about my politics, I’d be the last person they’d call. I ignore it for the most part, but twice I picked up, hoping I’d maybe get a live person to whom I could express my displeasure at the annoyance of the persistent calls and politely but firmly request being taken off the list. But each time I answered, I heard silence. Now I’m assuming there’s a wait time between when the automatic calling system clicks over to a real human being or a recording, but after five seconds (I was counting), I ceased being amused and hung up.
And still the calls come. Even from groups I already support. They want me to donate, which I already do, and ask if I’d contribute an extra amount for some reason or other and would I please do so by credit card. I don’t ever do over-the-phone credit card things. I always send a check. And when I inform the caller that’s how I contribute, I often get the added push that would I please consider an exception this one time for this special need. No.
And then there was that very special call I got a few weeks ago. The phone number was innocent-looking, so I answered. And even though I quickly recognized it as a sales call, for some reason I didn’t do my usual no-thank-you response. I listened for the whole opening sentence. The caller gave his name and identified the real estate interest he was representing.
Here’s how the conversation went:
Caller: I’d like to ask if you are considering selling your house any time soon.
Me: No. I’m not.
Caller: Well then, might I ask when you think you might be leaving your home?
Me: (At this point I was thinking he might be one of those reverse mortgage guys and thought a little humor might be in order.) Oh, I’m pretty sure I’ll leave when I’m dead.
Caller: And how are you feeling? (I swear, these were his exact words. Really, you can’t make this stuff up.)
Me: I feel fine. Why, do you not wish me well?
And here the line goes dead. As I stood in my kitchen, thinking that he either made the worst transition ever, was trying for a laugh, looking clumsily for a way to keep me on the line or, well, I don’t know what – the phone rang again. I picked up.
Caller: (It was him again.) I just wanted to let you know that I didn’t hang up on you. Something happened with the phone.
Me: Got it. (And then I hung up.)
Upon hearing the story, my husband thought the guy probably stepped on his own tongue as he was trying to keep the conversation going. Probably.
Or does he know something about my health that I don’t. Damn, I hate that phone.
Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at email@example.com.