“Holy shit,” I said to no one at all. “That HURTS.” I was referring to my back and left hip (aka “the good one”). It was early. Although morning often is accompanied by stiffness and pain, I don’t normally wake up with quite such a jolt.
Rolling slowly out of bed, I tried to remember what I’d been dreaming about. Something about cats made of smoke and a clothesline that was part of a computer game. A shrink who offered to scratch my back, but couldn’t find the right spot. I took a couple of Tylenol and a muscle relaxant. Rearranged the bed and tucked myself in for a few more hours of sleep.
The phone rang.
I looked at the caller ID. It showed a local number but I knew it was not a local call. I’d been getting a spate of these “local” calls and all of them feature a guy with a heavy Pakistani accent informing me that social security is closing my account. The scammer’s technology picks up your local number and displays it. I bought a new “landline” phone that has a “blocking” feature. Except each scammer uses a different number. They use auto-dialers, so rarely do they use the same number so the blocking is more a matter of making you feel better than solving a problem. Often, the number it shows is my number. I’m reasonably sure I wasn’t calling myself.
I answered the phone in what has become my surly morning greeting: “Who are you and what do you want?” There was no response. A bit of crackle on the line, but no voice. Not even a recording. I hung up. More accurately, pressed the OFF key
It has been a long time since I expected a ringing telephone to herald a call from a friend. I don’t even expect it to be a return call from someone with whom I do business. I expect all calls to be scams, surveys, or sales pitches.
At least 70% of all the calls I get are recorded. That takes away the one thing you used to do to feel better: insulting the dialer. Yes, I know he’s just the bottom rung of a ring of scammers, but he’s not a good guy and this isn’t a job that anyone who isn’t a thief will take. I can’t even insult the caller or his or her fellow thieves. Insulting the person on the phone used to be the only positive side to these endless calls from anonymous people who are trying to steal your money. Even that small pleasure is gone.
I have abandoned good telephone manners. Telephones are no longer a way to communicate unless I’m making the call. Otherwise, telephones are annoying and intrusive. Just one more attempt to steal personal data so someone can hack us, steal our identity, or scam us in some other way.
I can’t make them stop calling because the number on the Caller ID is a ripoff too. There’s nothing to report. Nothing makes these calls disappear, but I have to admit that their being recorded makes it easy to hang up. If I ask how they got it — assuming there’s someone to ask — they tell me they got my telephone number from a form I filled out “online.”
I do not fill out forms online. Never. Ever. Fill out one form, get hundreds of calls in mere seconds.
I do not fill in forms online or anything which requires I include a phone number.
As part of the day’s epiphanies, I realized how technology steals pieces of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with the technology. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s what people do with it that’s threatening. Those people have ruined telephones for me, probably permanently.
Unwanted telephone calls may seem a minor detail in view of the many terrible things going on in our world, but I can remember waiting with pleasant anticipation for the phone to ring. It wasn’t so long ago.
Or was it?