At 7 in the morning, I woke up. I tried to remember my dream. 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 singular benefit of retirement is not being on a schedule and being able to sleep late.
The phone rang.
I looked at the caller ID. It showed a local number but I knew it was not a local call. I’ve been getting a spate of these “local” calls. All of them feature a guy with a heavy accent informing me that social security is closing my account. The scammer’s technology picks up a 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 almost never does the same number appear again. Blocking is more a matter of making you feel better than solving a problem. Often, the number I see on the phone is my number. I’m sure I am not 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.
Probably 90% of the calls I get are recorded. That takes away the one thing which used to help you feel better: insulting the dialer. Yes, I know he’s just the bottom rung of a ring of scammers, but just because he’s low level doesn’t mean he’s a good guy. This is work only a thief will accept. That I can’t even insult the caller or his or her fellow thieves is just one more layer of ugliness in an ugly situation. Insulting the person on the phone used to be the only positive side to these calls from anonymous people trying to steal our money. Even that tiny pleasure is gone.
It was President John F. Kennedy (JFK) in his inaugural address at the height of Cold War who said; “So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is subject to proof.”
Although I believe in civility, I have abandoned good telephone manners. Telephones are not a way to communicate unless I’m making the call. Otherwise, telephones are annoying and intrusive, one more attempt to steal personal data so someone can hack us, steal our identity, or scam us.
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 the number — 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. If you fill out one form, you will get a thousand calls in mere seconds.
I do not fill in forms online or any form that which requires I include a phone number unless it’s for my doctor or hospital and even then, I’m careful.
As part of the day’s epiphanies, I realized how technology steals pieces of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with technology. It’s neutral, neither good nor bad. It’s what people do with it that’s bad. 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?