Don’t hang up.
Rudely admonished, I go rogue.
Phone smacks cradle. Aftershocks measured in Montreal.
When will the robo-solicitors learn that telling a wary householder to remain on the line likely will prompt an equal and opposite reaction consistent with Newton’s Third Law of Physics?
From all over come the unwanted calls — from Brentwood and Southampton on Long Island, from Auburn, New York, and Sun Valley, California; from Boykins, Virginia, and Hartland, Michigan; from San Francisco and Houston and Warrior, Alabama, and Wakefield, Rhode Island. From everywhere.
Don’t hang up:
We have important information about your credit card account.
We have important information about chronic pain.
We have important information about your free Caribbean vacation.
We have important information about your tax returns.
Robocalls are so prevalent that the Federal Trade Commission a few years ago held a contest challenging cyber-geeks to find a solution.
Two triumphant nerds pocketed $25,000 for inventing a system that sends calls directly to what is known as a “honeypot” — that is, a data collection system overseen by investigators and researchers who, I guess, intend to do something useful. Name of the government enterprise? “Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back.”
But humanity is not always so innocent. Sometimes there are real people on the other end of the line.
“Hi, I’m Alex the chimney guy.”
“Hi, I’m Randy calling about your computer.”
“Hi, I’m Lou the fixer-upper.”
I’m partial to humans, to tell the truth — regular folks trying to make a living or pitching one noble cause or another.
It’s hard to get really steamed at someone who wants to protect the ozone layer, or save the Arctic fox, or help victims of tsunamis or even the tireless political types pleading for just one more contribution to assure victory.
Most difficult to endure are the nightly interruptions that bring nary a whisper no matter how often you haplessly mutter “Hello? Hello? Hello?”
Experts warn that these calls — often computerized — can be particularly pernicious and set up the recipient for a second contact during which some rascal suggests that, just to get acquainted, you reveal your bank balance and account number.
I have a hunch that there is another category, too, involving harried minimum wage workers forced to place so many calls at the same time that they couldn’t possibly manage them all. To those folks, I hope you find better jobs in 2019.
All of this is mentioned by way of asking whatever happened to peace and quiet?
No doubt you can remember those days — blissful by comparison — when the phone rang seldom and calls were more apt to be from the photo shop saying your snapshots were ready or from your spendthrift kid at State U. complaining she can’t survive on an austerity budget.
Now domestic tranquility is shattered what seems every 15 minutes.
Nothing stops the assault — not the holidays (Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, included), stock market jitters, government shutdown, climate change or, in the case of our family, two auto mishaps in one recent week. Nothing.
When a solicitor called on the day Penny Marshall died, I had the urge to say: Have you no shame? The world just lost Laverne. Can’t we quit hustling back and knee braces for just a few hours?
There is a larger issue.
Much has been said about our connected society — the idea that, thanks to modern technology, we are never really alone or out of touch.
Accordingly, if there are goods to sell, or ideas to peddle, the purveyors are going to be unrelenting in their efforts to clear the shelves or make their case. They will find you. In Digital America, there is no place to hide.
But there are always trade-offs in life, no?
If you like to stream “The Crown,” on Netflix, or ask your phone for directions to that new taqueria hiding in some Jericho Turnpike strip mall, you might as well accept the world as it is.
On the one hand, you get Queen Elizabeth. On the other, there’s a robotic voice warning you’ll soon be in jail for tax fraud unless you grab your credit card quickly.
It’s an Info Age package deal with little to protect us — and that includes “no call” lists, which are observed — and enforced — with the same fervor as speed limits on the Long Island Expressway.
So, friends, in conclusion let me say that the dilemma we face is increasing daily and ... oops, just a second, please. Sorry, have to split. We’ll continue another time. Someone’s on the line from Sun Valley.