I hate answering my phone.
When it rings, I cuss. If I manage to get to it in time to answer it, I usually cuss some more. It doesn’t matter. The callers don’t care. They’re either robots or ghosts. That’s why I hate answering.
I know I’m not alone in this. The subject of annoying phone calls regularly comes up in discussions whenever several of us of a certain age get together. We are haunted by our phones. We are besieged by sales calls.
It wasn’t always like this. Learning to hate answering my phone was a big deal for me. I’ve been a newspaperman my whole life. My phone played a big part on my job. It was a lifeline, a link to the outside world.
Any time it rang, I jumped to answer it. It could be a new lead on an article I was pursuing or a news tip I needed or just someone wanting to chat about some important issue. My callers were friends or sources or people needing my help or at least my attention.
Every ring could bring something exciting.
No more. Now, when the phone rings, it’s a salesperson, if it’s a person at all. Mostly, it’s just the steady beep-beep-beep of a disengaged line. The caller has rung off because some robo-dialer placing three calls at once has managed to reach someone else first and hung up on me. Nobody’s there but a ghost.
If, by some miracle, I do connect with a caller, it usually turns out to be not another human, but a robot. The bright voice of some perky young womanbot introduces herself as Amanda and without taking a breath launches a spiel about vacation condos or Caribbean cruises. Or it’s a dude who asks if someone named Randy or some such is there, then says if not, I’ll do, and then asks for money.
But the worst calls started flooding in when I turned 65. That’s when the Medicare supplement sales calls started. There were four, five, six a day. Even more on some days. When I answered, people with strange accents wanted to sell me insurance to supplement or replace or somehow magically fix my Medicare insurance. Then my wife turned 65, and the number of annoying calls doubled.
I didn’t handle it well. I admit that now. I took to screaming into the phone whenever I answered and heard the telltale pause that indicated it was a robo-dialer on the other end of the line.
“Are you a robot?” I’d scream. “Well, I hope you burn in Robot Hell!”
I realized that accomplished little but make me feel better for a moment. The calls kept coming.
What to do? I thought of dumping my landline and switching all calls to my cellphone. But we’ve had our house number for decades. It’s the only number some distant relatives even know. I’d hate to lose touch with some second cousin or distant in-law just because I couldn’t handle a few annoying phone calls.
Next, I checked out the “no-call list offered by the government. The Federal Communication Commission’s web page says you sign up and about a month later, legitimate telemarketers will stop calling. That sounded good, until I read the next few paragraphs. The list does nothing to stop most annoying callers. Maybe the good guys won’t call, but the bad guys still will. What good is that? I want to stop the bad guys most of all.
I’ve been reduced to fantasy. I want revenge. I want someone to invent a little device you can attach to your phone that will recognize robo-callers, and, when they call, respond by sending a high-frequency sound back to them that will cause their telephones to suddenly burst into flames.
It would serve them right and cut down on annoying calls at the same time.
I realize that isn’t likely to happen, if only because if it really were possible, someone would have come up with such a device already, and everybody would have one.
Still, I hope some tech geniuses out there are working on a way to get rid of unwanted phone calls and that somebody comes up with something soon. The robots have discovered my cellphone number. The ghosts can’t be far behind.