Sunday, December 20, 2015

Press “1” To Talk To A Live Terrorist


SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2015: For countless months, I’ve been on the receiving end of harassing telephone calls. And while this is far less deadly than an actual terrorist attack, nevertheless, it is just one of the many ugly faces of terrorism.

In short, their tactic, via an opening robo message (usually delivered by a chipper, saccharin, bubbling over with congeniality female voice) is to offer their potential victims the options of pressing “1” to talk to a live terrorist or, by pressing “3”, to be removed from their calling list. Naïvely taking “her” words at face value, I made the tragic error of pressing “3”. Unbeknownst to me, I had just signed the death warrant to my peace of mind.

Indeed, therein began my plunge into their wretched cesspool, where psychological torture relentlessly rears its ugly head. These vile bastards had to have either been reared by savage, Republican parents or done their internships at GWB’s Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. Indeed, the robocall had to have been invented by some ruthless Republican (sorry for the redundancy re those two “r” words).

Whatever their “qualifications”, they next stepped up their barrage of phone calls to me to the point where I was getting up to three calls per day, every day… needlessly wearing out both my nerves and answering machine.

I tried passive resistance by shutting down my answering machine and not picking up my phone for over a month. At first the phone rang sometimes beyond twelve times, each call. But… eventually… my phone’s ringer and I got some much-needed relief and rest. Had they given up on me? Had I won my own private war against telephonic terrorism?

Not so. Upon warily reengaging my answering machine, within the hour, the very first recorded message snagged was from these bastards… and so round two of my troubles began.

On several occasions I even pressed “1” to rationally explain to them that, based on their very own robowoman’s set parameters, I was ineligible to be “helped” by them… that on that basis, alone, I should be removed from their call list. Their responses ranged from rudely hanging up on me to snottily defying me… one operator actually, gleefully promising me that I’d now be receiving even more phone calls from them! Which all begs this one word question…

WHY?

The obvious follow up Q is…

Other than sating some twisted, sadistic need, WTF could they possibly gain by continuing to bother me? To emphasize this, I NEITHER HAD ANY NEED NOR WOULD I EVER HAVE ANY NEED FOR THE “SERVICES” THEY ARE OFFERING!

Folks, for three decades out of my life, I worked in the service industry, both in sales and management; meeting the public face to face on a daily basis. In all that time, no superior of mine (and I’ve had many) ever needed to explain to me that no one could ever force a customer into buying (whatever you may be attempting to sell). And even if you did somehow manage to browbeat them into seeing it your way, there’d be a high price tag attached. Eventually, said customer would resent you to the point of either returning ISO a refund and/or never coming back to buy from you again.

And… for the record…

THESE PHONE SCAMMING TERRORISTS ARE NOT PROVIDING ANY SERVICE TO ANYONE! They’re out to trick gullible people into providing their social security numbers and other sensitive personal data… SOMETHING ONE MUST NEVER, EVER DO! I can only pity those who’ve fallen for their relentless sales pitch from hell.

Getting back to my story, now, these terrorists wound up pissing me off so much I even pressed “1” to unleash my justifiable anger, which seemed to please them no end. Realizing that that approach had had no effect on them, I weighed my options.

To get real, here, about the only thing about this landline (which was still mine) was the monthly bill… which meant I was actually paying for my own torture… and that had a thoroughly nasty ring to it.

I next considered calling the phone company and telling them to disconnect my landline. But, that option saddened (perhaps overly) sentimental me because this was the same phone number that had been associated with my family name for over half a century… the very phone number I had memorized as a five-year-young boy.

I just didn’t have the heart to do that… so… I went online to confirm that I was still on file in the National Do Not Call Registry’s database. Turns out both my landline and cell have been listed for nearly a decade. That’s when I noticed their menu options included registering my complaint against my tormentors.  And that’s exactly what I did.

In the waning hours of that same day, the phone rang again. Glancing over at the clock it was still before 9 p.m., so, the window of opportunity for more abuse still existed. I even considered letting my answering machine field the call… but… just before it got to the fourth ring I picked it up. Time seemed to freeze.

Palpable was that moment of hesitation, both the caller’s and mine. Then I heard a female voice. No, not that damned robovoice... this was a real, living, breathing person. And, judging by the telltale breaks I was hearing, I knew she was on in years. She softly, tentatively asked to speak to someone. I hadn’t heard her all that well so I asked her to repeat the name. I then informed her she had reached the wrong number.

Normally, I’d have simply hung up at that point … yet something told me not to… she went on to tell her story… how she had so wished to talk to her friend this holiday season… and now… she’d not be able to.

Hearing that tugged at one of my heartstrings. It hadn’t been all that long ago that I had been caregiver to my aging and ailing parents. And so, I told her I had a phonebook and might be able to help her figure out what was wrong.

I asked her to spell out the first and last name, provide the address and city, etc. Oddly enough, the person she had tried to call now lived in my lifelong, small hometown and on the very same street where I had lived for the first seven years of my life. There went that second heartstring tug.

Leafing through to the correct page, my first try was to no avail. When I told her she sounded even sadder than before. That’s when I spotted another less conventional phonebook on my shelf… this one’s phone numbers were listed by the streets, which the people live on. I told her I was not ready to give up.

Lo and behold I had located the person she had tried to call. It turns out she had transposed a couple of numbers in the street address and, as for the phone number, itself, while the last four digits were identical to mine, she had an incorrect three digit prefix.

As I read all the valid information to her, she muttered that her pen wasn’t working too well. I told her to take her time and, this time, more slowly reread off everything to her. She was profuse with her thanks and we wound up wishing each other Happy Holidays.

I had no sooner hung up than the deeper significance to what had just happened started to sink in. I had a complete stranger to thank for restoring my belief that there still is a spark of decency / civility left in our world.

Just look at what Robocalls have done. Personally, I cannot help but wonder how many genuinely important phone calls I may’ve missed when I stopped accepting them for over a month. Looking at the deeper ramifications, Robopcalls have become a major reason why people are cutting the cord to their landlines.

By doing so, I believe we’ll wind up cutting ourselves off from our global community… extinguishing our, for the common good, spirit. That’s something that should run high, not only during the December holidays… not only in one’s hometown… but on each and every day in every corner of our world.

Epilogue: The very next day, my phone rang once… and then abruptly stopped. Within seconds, it rang again… this time twice… and then abruptly stopped, again. Had my lodged complaint to the National Do Not Call website resulted in their somehow blocking these harassing robocalls? 

Of course, my claiming victory may be premature. After all, even the wicked need rest sometime, right? Or maybe they've just been too busy throwing a hot holiday party in their boiler-room. Only time will tell.

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