Call From “Not Provided”

This morning I’m lying there, dozing on one of the few days I get to sleep in for a bit, and I’m slapped awake by a phone call on my landline. I look at the clock: 8:06 a.m. Over the last few months and years, I’ve seen that time associated with a morning phone call on my landline. So even when I’m partially awake, I know without any doubt that it’s a robot calling me.

Instead of answering it, I spin around and unplug the phone from the wall jack. Living out on the KP beyond the range of cable means that my internet is provided by CenturyLink, and they used to require the bundling of a landline with internet service. They’ve stopped that but I’ve kept mine, apparently because I’m an idiot.

I always thought the future with robots would be exciting, or maybe dangerous, or at least more interesting than a computer selecting numbers from a purchased list and calling them at all hours. So at first I ignored them, which means that the phone rings about every hour four times before my audio Caller I.D. phone says things like, “Call from Seetle Sim,” which is odd because in this day and age, a talking phone should be able to say something as basic as “Seattle” and “Symphony.” But most calls are from “Not Provided.”

After trying to ignore them, I switched to answering angrily, ready to take on whoever was pestering me, only to find dead air and, after a few seconds, a click. After the insult of being systematically hung up on, I’d hang up with a heavy, frustrated sigh that nobody other than I could hear or appreciate, then dial *69 and jot down the number that had just called me and dial it, only to have some other robot (or maybe the same one?) supposedly put me on some mythical “do not call” list, perhaps laughing to itself as it did so.

Used to be you could do things to telemarketers. You could listen for a moment as they started their spiel, and then say, “Yes, please tell me more,” and you could set the phone down quietly on the counter and walk away. Now it’s just a robot, harvesting your time like a combine pulling up corn, and us, the helpless humans, staring in disbelief at our phones. And as if that’s not bad enough, only half the time are they even trying to sell you anything! The other half the computer/robot/terminator is just trying to see if a humanoid lives at the phone number so they can sell that number to other telemarketing robots!

Maybe all the people responsible for robocalls on home and cell phones should be identified, captured, shipped to a central camp, kept in rooms with constantly ringing phones and used for reality TV shows until we, as a nation, grow bored and (to expand on a George Carlin idea) have them terminated in horrifying ways on pay-per-view, with proceeds going to balance the budget. Or build better robots. Now that’s progress!

Kevin Reed lives in Lakebay.

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