“Hello. My name is (complete stranger, probably in India). This conversation is being recorded to improve customer service. I’m calling on behalf of (unknown charity, political party, manufacturer of your disposal).”

If you haven’t hung up already, the monologue goes on: “At the conclusion of this call, will you please hold for a brief survey (never). Press one for yes, press two for no.” (TWO! TWO!TWO!)

“What is your name?”

“Joe Blow.”

“It is a pleasure speaking with you today, Joe. How are you?” (As if you care.)

“That’s ‘Mr. Blow’ to you.”

“It is a pleasure speaking with you today, Joe. How are you?”

“I’m just great. Get to the point.”

“Well, Joe, the (unknown charity, political party, disposal manufacturer) is vitally interested in your opinion regarding (a possible contribution, your vote, how things are grinding up) and would like to introduce you to our new (objective, program, model). Do you have a few moments?”

“Not really.”

“Wonderful, Joe. I will now explain how we may be of benefit to you.”

Nobody stays on after this, but that doesn’t mean the same guy or somebody else won’t call back the next day.

Surveys have become ubiquitous. I’ve signed up for call-blocking on every phone in my control. It hasn’t helped, or if it has, I’d hate to be without it.

Of course, the geniuses who invented it excluded charities and politicians, and don’t seem to prosecute other violators. I’d like to have a counter-recording saying, “It’s none of your damn business,” but that is technologically beyond me and I’d probably be sued for cursing.

Perhaps this wouldn’t be so annoying if it made any difference. After you’ve pushed through a phone tree and been on hold for 15 minutes with your (least) favorite utility or airline or whatever, you are asked if the service was satisfactory.

What a stupid question. Of course it wasn’t. The only reason they ask is to make you feel as if you have accomplished something by telling them off. They’re not actually going to do anything about it.

Then, this season, there are the politicians.

Before they ask for money, and if you’re still on at that point you shouldn’t be, their recorded voice says something like: “Hi there, I’m Joe Blow (not the same one), and I want to tell you why I’m running for (state legislature, Congress, dogcatcher). The (state, country, pound) is in dire straits, and I want to fix it. I ask for your vote, and if you really want to help, you can answer a few questions and send a contribution to (click).”

This doesn’t count the internet surveys, which pop up in the middle of something you’re trying to read.

I’ve tried to block all this stuff, and have probably done a poor job of it, but that doesn’t excuse the uninvited interference, at least not in my mind.

I know the interruptors have paid somebody to get in my face — I don’t understand or care how all that works — but I’d like them to know that the more they bother me, the less chance I’ll ever respond.

Ah, well. It’s a brave new world. There is no escape from unwanted, annoying communication except maybe a lead-lined closet with no electrical outlet. That would also protect you from Superman’s X-ray vision and awful superhero movies. Maybe not such a bad idea.

Longtime columnist Fred Wolferman recently moved from Southern Pines back to his native Kansas City. Contact him by email at fwolferman@ gmail.com.

(2) comments

Patrick Henry

It is always fun to ask the caller if he or she knows the penalty for calling a phone on the Do Not Call listing. They abruptly hang up on me -- success!!

Conrad Meyer

Hey Fred - I am pretty certain that Kansas has caller ID on their phone system.

It works wonders this time of year - if you don't recognize the caller, don't answer.

Once in a while when I am bored, I'll answer and toy with the caller before ending the call - but before I do, I tell them never to call again.

So far I have ignored multiple calls from Washington DC, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida. And if you are interested in who called you - simply Google the phone number to see what you missed.

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