Ask Not For Whom The Ringtone Clangs

Lawmakers have passed two do-not-call laws, one from Harrisburg and another from Washington.

So why do I still get unwanted calls from people trying to sell me something or give me “vital information” I neither need nor want?

The most annoying variants of these calls are the ones that come jangling over my cellphone.

I am technologically stuck in the 20th century. I have a cellphone, but it is not “smart.” I use it to make and receive telephone calls. Imagine that! It also receives and sends annoying text messages. But with text messages, I can retaliate when they become annoying.

If a family member or friend sends an unwanted text message, I sometimes respond by returning the call by voice, instead of replying via text message. That gets their attention.

“Why is he calling? He never calls. Is something wrong? I had better answer.”

I lie shamelessly, too.

“I am driving,” I say. “You would not want me to risk my life or others’ lives by attempting to reply via text message.

“I now have this wonderful hands-free Bluetooth, so I am calling you in a safe manner to reply to your trite, unneeded and bothersome text message.”

Sometimes, they hang up on me.

I chuckle. Point made.

However, there are more insidious cretins out there.

This text message came last week:

“Enjoy your trip for two to the Bahamas. Call 000-000-000 right now!”

Of course, if you return the call, you get a recording, and they get to know, “We have a live sucker! Maybe he will buy, and we can scam him!”

If I could, I would zap myself through the cellphone, up to the tower, along the ether, into their server bank, my hands equipped with bolt cutters and hammers.

I would use the bolt cutters and hammers on their equipment, in retaliation for their obviously illegal and definitely unwanted sales calls. A tiny part of me goes “Muwahahaha!” as I envision bolt-cutting body parts on the persons responsible, but of course that is fiction. I am nonviolent, mostly. So I would not do that, mostly.

Our landline home phone also rings with unwanted calls. I understand the First Amendment well enough to accept, reluctantly, that political calls are protected speech and therefore not banned by the do-not-call lists.

I actually enjoy political calls made by live persons, because I enjoy talking about politics.

But I hate pre-recorded calls, political or not.

I have a “Muwahahaha!” retaliation in mind for those folks.

Whenever Candidate Smith, or someone acting for him, disturbs me with a pre-recorded call, I shall immediately go to my Facebook page and type “VOTE FOR JONES! He/She does not make annoying telephone calls to my home, unlike annoying Candidate Smith.”

UPMC for Life, my Medicare-contracted health insurance carrier, sends the cheerful pre-recorded voice of Nurse Kendra to our land line house phone, inviting me to listen to a learned doctor explain why I might not die.

How she knows to call precisely when I am on a ladder, in the bathroom or halfway down the steps to the garage, I do not understand.

But I am unable to allow the call to go to the answering machine, even though we have a perfectly good answering machine. I was raised in the 1940s, when telephone calls were still a rarity.

“Why is he calling? He never calls. Is something wrong? I had better answer.”

So I pick up the phone and hear Kendra’s cheerful invitation. Then I wipe the smeared paint off the receiver.

I say bad words.

Happily, UPMC for Life’s member services guy tells me that they are obligated by Medicare regulations to “contact” me, but email will suffice. I can view email when I am not on a ladder, in the bathroom or en route to the garage.

So he says I shan’t hear Nurse Kendra’s mellifluous tones again – unless I get put back onto the phone call list for the next series of important messages that will prevent me from dying, for awhile.

I wish that I could fully recall a hilarious routine by a stand-up comic. He would listen to about a half-sentence, then interrupt with “You need to talk to my brother. Here.”

The “brother,” sounding different, would allow the caller to get through about the same length of a half-sentence, then say “Oh. You need to talk to my other brother. Here.”

A third “brother” voice would then begin speaking. This would go on, and on, and on.

I realize that this is cruel and unusual punishment for the person who is making these calls, just trying to earn a living.

So I would never indulge in such tactics, right?


Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville.