Sunday, November 17, 2019

Messages Unsolicited


It may be mid-day in Mumbai but it’s in the wee hours of the day here when the phone rings. Just one ring is sufficient to rouse me from a hard-earned sleep. One and done. The No-Robo system works that way. All day the damn land-line is tolling. Ask not for whom says the poem. Sorry, John Donne, not for me. When I am asleep I am an island unto myself.

Again with the phone. Now it is ringing in earnest demanding to be answered. After all it could be Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. Or the Nobel Prize Committee looking for that other Norm Levine. But no. It’s some guy telling me it is open enrollment season. I should only have my health. I figure if they really cared about my wellbeing they’d leave me alone. This time it’s 10 A.M. I am picturing the caller in some rented space between a tattoo shop and Thai massage parlor in a low-rent district in Manhattan. Seven o’clock here so I might as well meet the day.

Another barrage of one-ringers over breakfast which I’ve learned to ignore like punctuating fits and starts, some abortive sound and fury signifying nothing.

Now it is ringing again. Some campaign worker in Arizona working the phones for Mark Kelley or the Ditch Mitch office pleading for a few bucks. Too close to call says the volunteer in Maine telling me everything I already know about Susan Collins. The problem is I agree with everyone and I’ve already pledged on line.

Now it is Doctors Without Borders or the A.C.L.U. or Habitat for Humanity or Natural Resources Defense Council or Southern Poverty Law Center. They send me maps, calendars and address labels. Stop already, I’m not worth it.

This time the phone voice says, Hi, this is Bruce from Microsoft Service Center. You have been hacked by foreigners so you must go to your computer right now or we shall disable your Internet. To which I reply, Two sentences and you’ve lied to me four times. If your name is Bruce, I am Mahatma Gandhi. Secondly you are not from Microsoft; they don’t call people and lastly they never threaten their clients.

Next, I am told, in combative tones, that Social Security is after me or my credit cards are overdue or maybe my sister is stuck in Nairobi and needs money. Good thing I don’t have a sister unless I’d misplaced her at an early age.

Now an online pharmacy is calling because I foolishly left my phone number eleven years ago when shopping for I know not what. By this time I ask the man who is trying hard to disguise his Indian accent if he really wants to spend his life annoying people. Does your mother know what you are doing, I inquire. This always elicits an early click.

(Much can be said about getting rid of a landline. Mobile phones can always be stored in the far end of the house during sleep and set to low volume or vibrate. I might vibrate myself to happiness) 

Email shows a message from my Greek friend, Basil, suggesting a foursome early dinner at a new Mediterranean restaurant next Wednesday. By now I am crusty, cantankerous and curmudgeonly. I don’t like driving after sundown, say I and I also hate goat or feta cheese. I suppose that would mean I’d be stoned to death in Athens or turned into an ox. He says I’d be saved because the gods could't ever agree on anything and an ox sent to India would not lead a bad life.

My day was made. 

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