Beverly Godfrey column: The past is calling
The phone rang in the middle of dinner, and since I had a kid out of the house who might need a ride, I got up and answered it.
To which I got a short “hi” back, and then the loud, extended sound of a throat being cleared into the receiver.
Then the caller said something about a political party and election. I hung up and returned to my pork loin, roasted potatoes and family.
“I thought he was crank-calling me for a second,” I said. “It was like he called just to clear his throat in my ear.”
But then I realized what a thing of the past that is, the crank phone call. With today’s ubiquitous caller ID, what kid would dare?
I consider it one of the crowning achievements of my life the time I was quick-witted enough to prank a kid back when he crank called me. I’m usually not very quick with comebacks. Unless I have a few days for thought and research, and unless I can submit my comeback in writing, I’m lost. But not this time.
The phone rang.
A boy of about 9 said, “Hello, is your refrigerator running?”
“Nope,” I said, “it’s sitting right here in my kitchen.”
There was silence for a moment, and then the kid hung up. I threw my hands into the air in celebration. “Yeah! Take that, kid! Ha ha!”
But those days are past. I don’t get sales calls anymore, either. I added my phone number to the “do not call” registry years ago (donotcall.gov), and it worked. Before then, I’d get a few calls a day. I always asked to be taken off the company’s call list, but I doubt that did much good.
The do-not-call list doesn’t stop every call, of course, such as political calls, surveys and fundraising. So I still get to practice my chops at dealing with them in a way few people do, judging by their reactions.
I don’t like it when a stranger calls and right off the bat asks, “How are you?” It seems like a personal question, even if one could argue it’s more of a colloquial phrase than a question, just another way of saying “hello.”
Still, I don’t answer by saying “Fine, how are you?” Instead, I’ll ask, “Who is this?” followed by, “And what do you want?” If they continue with their script, I’ll ask again. I did go to journalism school, after all, and when a person avoids a question, I notice. They sometimes say, “I’m not selling anything,” but if you give it time, the conversation always comes back to the same thing — money. That’s what they want.
It’s funny that today’s young cellphone users have little experience with any of this. They may struggle with phones dropped into toilets, lost chargers and ill-advised selfies posted to the Internet, but they know nothing of crank calls and telemarketers.
But rest assured, no matter how times change, if I call you, I’ll quickly say who I am and what I want. And I’ll clear my throat before I dial.
Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune columnist and copy editor. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.