Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"A Highly Questionable Call"

Although totally unplanned, it turns out to be “Creepy Occurrence Week” on “Just Thinking”, though this one’s not as terrible as what I wrote about yesterday – feel free to look back and remind yourself what that was; I just did.  That was the worst.  Still, did you ever have something “icky” happen to you – I mean, nothing got on you or anything – but you felt like you needed to take a shower after it was over?  That was the way I felt after the following.  So “Purell” your whole body as a precaution, and awau we go.

Being home a lot, I am faced with a continuing barrage of unsolicited phone calls.


Public opinion pollsters.

Automated “Robocalls.”

Automated “Robocalls” in Spanish.

But the call I got yesterday was, by far, the most unwelcome unsolicited phone call I have ever received.  It was so bad, I am considering not answering the telephone ever again, a device whose intrusion I admittedly resent at the best of times. 

Somebody once said – it was some time ago when people used “Pay Phones” and the phone calls cost less – “I abhor the idea that any fool with a nickel in his pocket can make a bell ring in my house.”  That’s me, upgrading the price of the phone call to whatever they charge for one today.  If you could find a “Pay Phone” that still works.


The phone in my office rings; I answer it.  Why?  Because it could be important.  It rarely is, but it could be this time.  That’s how they “get” you – you do not want to miss an important phone call.  It just occurred to me, there should be a different “ring” for the important phone calls, to distinguish them from the “Don’t bothers.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to introduce such a measure in Congress but the powerful “Unsolicited Phone Calls” lobby used their immense influence to shoot it down.  I should Google that and see if it’s true.  Nah, why ruin a good anti-lobbyist anecdote?
Giving away the suspense, as I frequently do – demonstrating my utter disdain for the increased readership telling suspenseful stories might produce – imagine the guy who somehow gets a hold of your credit card and goes on a wild shopping spree at your unwitting expense.  If that felonious slimeball had a voice, that would be exactly the voice I heard when the phone rang in my office and I said,



Okay.  Right away, I should have known something was fishy.  Nobody calls me “Grandpa.”  I’m “Pappy.”  Still I press ahead, ignoring the screaming telltale “giveaway.”

“Who’s calling?”

You know who this is.”

“No I don’t.”


“I don’t want to do that.”

“Come on.  Guess.”

Here’s the thing… that keeps me polite and still listening.  This could be a legitimate person on the line, a relative calling from Toronto, unaware that I am “Pappy” and not “Grandpa.”  I can therefore not be rude to that person, “A”, because they could actually be someone I know even though I do not recognize their voice, and consequently, “B”, if I am rude to them they will tell everyone in Toronto I’m an idiot.  So, against all odds – and I mean all odds because it is, in fact, an anonymous sleazeball making this call – I take a guess at his name.


And, wouldn’t you know it, he says,


To which I relaxingly reply,

“Hi, Bob.”

Now understand – as I unconsciously must have – there is a one-in-a-million chance it is actually my Canadian Cousin Bob, who has not called me once in my entire life.  Still, somehow, I feel good – meaning relieved, and vaguely excited – I got it “right.”

Play a game with me here.  As much as I can recall of it, I’m going to tell you what “Bob” said to me over the phone.  Pick the spot where you would have reasonably hung up on him, and see how close it is to when I did.  I would put big money on the fact that I listened to “Bob” longer than anyone sensible would have.  Why?  Not because I was curious to hear the scammer’s “spiel” imaginatively play itself out.  Not because I thought it would make an interesting blog post down the line.  Not because I had substantial time on my hands, having not worked in my chosen line of endeavor for thirteen-plus years.

I remained on the phone due to deeply rooted feelings of guilt, engendered by the possibility of hanging up on a person I should have actually been nice to.  Who wants the label “Snooty Hollywood Big Shot”?  One inadvertent snub, and that’s me – the guy who left who thinks he’s “better than us.”  Stuff like that gets around.  I arrive at Canadian “Customs” and they give me “that look.”

So I stayed on the line.  Listening to an extended narrative, which went very much like the following:

“Bob’s” best friend Marcus had died in a car accident far from home in Ohio, and knowing how much the two had meant to each other, Marcus’s parents had sent him the price of a plane ticket to Ohio, so he could come to the funeral.

Are you ready to hang up yet?  Not me.  So far, it’s an “It’s possible.”  (Although the fact that “Bob” continued the phone call should have been a resonating “Red Flag.”  If this were real, “Bob” would have learned from his single question, “So what are you up to?” and my response to it, “Just the usual – writing my blog and practicing the piano” – that he had accidentally called the wrong “Grandpa.”)

Moving on with the “Scam Story”…

Marcus’s brother Steve had picked him up at the airport, and while delivering him to the funeral, they had stopped to pick up a couple hitchhikers.

Are you hanging up now?  Not me.  It can happen, picking up a couple of hitchhikers on the way to a funeral.  Carrying on…

For reasons I no longer remember – possibly speeding on the way to the funeral – an Ohio police officer pulled them over.

Was that a “Click”?  Not from me.  I keep listening.  It’s an interesting story… even if it’s horse poop.

During a “Routine Check”, the cop discovered one of the hitchers had an outstanding warrant for their arrest.

I’m still listening.  Who wouldn’t be… except, perhaps, everyone?

During a subsequent search of the hitchhikers’ possessions, the police officer found a gun in the female hitchhiker’s purse…

Now?  Not quite, but I’m close.

And – preceded by “Bob’s” words, “…and if you can believe this “… a one-pound a bag of cocaine.”

Annnnd I’m out.  Belatedly, but I have finally heard enough.

“Listen, I am really swamped here.  I gotta go.”

“Are you sure?  It’s really important.”

I say, ”Goodbye”, and, possibly embarrassingly,

“Good luck.”

And I hang up the telephone.

It was weird.  But who knows?  Maybe it was a covert psychological experiment:

“How long will they stay on the line before they have heard enough and hang up?”

For which, my “Personal Sampling” skewed in the extreme direction of,

“Holy crap!  Is he gullible!

I am gullible, because, as “easy mark’s” are, I am congenitally guilty.  Although, in my marginal defense, I did call it quits before, “Who do I make this out to and where should I send it?” 

Still, after ending the phone call, I retained the residual anxiety that I may have actually hung up on Cousin Bob.

Spreading the word from an Ohio prison that I am an idiot.

1 comment:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

They'd have lost me at refusing to say their name. Because I'm from New York.