Op-Ed

They’ll block YOUR number

Associated Press

“Hello, I’m from Windows tech support, and I’m calling to help you fix a computer problem you didn’t know you had.”

Ah, who doesn’t enjoy a pleasant evening interlude with these mind-reading hucksters, inevitably calling during dinner, a conversation with the cat or the most blissful slumber of a lifetime? Just part of the steady diet of telephone spam we all know and love. I tell you, if this was real Spam, by now I’d have enough cans in my pantry to cater the Renaissance.

This caller is not from Windows. If he’s from Windows, I’m from M.I.T. It’s just the usual shtick to separate me from my hard-earned wampum. Sure, they’ll “fix” my computer. And they’ll eventually charge me an arm and a leg (or other assorted body parts) to unfix that “fix” so my computer will work again.

And if it’s not the friendly folks from “Windows,” it’s some recording telling me my car warranty is about to expire. I could own a Toyota, an Edsel or a Stutz Bearcat for all they know.

Or it’s someone urging me to take “another” vacation at the posh resort I’ve never been to in the first place.

It’s enough to make you wish Alexander Graham Bell had gone into another line of work.

You have options. Sometimes, you hear assorted blather like, “Press two and be placed on our do-not-call list.” Don’t hold your breath. It would be more constructive if I pressed two anvils upside his/her cranium for 47 consecutive minutes.

But if aggravated assault isn’t your style, try these handy hints to help you handle these long-distance mediums.

If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em. If your caller ID suggests an incoming call from one of these charlatans, answer with a chipper, business-like “Burger Trough!”

Or claim they’ve reached the Original Carl’s Carpet Carousel. Try to sell them an area rug.

For the proper ambience, have an eclectic selection of sound effects CDs at the ready. My preferences: bowling alley, sounds of the waterfront, heavy industry and angry street brawl. Nothing says “wrong number” like the authentic sounds of World War I in high fidelity.

They’ll go bye-bye, when you go bilingual. If you can speak another language, have at it. Spanish or French? Not quite.

Bone up on your Flemish.

Put that Esperanto to good use.

Learn to say “get bent” in Aztec.

Do that Urdu you do so well.

If you can’t beat ’em, bore ’em. Filibuster that grifter six ways from Sunday. Don’t spare a detail as you regale your conversational companion with an endless anecdote about your friend’s uncle’s neighbor’s cousin’s mailman. If he wore his lucky socks that day, throw it in.

Break out those haikus you wrote in high school. Let fly with an impromptu verbal essay on your love of whole kernel corn.

Steer them to an alternate phone number. “Yeah, just call 867-5309.” Ask for Mr. Tutone.

Another time-waster for the “Windows” crowd: go low-tech. Tell them you own a UNIVAC computer, circa the Eisenhower era. It will take a while to warm up the tubes.

Better still, tell them you own a wood-burning computer and it will take five minutes to open the flue.

Go even further with the “low-tech” approach. “Computer? I haven’t even mastered the abacus!”

Tell them you’re considering their offer, but you plan to pay using an unorthodox method. Suggest payment in raw materials: lumber, iron ore and/or beaver pelts. Offer to pay by credit card, but tell them your credit card number is “four.” You were one of the first.

Postpone the call. “I can’t talk right now. Call me after the end of the Cenozoic Era.”

Bottom line: if they’re going to waste your time, waste theirs. Of course, you could get an app to block these calls.

But where’s the fun in that?

Toby Gibbs, a native of Winchester, lives in Lexington, where he’s a news line producer for WTVQ. Reach him at tobygibbs@twc.com.

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