Call Collecting

July 17, 2009

The other day the office phone rang and, since it was late on a Friday afternoon and almost everyone else had gone home I picked it up. A cheerful recorded voice told me that it was very important that I stay on the line. I knew immediately that it must be extremely important, because why else would they use a recorded voice? Honestly, you can’t expect a real person to pick up the phone and call if there’s a crisis or if there’s really important information to be shared. If I need a friend to know something-like that the bridge he’s about to drive across on his way to my house isn’t finished yet-I think the best way to share that information is to update my answering machine message and hope he’ll call. The cheerful recorded voice continued, "You need to know how you can get a lower interest rate on your Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discovery, Chase, CitiBank, or other credit card,." Wow! I am amazed that by apparently calling a random number this recorded voice knew that I might have a credit card and that I might be interested in a lower interest rate. In fact it sounded like this recorded voice had an inside deal with so many companies that I was tempted to stay on the line just to ask if I could borrow money using just my Commander USA fan club card. Hey, it does say that I promise to remain an all-around good guy forever, so shouldn’t that be good enough to qualify me for a large low-interest loan that I can pay back whenever I feel like it? But since getting home and opening a beer and having some pizza was a much higher priority than a lower interest rate on any credit card I might hold I decided to hang up instead.

And then, earlier this week, I got an even stranger call, again from a recorded voice, this time on my cell phone. My cell phone’s primary use seems to be wrong numbers. There was a long period when I was getting so many calls from a taxi company that thought I was one of their drivers that I finally started answering the phone, "This is Officer Gunther Toody." The call I got earlier this week, though, started with the recorded voice saying, "This is a collect call from {garbledina}." Now obviously whoever was calling me didn’t really say "{garbledina}". I’m merely using that as a representation to try and capture what sounded somewhat like an out-of breath Gabby Hayes. And it was really weird to get a collect call too. I didn’t realize anyone still made those. I didn’t even realize it was still possible to make a collect call since it seems like every phone company offers some kind of unlimited long-distance calling plan to anyone anywhere in the world as long as you promise to remain an all-around good guy forever. The recorded voice continued, "It originates from the Covington County Jail. If you wish to accept this call…" At that point I hung up. I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone in the Covington County Jail. In fact if a recorded voice hadn’t told me about it I wouldn’t even know there was a Covington County Jail. And yet now I think I may have been too hasty. What if I really do know somebody in the Covington County Jail? Maybe it was my Uncle Louis calling to tell me which Swiss bank account he’d put the Nigerian kickback money in. As far as I know I don’t have an Uncle Louis, but for enough money I’d be more than happy to be his long lost nephew Gunther.

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