Cold shoulder to cold callers

I have an admission to make: I’m always curt and sometimes rude to cold callers. Yes, I do know that’s shamefully boorish, ungentlemanly and socially unacceptable.

And whenever I forget, Penelope is always there with a helpful reminder of noblesse oblige. Easy for her to say. She wasn’t brought up in the mean streets of Moscow, where a growing lad either ran with the gangs or from the gangs (mostly the latter in my case).

That sort of background makes one naturally confrontational and not always – well, never, to be honest – soft-spoken. Over my almost 50 years in the West, the last 35 of them in Penelope’s refined company, I’ve made some progress in living down my past, but evidently not yet enough.

However, I have an excuse to make. During the period I mentioned I’ve received thousands of cold calls from people seeking to make my life better by selling me something. Yet not once have I bought anything as a result, nor even heard the whole proposition out.

One would have thought the blighters would get the message, but they don’t. Those intrusive calls keep coming with metronomic regularity, and usually at the most inopportune moments.

Once, I recall, I was working on my book, trying to shape an involved thought. First, the logic of it didn’t add up, then, when it did, the phrasing was cumbersome and inelegant. And every time things were about to click into place, the phone rang with yet another intrusion.

The third time it happened, I heard the words “ISA investment”, lost my thread yet again, told the chap to perform an act that only exceptionally well-endowed men can attempt, and hung up. The phone was on speaker for some reason, and Penelope overheard the exchange. She realised that the caller was our personal banker, on whose good graces we often depended. Terrified, she instantly rang him up with a grovelling apology about her uncouth husband, who had tragically mistaken him for someone else.

Chaps, I don’t want to change my gas supplier. I’ll happily live out my days in the tender care of the same electrical company. If I want to buy double glazing, I’ll call you. No, I haven’t considered any healthier options to anything, and I bloody well won’t. I don’t give a damn about my financial future and, even if I did, I wouldn’t discuss it with strangers on the phone. Please leave me alone.

But they don’t, do they? Society seems to accept that salesmen have a sacrosanct right to disturb people at home, interrupting whatever they are doing at the moment, making them rush to the phone just as Glenn Gould is about to cut off that final fugue in mid-phrase.

It’s their job, they have a right to make a living, I’m told. Fair enough. But what about my right to privacy and peace? I may be reading, writing, cooking, eating, watching TV, listening to music or… whatever. Don’t I have a right not to jump out of the shower and leave wet footprints on the tiles as I rush to the phone?

Commercial activity seems to be off limits for any such criticism. Those poor underachievers at the other end of the telemarketing line have an inalienable right to pursue happiness at my expense. Our civilisation has been reduced to salesmanship, which is inevitable when a social and cultural hierarchy collapses.

Any society dedicated to the advancement of the common man will end up being dominated by market transactions. Crude people are empowered to impose a crude ethos because they are both numerous and equal enough to call the social shots. And to call me at odd hours.

However, the society they dominate lacks consistency. Thus, while encouraging telemarketing, it frowns on obscene phone calls, with a panting chap seeking an audience for his lonely exertions. One would be entitled to conclude that money is held in higher esteem than sex.

However, a man who kills someone for money usually draws a stiffer sentence than one who does the same thing out of sexual jealousy. Crime passionnel, and all that.

Now one may draw a different conclusion, that sexual love is higher on the list of extenuating virtues than love of money. One can get terribly confused about that dread word, values.

Still, I am making progress. Yesterday a disembodied NHS voice rang me up to discuss a “care plan”, whatever that is. Instead of telling her where she can stick that document, I politely explained that I’m happy with my medical care as it is, but thank you very much for ringing.

We parted friends. Penelope gave me a thumbs-up sign. There’s hope for me yet.

4 thoughts on “Cold shoulder to cold callers”

  1. Dear sir:

    I have exactly the same problem, but I solved it years ago by the simple expedient of never answering the phone unless I know EXACTLY who is calling (caller ID helps a bit but is often spoofed).

    All calls go directly to an answering machine, and if I am around and recognize the caller, I can pick up, otherwise, the call goes into the digital oubliette. Some people have commented that this is a bit cold, but I fell that is better than a hot retort to an unwanted caller (although sometimes less satisfying…).

    P.S. Love your columns.

  2. “My name is Henry [speaks English with an Asian Indian accent] and I am calling from Microsoft security and we have detected a problem with your computer. Give me your IP address.”

    Beware the Henry. Probably really Babu or Sabu.

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