NYC telephone totem from Life Underground, Tom Otterness, 2001
This is the first Monday after daylight savings time has returned. We were awoken by a call from Kelly, asking Anne, if she wanted to work this afternoon. The job offer was for the Early Childhood Center (ECC), which the Kelly robot always pronounces as Eek! We refer to it as plague central. Why Kelly felt obliged to call so early on what is arguably one of the hardest morning to get up on, is a mystery. A normal person would have waited for a more decent hour before calling, but in this personification, Kelly was just another heartless automaton.
I also suffer from robocalls, but their root cause is even more mysterious. I have a suspicion though. Just before I was inundated, I signed up for the rewards program at Schuncks, where I use my cell number as an identifier to get a 2% discount. It could just be coincidence, because I’ve used said number for other things too. Caller ID shows that most of these robocalls originate locally, in neighboring Ladue. It does seem somewhat incongruous that hoity-toity La-dee-do hosts a call center, but if even tonier Frontenac can house a trailer park, then why not a phone bank in Ladue? Or, the spammers could just be spoofing me.
I’ve railed against this epidemic before and recently I did something about it. Our provider, AT&T offers an app called, Call Protect. It is supposed to block these unwanted calls. I downloaded it over the weekend, making today, its first real trial. So far, I am underwhelmed. It has not blocked a single call. It does offer an easier way to individually block spam calls and supposedly will give an accounting of its success, but that still remains to be seen. The app was free, but can be upgraded for four buck a month. I am reluctant to pay for three reasons. I haven’t seen any benefits yet, I already pay AT&T way too much already and I am adverse to giving money to a business that is arguably part of the problem.
It smacks too much of ransomware. Neither do I hold out much hope with my manually blocking of numbers. There are some 6,400,000,000 possible legit phone numbers in the US alone. This number is way too conservative though, because many of these robocalls have illegitimate numbers or no number at all, think blocked numbers. Hey, maybe the Donald is trying to reach me?
Fueling my rage, John Oliver has just harped on this subject too. His trenchant satire is guaranteed to at least bring a smile to your seething. He stuck it to HBO’s “business daddy,” AT&T, mocked Susan Collins for a contrived spoofing stunt, but saved his most venomous enmity for FCC commissioner and “goober,” Ajit Pai. His closing stunt was to unleash an avalanche of robocalls upon Pai and his fellow commissioners via a giant button-pushing fake finger. It was a futile and stupid gesture that left the audience roaring.