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Dial “M” For Maddening

As we add on to our years in this modern world, it is imperative that we conserve our most important and cherished natural resource – our sanity.

While you can fondly look back to “the good old days” and reminisce about how easy life was, you have to face today’s annoying reality and take it on mano a mano.  Translation:  The best way to preserve your personal sanity is to inflict a little insanity on all the jackasses that launch unprovoked attacks upon your mental well being.  There is also no sin in launching a few preemptive strikes against potential mental assailants.

It seems that the weapon of choice of the worst offenders is the ignominious telephone that seems to now intrude into our ever waking, and sleeping, moments.  Disturbing a well earned and justified nap can enrage anyone to the berserker stage.

Most important telephone principle – it doesn’t need to be answered.  If you don’t recognize the number, silence the ringer and send whoever to voicemail.  Nine times out of ten, the voicemail will consist of seven seconds of silence followed by a click as the robocall computer hangs up.  (Why we have not instituted summary capital punishment of the cruel and unusual variety for these cretins is beyond me.)  If the call was important (and you get to pick what’s important) then you can return it at your leisure.

Suppose you have answered the phone and find that you need to get rid of the annoying mental intruder (ex-spouse, for example) on the other end.  Hanging up is an excellent choice – but – you need to do it with a little style.  If the call terminates while they are talking, they will always assume you hung up on them – even if the call was dropped.  But – if you hang up while YOU are talking, the automatic assumption is that the call was dropped.  Think about it – who would hang up on themselves?  (Excluding depraved tricky old guys.)  When they hear you saying, “Well, I really think that – (click.)” they won’t be offended by you hanging up and will assume the call was dropped.

OK – so you’ve gotten rid of them at least temporarily – but they may call back.  That’s when you resort to switching to “special voicemail announcement #2.”  When the phone clicks over to voicemail, instead of a chirpy, “Hi!  I can’t come to the phone right now, but you can leave a message at the sound of the beep…” they get 45 seconds of a recorded FAX tone – loud – very loud.  It takes a very persistent idiot to call back again.  You can download some really annoying ones from the web.

While car shopping, I made the unconscionable mistake of giving my cell phone number to a salesman.  Really bad idea!  He began calling hourly.  After the first call, I flagged his number.  When he called back, I “answered” the phone by holding it even with the toilet rim, pressing answer, and hitting the flush lever.  It took three episodes to discourage him.  Try it – the waterfall roar is at least as loud as a jet engine on takeoff.  The nice thing about this technique is that not only are you sending a message to stop calling, but you are engaged in a really fun and rewarding activity that will boost your mental stamina.  It could even become a hobby.  

If you really want to fight fire with fire, you need to do what they do – run your phone through your computer.  This opens up a whole universe of engaging ways to get even with your mental assailants.  For example, when I don’t want to be disturbed, the caller will get a recording, “Press 1 for Swahili, Press 2 for Uzbekistani, Press 3 for Music on Hold (more about this later) but DO NOT PRESS 4.”  When they press 4, which they invariably will do, they are rewarded with the screech of a howler monkey.  My close friends have been alerted that * # will send their call through.

We’ve all suffered through customer service music on hold that is some excruciating randomly computer generated “tune.”  As a musician, this is even more annoying than rap or hip hop to me (and that’s saying a lot).  But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I’ve copied their techniques. When I’ve got a caller I want to get rid of, I say, “Hold on just a second,” and I switch them to my music on hold.  I’ve created several of these charming little ditties.  My favorite is a random “tune” sweeping up and down the scales played by four bagpipes and three piccolos all out of tune with each other and VERY loud. I don’t think anyone has ever lasted through thirty seconds of this sonic barrage.

With a computer, you can also answer with “Special Information Tones” that indicate the line is not in service. Telezapper is a gadget you can put on your phone line that does the same thing.  There are some cell phone apps that also do this.  This will discourage “some” of the robocalls but unfortunately not all.  If it works, your phone is listed as not working and your number is removed from their call queue.

If you’re really in a mean mood, you can switch to something like a recorded announcement I cooked up with the help of a female coworker that had a very official telephone system type voice.  “The number you are calling is a closed account.  The owner of the account is deceased.  Please update your phone listing.  Thank you.”  (If you do this, probably a good idea to alert your family and friends before they start pricing funeral flower sprays.)

Above all, if you do foolishly answer a call from one of the scam artists, NEVER give them ANY information.  Best to not answer but if you do, hang up as soon as you detect even a whiff of a rip-off.

Here’s another ingenious way to combat robocalls from a very enterprising teenage boy.

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Reeves Motal
Reeves Motal
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