We can safely say I’m cured.

For years I ran my life by ringtone. We had a house phone once upon a time, and even if my arms were full of groceries I would drop them all and run to catch it before it stopped ringing. Then we had a bag phone, and I’d carry it everywhere so as not to miss an important call. It got easier with a flip phone—lighter, that is. It was still no easier to ignore the ring (which, by this time, was a favorite song lyric rather than a ring).

Transition to smartphones. Version after expensive version (complete with new case, screen protector, and extra charging cords) held the same allure, even with soft chimes or crazy marimbas.

Until now. Hard to believe we really thought cell phones wouldn’t be prone to robocalls. We considered them personal phones—part of our identity. Our number went to family, friends, and business associates with a need-to-know. Who would dare invade that space without permission.

They dared—those companies who are sure I have an unpaid student loan (I don’t), or want a “free” trip to Orlando (I don’t), or threaten to turn me over to the police for my unpaid tax bill—also non-existent. They dared encroach on my time without my permission.

For a while, I answered. Sometimes I even listened long enough to respond and press a “take me off the list” button, which so far hasn’t taken me off the list.

It’s an interesting sign of the times—one in which doubt and distrust reign. Well beyond phone use, it extends to all communications. “Trust, but verify” was the phrase used during the Reagan administration. Now it’s simply, “Distrust.”

Obviously, I’m not alone in this. A recent Consumer Watch column by Bill Moak (Robocalls ‘Neighorhood Spoof’ Local Numbers) talks about the trend for spammers to use local numbers, thus making you pick up since it might be a friend. He has some good tips if this trend is frustrating you—chief among them, let the call go to voicemail.

This so-called “neighbor spoofing” is not above notice by the FCC, either. A Florida man has been fined $120 million for his role in it (Florida Man Behind 100 Million Robocalls hit with HUGE FCC Fine), although he has protested, reportedly saying people didn’t answer. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
 
It’s clear that legislation will change (There Are Two Big Reason Robocalls are Getting Worse), rules will be tightened, and clear lines will be drawn that may ease the irritation. In the meantime, phones will ring and people, myself included, will reduce their Pavlovian instinct to respond to the bell.

The ring has no more allure for me, it’s a trap. The unidentified number, even local, can no longer be trusted. I’m cured of my curiosity, cured of my desire to know who’s calling, cured of my willingness to have my time wasted.

Now, maybe I should check my voicemail to see if a legitimate call got through . . .

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