“Ring.” When Eloise Simplekins picked up her phone, a robot voice said: “Hello. This is Jan. Congratulations! You qualify for …. Please press ‘one’ now to speak to a customer representative. Press ‘nine’ now if you wish to be removed from the qualification list.”
“Fiddlesticks!” said Eloise, and clicked her phone off. It was the sixth robo call this week. She had tried hanging up, she had tried pressing “nine,” but a salesperson always came on the line anyway. She had pressed “one” and told the person who answered to take her off their list. The person didn’t answer Eloise’s request. All Eloise heard was a click and a dial tone.
Eloise Simpelkins is plain—beginning with her name and continuing with her squat chunky figure, her thick unruly hair, her flat face, her squinty eyes, and her pug nose. But she is very smart.
Years ago Eloise became a pre-cleaning lady for the women of La Mancha, that rich part of town where the streets are winding and the house numbers are hand painted on Spanish tile. It embarrassed the women of La Mancha to have their cleaning ladies see poopy toilets in their husbands’ bathrooms, so Eloise became their pre-cleaning lady. But she became much more. These women ached to reveal their foibles to someone. Eloise was there every week and seemed discreet. She became their confidant, and the women rewarded her handsomely. She invested wisely and became a wealthy woman.
Robot phone calls irked Eloise, and after she became rich they irked her even more. When she couldn’t convince the “you qualify for…” robot voice organizations to quit calling her, Eloise turned to Hadley Wilkins for help.
Readers will remember Hadley “Cyberman” Wilkins. He’s the electronic engineer who helped develop cell phone technology.
“Hadley,” she said. “I need your help.”
“Say on, oh Wise One.”
“I get six to eight robot calls a week,” she said. “If I hang up, they just call back. I press the button and talk to a live operator but they still won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Hadley, I want you seek out the private phone numbers of the executives who run these robo-call outfits. I’m going to give them a taste of their own medicine.”
“On it,” said Hadley.
Randall Egregious, the vice-president for operations at Techaly Communications, Inc., was relaxing in his den when the unlisted number on his cell phone rang. The screen said “Mara Belle.” Mara Belle Function was a Techaly executive. Egregious clicked on.
“Are you being pestered by robot telephone calls?” a robot voice asked. “If you get robot calls seven days a week, please press one. If you get robot calls…” Egregious clicked the phone off, but the robo- voice continued talking: “If you get five or fewer robot calls a week, please press two, if you get fewer than three robot calls a week, please press star. To repeat this message, please spell out “help,” on your keypad. ” Egregious hurled the phone across the room. It slammed into the brick fire place and fell to the floor. The robot voice continued to speak: “If you are angry and frustrated and want to destroy your cell phone, please press the “tone” button.” Egregious picked up the cell phone, ran outside, and threw it as far as he could.
He came back inside and turned on the television. Instead of his favorite channel, the screen showed a television test pattern. From the television speaker the robot voice intoned the same message.
Egregious ran to his car and sped to his office. He called the company’s technology director at his home.
“George, this is Randall Egregious. I’m at the office. How do I shut down the robot-call apparatus?”
“You can’t. Don’t you remember? You ordered us to create closed-circuit hardware and software that would, in your own words, ‘make robot calls forever.’”
Egregious clicked off and ran down the hall to the fire safety cabinet. He yanked it open, grabbed a fire ax, ran back and smashed all the robot-call machines.
Then he scribbled, “I quit, Randall,” on a scrap of paper and taped it to the CEO’s office door.
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book of humor columns, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia, is available on Amazon. You can also visit his website at www.daydreaming.co