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Eloise Calls the Robo Callers©

“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.

-30-

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

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Don’t Look Now

By Larry Day

Some years ago a stand-up comedian who was known for his self-deprecating humor, was arrested for fighting in a bar after his show. The comedian had smacked his opponent in the face. When the case got to court and the judge asked the comedian how the fight started.

“He laughed at me,” said the comedian.

There are nearly five billion websites in cyberspace. There are more than a billion unique You Tube users on the planet. There are six billion hours of video in 61 languages on the World Wide Web.

In this interconnected world, millions of people use Internet to invite total strangers into their lives. They invite everyone from elderly Mongolians in Ulan Bator, to Argentine teenagers in Mar del Plata, to connect to their websites and view intimate details of their lives. Then these website owners are stunned to find out that crooks, scam artists, identity thieves, Internet marketers, and digital sales representatives have honed in on their websites and have exploited the information they found there.

That comedian became rich and famous by inviting audiences to laugh at his fabricated foibles. But when a stranger in a bar laughed at one of his real foibles, the comedian doubled his fists and started swinging. Lots of folks are like that comedian. They spread their personal information all over the Internet. But they get mad as hell when they hear that authorities are analyzing Internet data flow patterns to see if they can find information that might thwart a terrorist attack. Whoa. Whoa! That’s a violation of people’s privacy.

Finding out what constitutes acceptable government surveillance and what is considered unacceptable prying, is a valuable process. Most of that process is serious, but sometimes it can be funny.

*******

Consider this story: Back in 2010 forty-year-old Ginger Pitchfork of Mound Tree, Texas, phoned the U.S. Census Bureau to lodge a complaint. She said a census worker had called and asked about her marital status and her vaccination history. Ginger said that Census call was an unwarranted government intrusion into her privacy. What was hilarious was that at the time Ginger was operating a website that chronicled intimate details of her love life.

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And how about this?: A herd of pigs broke out of their sty on a Midwest farm and ran down to a four lane highway. Kurk and Wadley, a couple of forty-something city dwellers, were driving along in a heavy duty pickup truck and saw the pigs. They decided to round up the pigs and put them in the truck and drive them to a nearby stockyard.

Kurk and Wadley figured that since they had found the pigs on the highway it was a “finders keepers,” and they offered to sell the herd to the stockyard manager for $200.

The stockyard manager declined their offer, and retrieved ownership data from tattoos on the pigs’ ears. He called the owner. The owner was looking for the pigs and was not far from the stockyards. When he arrived, the owner thanked Kurk and Wadley, and gave them each$40. Then he loaded up his pigs and drove back to the farm.

Wadley and Kurk were fascinated and amazed. They didn’t know how the pigs had been identified. They jumped the conclusion that there was a government surveillance system so powerful that it could even keep track of an obscure herd of pigs.

Kurk and Wadley organized a series of workshops to tell their story. They told those who attended: “If the government can spy on a herd of Midwest pigs, what do you think it’s finding out about you and your family?”

After that, Wadley and Kurk found what they considered evidence of government surveillance in virtually every aspect of U.S. life. So they set up a network of vigilance websites to warn people of an impending dictatorship that would take over the country as soon as the government had processed all its surveillance data. Kurk and Wadley shut the website down after it become a target for stand-up comedians and late night talk show humor.

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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