hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

February 13, 2014

What's worse -- spam, junk mail or useless calls?

By Tom Vartabedian
The Haverhill Gazette

---- — Not a day goes by that I don’t receive my dreaded phone call from Washington.

No, it’s not the president calling to entice me over Obama Care. Sorry Prez, not the least bit interested.

Nor is it a referendum item on this year’s legislative agenda. Too bad it wasn’t support for an Armenian genocide bill that has eluded recognition for 98 years.

Instead, it’s an agency looking to fill its fat wallet with my money. And they’re absolutely relentless.

Thank God for “Caller ID.” That way, I can simply ignore it when I notice it’s D.C. calling. I do have friends there and maybe one of them is trying to contact me.

And just maybe it was Obama telling me I’m getting an increase in Social Security or an invite to the White House. I’ve had that invitation with other presidents, especially at inauguration time.

A Christmas didn’t go by without me receiving my perennial Christmas card from the Clintons. How I got on their list I still don’t know.

“Aren’t you going to answer the telephone?” comes a voice from the other room.

“It’s Washington calling,” I reply. “Same call as yesterday and the day before. Don’t they ever give up? One negative reply is the same as another, if only they’d get the message. I’m not interested.”

In an age of technology and computers, you’d think the number of crank calls and telemarketing schemes would have diminished. Unless it’s my imagination, they’ve escalated.

Compound this with the number of annoying emails I get daily. The spam which drives my computer whacky. And the amount of junk mail I receive each day that doesn’t amount to a can of beans. I must be living in a rejected world.

I was asked one day to reveal my email address after buying an appliance. Huge mistake. Next thing I know, I’m getting bombarded with all these “come-on” ads from cyberspace. If it isn’t Viagra, it’s Vicci water or Victoria’s Secret.

I have a secret for Victoria. Buzz off!

Today, I received three calls from “Private Caller.” They were so private, the messages were canned. It went no further than a beep. Canned messages and I don’t get along very well.

I have a son who screens all of his calls. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. He waits and hears the message before returning your call.

“If I don’t recognize the name, I don’t return the call,” he’s quick to admit.

Other friends won’t answer an email unless it looks familiar to them. You never know when a trap is laid out that could crash your entire system.

My cousin was booby-trapped. She answered an email and got a virus in return which gummed up her whole works. It took a paid technician to set her free. Now, she’s computer shy.

As for junk mail, that’s another story. I get only two or three pieces of mail that are worth the stamp on which they arrive. Most always, it’s a bill of some sort, except when I get an IRA check or a distribution from my investments.

I never get to see my Social Security check. Maybe that’s a good thing. It’s direct deposited and I never have to ponder its whereabouts.

At least with mail, you can dump it without any further ado. Devious emails have become a problem. Many of them won’t delete your name from their list, no matter how often you try. Seems like it’s there for life, even death perhaps.

I’ve asked to be removed from their list and my pleas go unanswered. So I resort to my “delete” button and off it goes — until the next day. Persistence keeps knocking at my door like an unwanted cousin looking for a loan. I prefer opportunity instead.

I have three children and the best way to get them is either by cell phone or by computer, which takes longer. They live by it. No stamps for the mail. All of it is done electronically. The calls are usually in a bad reception zone or a vacuum.

No doubt, their unwanted calls are reduced to a minimum.

Maybe that’s the way to go. I do not own a cell phone or an iPad. It’s all Geek to me. I do have an I-pod which I love, as well as my digital camera. I wouldn’t know what to do with a child’s computer game.

The other day, the phone rang. Neither one of us hastened to it.

“You answer it,” I told my wife.

“No, you go ahead. It’s probably for you.”

“I’m having lunch.”

“So am I.”

Neither one of us moved. Turned out to be Washington calling and we let it ring.

Writer and photographer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.