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When the Phone Rings, Do You Cringe Thinking It's Another Solicitor? : Give Me Junk Mail! These Calls Are an Invasion of My Privacy

June 25, 1987|ROZ ASHLEY | Roz Ashley lives in San Diego. and

SAN DIEGO — Give me back my junk mail. I will be happy to carry in a huge load of envelopes full of offers telling me about my possible sweepstakes winnings. I'll open with delight temptations of free temporary subscriptions to obscure magazines. I will even read the medical brochures that offer me new symptoms if I will just buy their absolutely authoritative newsletters. Anything. I'll read anything. Or toss it out where it belongs.

Just spare me the junk telephone calls. Somebody somewhere has me pegged for a prize sucker. I'm on everyone's call list. I know that these telephone lists are sold by every corporation that has a mailing list. But the people who caused everyone to hound me have done more than sell my name. I know. They've given it away.

As a teen-ager, I dreamed of being popular. The dream was a phone eternally ringing--for me. I take it back. Please. Let me take the wish back. The phone is ringing, but it's not for me. It's for someone--anyone--who will buy their wares.

Uninvited Strangers

Some people speak of being invaded when they're burglarized. Surely, nothing can be more invasive and psychologically disturbing than having a stranger in your home, uninvited. But second in line is the uninvited caller--someone you don't know. They don't even like you. All they want is your money. They don't ever get that from me, but in the process of invading my home they steal something just as valuable: my time.

In case you're wondering why I'm so hot under the collar over a little phone call, here's the reason. I was putting on my makeup one morning--a beautiful, bright, sunny, happy California morning--when I was interrupted in the middle of the intricate process by someone offering me a funeral plan.

I know that I have to die, and I'm no more cowardly about it than the next poor victim. But this was a lovely, cheerful California morning, and even my magnifying mirror hadn't depressed me. So, this uninvited electronic invader not only confused me about where I had left off with my makeup, but with her funeral offer she took my mind off happy things that I can do something about, and for at least three minutes put it on where my body is headed.

The funeral call is just one in a long succession of intrusions. Last night, while my husband and I were enjoying dinner, an unwelcome survey call caused us to have a terrible argument. As usual, we argued about who should answer the phone, so when he finally went to answer it, naturally, the caller had given up. He sat down, and as we ate we continued the argument about what important call we had missed, and neither one of us enjoyed all of those calories.

As you can guess, 15 minutes later the intruder phoned again. This time it was my turn, and I left my dinner, picked up the phone and snapped at the trespasser in my most severe schoolteacher voice. So, now my son's mother-in-law is angry with me too. How was I to know it wasn't a junk call?

The phone rang a few minutes later, and I must confess that the surveyor was subjected to my least-charming telephone manners. And, then, naturally, I sulked all evening over my guilt. The poor creature was just trying to earn a living, and look at how I treated her. This was just the damage from one junk call. We get them nonstop.

Snagging a Victim

One of the most unwanted telephone calls is the one that offers the bait of a free weekend in Las Vegas or a free trip to Hawaii. I must confess that I almost got caught by that one. All you have to do, according to them, is come to see their gorgeous condominiums or vacation villages.

I asked myself, "Why not? They're offering. I'm taking." So, I gave my name and address, which they already had, and made an appointment. My husband was disgusted with me and told me to cancel it. So by the time I received the next call (one of many) from them, I was ready to back out. There were age restrictions and all sorts of things that would have been in the small print if I would only have had a junk letter instead of a junk call. I canceled.

That was just the beginning of a real orgy of phone calls from them. Each new caller pretended that I hadn't received a call from someone else. Each one promised that the age restrictions meant nothing. I begged them not to call again. Politely. After all, I had made the mistake of encouraging them.

Nothing helped. Every few days I received a call from them begging me to accept the free trip and come to see their property. I kept saying "No," but to this day I'm afraid to answer the phone.

If you're still reading this peevish missile, you're probably snickering over the obvious. Why don't I invest in a telephone answering machine to screen my calls and avoid losing my husband, uneven makeup, cold dinners and angry in-laws? That's a good question.

This is my home. Why do I have to pay good money to buy gadgets that I can't work to protect myself from invasions? I put the telephone screening device in the same class with bars on my windows and elaborate security systems to keep burglars out. My protections would not only cost me a lot of money, but would upset me because I'm not mechanical, and I would mess them up when I wouldn't work them properly.

But to get to the real reason--junk callers and burglars are denying my fundamental right to uninterrupted privacy and safety in my own home. No one has a right to steal my time or my hot dinner.

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