We don’t typically answer the phone unless we recognize the number, but this particular time Andrew picked it up. Then he said, “Microsoft Operating System Service Center? You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” and hung up.
I was surprised. Speaking his mind when what he has to say is less than charitable is completely out of character for him. But that was only the first surprise.
A moment later, the phone rang again. Caller ID displayed the same number. Andrew picked up the handset and replaced it to end the call without engaging. Within moments, it rang again, so he picked up the handset and replaced it, again.
At first, I was amused that the bogus telemarketer had the nerve to call back. By the third or fourth call, I was getting nervous, wondering when he would give up. After half a dozen calls, Andrew unplugged the land line. That stopped the phone from ringing, but it didn’t stop the answering machine from picking up. This is what it captured.
“Hey you motherfucker, are you afraid of me? You son of bitch.”
My answer to that question was decidedly yes. Despite the fact that the background noise and his accent indicated that the caller was in an overseas call center, I was scared. (I could be wrong about the call coming from overseas, but you’ll note that “son of bitch” is not a typo. He did not say “son of a bitch,” as I would have.)
After that, Andrew unplugged the answering machine, too, effectively disconnecting us from the repeated assault on my nerves. When we plugged everything back in, about an hour later, the phone was quiet.
Andrew clearly scolded the caller (for which I lovingly applaud him), but the response was more than excessive.
I had a similar situation in the bank the other day when I suggested to an employee that he shouldn’t be discussing politics with a customer in front of other, potentially not-like-minded, customers. I was chastised in turn by another customer for not respecting the employee’s freedom of speech. (If we’re friended on Facebook you can read all about that.)
Fortunately, my public admission of discomfort (okay, annoyance) did not result in a threat to my well-being, as it clearly did in the case of the bogus telemarketer. But I did feel uncomfortably exposed.
It has become painfully clear how easy it can be to silence dissent.
For now, we will go back to our policy of not answering the phone if Caller ID leaves any question as to who is calling. So if you want to discuss this with me, you’re probably better off writing.