I know it's a retro concept, but I have my reasons for keeping a landline telephone in the house. I consider my main phone to be the mobile that I carry with me most of the time. And while it's not a State Secret or anything, only a rare few people have or even want that landline phone number. I do get some interesting calls on the landline sometimes, even if I listen to most of them on the answering machine.
Usually they're solicitations of some sort or another. Sometimes it's someone looking for the last person who had that number, which was, criminy, at least five years ago. I have learned from all those wrong-number calls that she was a pharmacist, she was active in a singles group at a local church (and they miss her very much and want her to come back), she had a car wreck (two different insurance companies calling to settle the matter), she lived with her sister, and she owed someone money.
Getting those wrong-number calls really put me off answering the landline phone. In hopes of sending the wrong-number callers along, I created a long outgoing message on the answering machine to let people know that "this is the phone number for our household, and if you're looking for someone with any other last name, you have the wrong number." It seems to have helped, in that respect, maybe, because I haven't had a call for that gal in a while.
Now it's mostly automated callers, political polls, and bizarre survey and marketing callers. Well, and occasionally one of my close friends who have that number, who weren't able to raise me on my cell.
Since probably nine hundred and ninety nine out of a thousand calls to the landline are bogus, I almost never answer it if I don't recognize the number. Occasionally, though, I'm up for a little jousting.
Apparently autodialers are in heavy use these days. Many, many junk callers use them now. My friend Kent said that when he gets a call from a number he doesn't recognize, sometimes he'll pick the line up but not speak right away - an autodialer, being a machine, doesn't know what to do if the line is live, but quiet. Humans, on the other hand, tend to become uneasy in silence and will usually start talking at some point if they've heard the line go live, but you haven't actually spoken to them yet. This sounded like something worth trying.
So the phone rings. I pick it up and push the speaker button, but don't talk. If it's a machine calling, pretty soon I get that screeching sound, like when your phone's off the hook too long. If it's a live human, though, I can hear them breathing on the other end of the line, and they can hear my household noises: Annie's tags rattling, the television in the other room, me clinking dishes in the sink, or clattering about on the keyboard. Sometimes they hang up, but usually they speak. I have found that if I just hang up on them first, they are likely to call back, so if they speak, I may respond.
Another practice I observe is never say the word "yes" to an unsolicited caller. They've been known to do things that you won't like and that may cost you money, and when you protest, they have your own voice saying 'yes' (even though the tape is quite possibly doctored to their ends) so be very careful in how you answer people you don't know, even if they seem likable.
I got to try out my new routine this very evening.
Phone rang. Caller ID said it was an out of state number. I picked up the handset and pushed the speaker button and went about my business. Pretty soon I heard, "Hello? Hello?"
"Hello," I answered.
The caller had a heavy accent from the other side of the planet. He tried to make small talk, gave the name of a company for whom he was making the call. Said his name was Michael Smith. Now, I wouldn't come right out and call him a liar, but I'll just tell you, I didn't believe him. Think about it - anyone in that part of the world being named Smith, or naming their child Michael? Didn't make a lick of sense. I mean, I suppose it's possible - I could be mistaken about that, but I simply didn't believe him.
Credibility blown right out of the box, he jabbered on about some survey he's conducting, with very little response from me one way or the other, and immediately asks me a very personal question. His question irritated me, to say the least. I don't care who it is, and even if I believe they are who they claim to be, what he asked me is certainly none of his durn beezwax. At this point I was done talkin' to this guy, so I pushed the Off button and hung up on him. I guess he thought we accidentally got disconnected, because he called right back, and I mean right back.
This time when I picked up the phone, I did speak first, and here's what I said: "That's creepy, dude. Don't call me again [Click]."