One day not too long ago, my wife received a call from herself. And here's the thing: She wasn't even trying to call herself. She ended up blocking her own number.
My 4-year-old pulled her phone away from her ear and made a face. This is a pink, Minnie Mouse play phone that used to make noises before the batteries died two years ago.
"Ugh, why do you keep calling me?" she exclaimed frustrated. She slid the phone shut and looked at me while shaking her head.
"Wrong number?" I asked.
"It was one of those robot calls," she replied. "I hate when the robots call."
She sounds like her mother. She explained that every time she is trying to get work done, the robots call and bother her.
"Robots?" I asked.
"Yes, robot calls are very annoying," she said.
You know robocalls are getting out of hand when a 4-year-old notices.
"What do robots talk about when they call?" I asked.
"I don't even speak robot," she replied.
It seems the barrage of robocalls has become more savvy and frequent recently. One day not too long ago, my wife received a call from herself. And here's the thing: She wasn't even trying to call herself. She ended up blocking her own number.
Recently in the newsroom, an editor fielded a call from a woman wondering why he kept calling her over and over. He assured her he hadn't called her number. He hadn't called anyone that morning. But the number for his desk phone kept showing up on her phone.
YouMail, a call blocking company, told NPR this week it estimates there were 4.9 billion robocalls ... in April. That's about 15 calls per person.
The last time the calls were this bad, I got rid of my landline phone. This was about 15 years ago when the phone company convinced me "bundling" was a a thing, the very best thing. I never gave the number out, but it rang all the time. At first, I'd play along and politely tell them that I'm not paying my outstanding warrants and they will just have to arrest me. They never did, and eventually I just unplugged the phone.
When the do-not-call-list came out, I signed up, thinking surely Uncle Sam can take care of this problem. I still got robocalls, but I assume it was less than I would have gotten.
I resigned myself to the fact that people I don't understand will continue to call and hang up on me in perpetuity. I try to keep life in perspective, and figure if there are people out there worrying about how they are going to get their next meal, I shouldn't react too over the top that I keep getting courted by a Nigerian prince.
It's an annoyance more than a real problem. The most frustrating part is that when I actually answer the call with the intent to have a conversation, the caller on the line asks me if "William" is available and hangs up. I almost expect them to ask me if my refrigerator is running.
So, I was pleased this week when the Federal Communications Commission unveiled a proposal to push phone companies into blocking unwanted calls by default. Who knows if it will work or if the phone companies will go along. And they still have to figure out how to filter the unwanted calls from the vital ones.
Maybe it won't end the reign of robots, but it's something.
Reach Dave at 330-580-8490 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DaveManley