(October 24, 2006) Hear the audio version

The calls returned in September, after a mere two-month reprieve. I swore after the June primary that I’d try to have our telephone number removed from voter registration lists, but did I get around to it over the summer? Nope. So this election season we are once again treated to answering the telephone to hear a pesky recorded political phone call, also known as a robo-call. Is the election over yet?

Ever since that glorious “National Do Not Call Registry” went into effect, most of the phone calls my family receives are wanted, appreciated, and have a live human being on the other end of the line. When the telephone rings I immediately wonder if the call’s from one of our daughters away at college, my parents across town, a friend inviting me to lunch or a ballgame, or perhaps an editor who wants to buy my book. So even though I would love to talk politics with Bill or Hillary or Al Gore or “United States Senator Barbara Boxer,” I do not appreciate answering the phone to their taped political pitches, even if I do agree with their candidate or cause. (That is, of course, why I’m on their lists.) These calls are nothing less than a one-sided invasion of my work and personal privacy. I can’t even tell the callers I don’t appreciate it, because no one is listening. So I hang up.

I cannot believe these calls work. But I’m one who also can’t fathom that all those Viagra, stock-tip, lottery-winning, mortgage offers, and eBay and PayPal account suspension notices caught in my spam filter every day get any response either. My niece the Washington lobbyist assures me robo-calls are a cheap and effective tool, especially close to election day. Even if only a minute percentage of the electorate pays attention, they pay off.

Yet I’m so annoyed, I’m tempted to vote against whatever they are supporting. And if people like me are successful in removing our phone numbers from voter rolls, we’re limiting future opportunities for political discourse with candidates and causes-many of them local-that still use real, live callers. Hello? Is anybody there?

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.

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