Our home phone rarely rings. In fact, I tend to forget it’s there. When it does ring my kids might say, “What’s that sound?” as if they’ve never heard it before. In the world of the cell phone, a home phone hardly seems necessary. There are really only two kinds of calls I receive on my home phone line: somebody’s dead calls and calls from telemarketers. Every thirty days or so I’ll remember to check our home voice mail only to find it filled with dozens of calls from a computer trying to sell me tornado insurance or something else I’d never need.
For the past few months however, we’ve been inundated with calls from a computer looking for M. Gordon. Sure I am one M. Gordon, but I am not this M. Gordon-the one that owes the Legal Offices of Clemont Lewis some money.
Undoubtedly one of the M. Gordon’s, who is not me, owes money to a credit card company or bank. That credit card company hired a crafty credit agency to track down the cash. And since that crafty credit agency doesn’t know which M. Gordon owes them money, they’ve decided to call all of the M. Gordon’s in the world in hopes one of them is the right M. Gordon. And the credit agency can get their missing cash.
This all sounds like a good plan minus two problems. One, if you’re looking for a needle in a haystack don’t you narrow down the haystack? Maybe you only call the M. Gordon’s who are the same gender as the M. Gordon with the faulty bill-paying habits. Because it turns out the M. Gordon that the Legal Agency of Clemont Lewis is looking for is actually Milton Gordon. I am not him.
And the second problem with the Legal Agency of Clemont Lewis’ plan to track down their money by calling all of the M. Gordon’s in the world is their mode of calling is to robo-call. That is to say that a computer has been charged with calling all of the M. Gordon’s in the world. And that computer has been set to automatically call all of the M. Gordon’s of the world at the exact same times everyday, all day, until it reaches M. Gordon. So if you’re not home or your answering machine picks up, the computer keeps calling and calling and calling. Usually, these sort of computer calls have a prompt at the end instructing you what to do if you are not the person they are looking for, but this one does not. And so it just keeps calling.
So everyday, for the past few months, a computer belonging to the Legal Agency of Clemont Lewis calls me at 10am, noon, 2pm, 5:30 pm, and 8:00 pm. Since I work from home, you can imagine just how annoying that can be.
For the first few days, I didn’t really notice the intrusion. I’d look at the caller i.d, notice it was from a weird 701 area code and not answer the phone. Since I don’t know anyone in the 701 area code, I figured it wasn’t a somebody’s dead phone call. And I’m not interested in tornado insurance right now.
After a few weeks of the calls, I started to get annoyed. The constant ringing is frustrating, especially knowing it’s not meant for me. And when I did listen to my answering machine, there were 52 calls from a computer representing the Legal Offices of Clemont Lewis. A voice that sounds like a computerized serial killer can be heard saying, “This…is…the…Legal..Agency of…Clemont Lewis…We are looking for….M…Gordon…It is our responsibility to inform you….of…future..legal..proceedings. Please call the following…phone number.”
I delete all of the old messages and decide not to call back. Truth be told I’m afraid to call back sure the messages and calls are part of an elaborate scheme like email spam, and that I’m going fall into the Matrix if I call back.
So I don’t.
But the calls continue. And continue. And continue. I turn some the phone ringers off, leaving only one on so that I could actually hear the phone if it were a real call meant for this M. Gordon. And still, the calls slowly drive me crazy.
One morning Justin’s working from home and the calls start coming. He doesn’t know that this is month three of us getting these calls and so he answers. He goes into a panic when he hears the computer say that M. Gordon is going to court. He calls me. “You’re being taken to court!” he says. “What the fuck?”
“It’s just one of those collection agencies looking for the wrong person,” I say dismissing his concern.
“Well you really should call them back,” he says. “They called three times while I was here. It’s totally annoying.”
Yeah, tell me about it.
I finally do call back the 701 area code. I press 4 as instructed to speak to a real-live human being. I’m put on hold for a brief four minutes until I finally reach a person.
“Law Offices of Clemont Lewis. This is Triana. What’s your case number?” the woman says with the enthusiasm of an undertaker.
“I don’t have a case number,” I tell her. “I don’t have a case.”
“Then why are you calling?” she says as if I’ve interrupted something terribly important.
“You guys are constantly calling me looking for the wrong person.” I say.
“Who are we looking for?” Traina says like I’m stupid.
“I have no idea. Not me,” I tell her.
“How do you know, ma’am?” Triana asks.
All I want her to say is, “Hey sorry. We’ll take you off the list.”
So I politely cut to the chase and say, “You have the wrong M. Gordon.”
She clicks away on her computer and says, “Are you Milton Gordon?”
“No,” I say. “See that’s the point. You’re calling the wrong person. I’m not Milton.”
“We’ll remove your name from the list,” she says. “It could take 7 to 10 working days to take effect,” she says clearly bothered by the extra addition to her work day of actually having to do something.
“See that’s not going to work for me, Triana. I’m not enduring a week more of your computer stalking me because you guys are calling the wrong person. I’m sure you can tell it to stop calling me now,” I say.
This seems to set Triana off. She starts shouting, “Nobody is stalking you ma’am.”
“Well actually, you kind of are,” I say matter of fact. “You’ve called me multiple times a day for months all because I have the same first initial as someone who owes you money. If that’s not stalking, I don’t know what is.”
Now Triana is pissed off. It’s like I’ve poked a bear, a semantics bear. She screams, “Are you sure you’re not MILTON GORDON?”
“No. That’s my point. I’m not your M. Gordon. Your computer has been calling me for months. I’m not MILTON!” I say.
“Well there is no need to get snippy, ma’am,” Triana shouts.
“Just take me off your list. Stop calling me!” I say still not raising my voice.
“I said I would, rude bitch,” she says before hanging up.
I sit stunned for a second, recalling what just occurred. I didn’t raise my voice nor did I call her names. I simply asked for her computer to stop repeatedly calling me when it never should have been calling me in the first place. I try to be polite to customer service representatives in general, but I can’t figure out why part of this woman’s job isn’t to be polite back. Why do they get to drive me slowly crazy and somehow I’m a rude bitch for asking them to stop? I get more angry the more I think about the conversation.
I consider calling Triana’s supervisor. But I’m pretty sure that if Triana could talk to me that way without feeling like was going to get fired, her supervisor probably isn’t going to be terribly concerned that the woman who answers the phone at a collection agency is calling people names. Who knows? Maybe that was part of her training. Maybe the Law Offices of Clemont Lewis is actually a secret cult of assholes. I understand it must be frustrating to have people owe you money, but that’s not really my problem. I’m totally uninvolved. I’m just unlucky enough to share the same initials as Milton Gordon. I’m sure there are millions of other people in the world who share our initials. Has Clemont Lewis been stalking them too? I decide to find out.
So the next day at 10 am, I pick up the phone and dial Triana’s number. She answers, “Law Offices of Clemont Lewis. What is your case number?”
“Hey Triana,” I say.
“Who’s this?” she asks.
“M. Gordon.” I chirp. “How are you?”
“What’s your case number?” she asks.
“Oh I don’t have one. I’m actually looking for a different Triana, but I figured I’d call anyway.” And then I hang up.
I call again at noon. And at 2:30. And at 5:30. I skip the 8:00 pm call figuring Triana, in whatever time zone she’s in, has gone home for the day. I make a note to call her the next day.
And so I do.
Sure there are much better things I could do with my time, but I felt badly that Triana didn’t understand what it feels like to be under siege by her own phone. I thought it might be helpful when she goes back to her bosses to have first hand understanding of what its like to be inundated by phone calls meant for an entirely different person. And I didn’t want her to walk around the world not knowing exactly how rude a bitch I could be. Plus we did have that debate of wordsmiths regarding the correct use of the word stalking. I say stalking, you say calling me all day. I thought we should come to some sort of understanding.
By 5:30 pm the next day, Triana is fit to be tied.
“Hey, T.” I say now that we’re on a first wrong name basis. “It’s me. Not the M. Gordon you’re looking for.”
She pauses for a moment. Her voice breaks. She’s clearly had it. “You have to stop calling me! It’s driving me crazy,” she says.
“I know, Triana. I know,” I say sympathetically.
I hang up the phone and make a note to call Triana the next day.
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