There was a time when people were happy to receive phone calls. Today, a ringing telephone has become an assault on our privacy and sanity. Telemarketers and robo-callers are taking over the phone lines and cell towers, turning Mr. Bell’s invention into an instrument of torture.

Now you can turn the tables on electronic intruders, while encouraging them to repent from their mean, sad lives as rat-faced, putrid, sub-human miscreants, and to develop far more productive and fulfilling careers as Bingo number callers, DMV line-waiters, and door stops.

Oh, sure, there is caller ID, and you can buy smartphone spam filter apps, but where’s the fun in that? Why pay $2 per month when you can cost the telemarketers much more by keeping them on the line, wasting their time and making them miss their sales quotas? Here’s how:

(The phone rings.)

Me: “Hello.”

Caller: “Is Robert there?”

Me: “We have no Robert here.” (For extra points, pronounce it “Wobert” and see if the caller gets the Monty Python reference.)

Caller: “Then maybe you can help me. I —”

Me: “Oh, are you injured? Trouble with the law again? Unfortunate paternity test result? Please tell me. I’m here to help.”

Caller: “No, I’ll be on your block tomorrow, cleaning neighbors’ heat ducts, and —”

Me: “That sounds important. Give me a moment to grab a pencil and notepad.” 

(I noisily put down the phone, start opening and slamming drawers, saying things like “I’m sure I put that pencil here,” turning on the TV or music, yelling, “Just a minute, please” toward the phone, running the blender on the frappe setting and having a loud and seemingly endless bout of coughing. I pick the phone back up.)

Me: “Sorry about that. It’s allergy season, and with all this rain we have mold spores in the heating vents. I wish there was a way to clean them. Now, what were you saying?”

Caller: “What a coincidence! I was just saying I’m cleaning your neighbors’ vents tomorrow and —”

Me: “Are you seeing the Fergusons or the Metcalfs? If it’s the Metcalfs I hope you get there before 2 p.m. because, after that, Lionel practices his archery, and his aim’s not so good since he developed cataracts. Oh, but how silly of me. The Metcalfs were our neighbors five years ago on Petunia Place. If you’re going there you won’t be anywhere near us. What street are you visiting tomorrow? Do you have allergies, too? I’m allergic to (insert long list of allergies plus another coughing fit).”

Caller: “I’m coming to your street. Just give me an address and I’ll drop by around —”

Me: “Oh, wait, I just remembered. We had our vents cleaned in April. Please feel free to call back in five years and —”

Caller: Hangs up. thinks this is better than an air horn. On Twitter: @louiecastoria 

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