Joyce Bupp, farm wife

Enough is enough.

After repeated muttered threats, I yanked the phone cord plug out of the wall socket. The blinking light on the message machine blacked out and the digital-status message faded.

It never fails. We sit down for lunch, or for supper. And, the phone starts ringing. The same thing happens periodically over the day, but mealtimes seem to enhance the frequency of the calls. Even worse are the calls that persist late into the evening.


These phone-pests constantly irritate our days with calls hawking insurance, health programs, cattle needs, magazine subscriptions, political meetings, donations, “survey” requests and a host of other unwanted, uninvited and unneeded stuff. Never mind that I long ago put us on the “no-call” list.

With both an answering machine and caller ID, we never answer the jangling landline phone unless we are certain it’s someone we know personally. That’s especially true late into the evening, when it’s almost guaranteed to be a phony pest. And, if it’s a legitimate call, a message will be left for us to check. But apparently having a machine answer these cyber pests just encourages more.

Even with caller ID, one can’t be too sure. Phone-pests have found ways to manipulate the system so that their calls can come from the other side of the country — or the world — and still show up as a local call, even with a local name. Not only irritating, but a bit scary.

Just when we thought we’d seen it all, I was stopped dead in my tracks late one evening last week. When the phone rang much later than the usual spate of evening pest-calls, I crawled out of my living room chair, half asleep, concerned that a family member needed us ... or there were animals out.

A glance at the caller ID told me the caller was none other than The Farmer (who was sound asleep on his recliner) and showed our number. How do you call your own number?

Having heard that this scam was happening, I ignored the call and decided enough was enough. The next evening, I pulled the landline plug after supper, figuring that if a family member or close friend or neighbor needed us, they had our cellphone numbers.

Not only are we pestered by telemarketers, but the daily mail brings handfuls of similar, printed pestering. Some of it is cleverly designed to look like an actual invoice, or warns about a “warranty.” Or, there are notices for printed publication renewals that we know are nowhere near running out.

“Reply within 10 days,” or “immediate attention required,” or an “important message for members,” all aim at shoving the recipient into thinking the communication is important and requires a response, or at least a look. One that recently passed through our mailbox was stamped on the outside “Do Not Bend,” as though something of considerable value was contained therein.

Not only did I bend it, I threw the thick envelope and its contents into the steers’ bedding pack, along with a whole bagful of other printed come-ons. A plastic bag kept within reach of the office desk serves as a receptacle for all the unwanted, useless, deceptive junk mail. It’s amazing how quickly the bag fills and has to be disposed of, helping keep the steers dry and comfy.

Before heading up to bed the night I pulled the phone plug, I stuck it back into the receptacle. The number “1” lit up in red, indicating a message remaining, so I thought I’d better check it, just in case.

“This is an emergency message from Microsoft ...” intoned the message speaker. How many times had we heard warnings about that computer scam from the local television scam investigators? Heads up: Microsoft will not call and tell you that you have a computer problem.

I poked the answering machine’s delete button. Twice, just to make sure.

Stop. Just make them stop.

Surely, in this day and age, with all the creativity and technology available, there must be some way to put the brakes on the insistent, runaway, unwanted telemarket and mailbox pests. If the frequent increases in the price of first-class stamps were instead put on the cost of mass-market-advertising, it might relieve our mail carriers and save a bunch of trees in the process.

You can run, but so far, we haven’t figured out how to effectively hide from it all.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.