I admit it: All my life I've been lured by the possibilities of a ringing phone.
It could be an invitation! The voice of a long-lost relative! A cross-country reach-out from an old friend!
Apparently, I have Fear of Missing Out, so I rush to answer the landline, FOMO in full gear. Occasionally, it's one of the above, but usually, it's an eerie silence or, worse, a robot.
Cellphones aren't much better, except the ringtones are less jarring -- "By the Seaside" or "Chimes."
The other day, three of us in the throes of cooking lunch for 24 (a whole other story) each received at least four cellphone musical greetings from the same person: Unknown Caller.
"I'm just not picking up," said one.
"Me neither," said the other.
"Well, just in case," said I. Which immediately alerted me to the fact that my compulsion for answering phantom calls exceeds that of the average thinking person, and I need to do something about it, especially with election season coming on. But what?
"You should get your phone on the Do Not Call registry," a friend suggested. I tried, only to learn that someone Aug. 3, 2003, had registered our landline and on Nov. 6, 2006, had registered my cell. I immediately knew who it was.
"Thanks for trying, dear," I said to my late husband, who around that time also had installed some do-it-yourself gizmo -- a mass of spaghetti wires -- that was supposed to catch landline robots but instead caught my foot every time I got up from the desk.
I ripped it out after his death.
"Got what you deserve," he is probably laughing.
I checked to see if the Do Not Call registrations, like the husband, had expired. But no. Like the calls, they last forever. When they keep coming, the burden is on the annoyed consumer to file a complaint with the FTC.
However, the registry doesn't apply to landline calls from political organizations, charities or telephone surveyors. In other words, it applies to people selling light bulbs and timeshares for profit. For the others, you can try blocking specific phone numbers, which seems to work except for callers who perennially change their phone numbers.
To its credit, the FTC became aware that the Do Not Call fix was not keeping robots away, even from cellphones, where restrictions are greater, and issued a "RoboCall Challenge," urging brainiacs and nerds to design some sort of solution to stop robocallers in their tracks.
My heart skipped the other day when I discovered the website of one of the winners, a service called Nomorobo, which is supposed to block robocalls of all kinds from a landline for free. It claims to have stopped more than 776 million calls.
I rushed to sign up and was directed to a link on the "peace and quiet" section of my cable provider's website.
Unfortunately, it would not open because too many "redirects" had occurred, possibly because I had "tried to open a page that is redirected to open another page that then is redirected to open the original page."
No worries. I'm not done yet. When I have a few minutes -- maybe 45 -- I will call the cable provider and let them know about this little glitch, to which I imagine they will respond immediately with shock and sorrow and immediate technical expertise and I soon will be free of robocalls.
Meanwhile, I'll probably just pick up the ones from my local and adjoining areas codes and also places where I used to live or go to school because -- well, really, you never know.
Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at PatSnyderOnline.com.