Ask Not for Whom the Phone Rings….. (by Kip Allen)
Gary called again today.
I answered the phone on the second ring, and a familiar voice with a thick Pakistani accent said, “Hello, this is Gary from Microsoft Computer Technologies. I’m calling about some problems with your computer.”
Gary has been calling us for years now. More than once I’ve thought that as soon as he identifies himself, I should shout down the hallway, “Honey, pick up the phone! It’s Gary!” Then back to the phone, “How ARE you, Gary? How’s the family? The Missus? Kids doing okay in school?”
It is quite possible that my computer does have problems. A nagging fear haunts me that Gary is right, that I am somehow doing irreversible electronic damage (Luddite that I am), and if I don’t follow Gary’s instructions, in merely a few, critical seconds the whole apparatus will crash in a puff of smoke, alarm bells ringing and possibly sparks or even flames leaping out of the keyboard and the monitor.
Gary’s phone calls plug into my technological insecurity. His whole routine has more plausibility than, say, the e-mail supposedly sent by a grandson after he has been mugged in a London hotel parking lot and needs money wired right away. Gary is more plausible, too, than the famous Nigerian prince, who has a trust fund waiting for us both as soon as the bank receives payment of minor legal fees.
Also, Gary is smart enough to know that threats and brow-beating won’t work with me. Pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service, demanding immediate payment of non-existent back taxes, would only anger me, and soon we would be larynx-deep in a shouting match. (One such phone call actually ended with the caller thundering at me, “Pay the money you owe us, or you’re going to jail.” Then he added, almost as an afterthought: “Have a nice day.”)
I could get suckered into Gary’s routine…. except for his name. With that wonderful accent, I expect a name like Sanjay, or Gupta or Radamathnan. But…..Gary?
I envision “Gary” in a small, drab cubicle with a metal desk and chair. Overhead, a florescent light buzzes and flickers. He has a thermos of lukewarm tea. Also on
the desk is a daily print-out of names and phone numbers. A poster intended to inspire is thumb-tacked to the wall. The image is of an eagle in flight, and at the
bottom is the word “SOAR!” One thumbtack has popped off, and the corner is curling down.
Gary’s phone calls, frequent though they may be, always take me by surprise. Once I managed to stammer, “I can’t believe you’re still calling me!” He replied cunningly, “And I cannot believe you would not take care of your computer!”
Oh, yeah, he’s good.
Today, though, I was ready for him.
“Hello, this is Gary from Microsoft Computer Technologies. I am calling about some problems with your computer.”
I was barely able to contain my excitement. Carefully and clearly, I said, “Gary, are you ready to accept Jesus as your personal savior?”
“Gary, right now, are you rea—“
I heard a click, then a dial tone. Then a woman’s recorded voice said, “If you would like to make a call, please hang up, then dial again. If you need help, dial the operator.”
* * *
Gary will probably call back sometime. He’s persistent. But somehow I now feel I’ve got the upper hand. After all, God’s on my side. And maybe I can get Jesus to fix my computer.
Great story, Michael. I usually just tell Gary that I’m using a Mac.
D’Arcy, a childhood friend of mine in Montreal, once told me that he had one-upped a pair of Jehovah Witnesses who knocked on his door one Saturday morning, eager to convert him to the one true faith.
His solution was to invite them in, offer them tea, and then for the next three hours he professed such an indefatigable interest in their message, that they eventually started looking at the front door, clearly searching for an excuse to leave. I imagine that when they were back out on the street they must have felt deeply confused. Weren’t people supposted to either fall in with a world view, based on uncertainty and fear about their personal future, or impatiently close the door with a few curt words? To encounter someone who acts as if they have never heard of Jesus or Jehovah, and are facinated with this new message from the “other side”, must have blown them out of their comfort zone.
Your tale of turning the tables on a predator of our cyber insecurity has that kind of feel.
I’m embarassed to say that I once spent an inconvenient hour or two talking to someone who offered to get my two defunct Window’s XP PCs running again. I ended up spending $300 and neither computer ever connected to the internet again. I guess sometimes we just have to accept that time has passed our old favorites by, leaving us little choice but to accept Windows 10 in place of something that worked just as well and had that wonderful characteristic that we know how to use it.
I think your story has a message: if we fear being abandoned by some old security in the material world we make ourselves sitting ducks for anyone who claims that they can rescue us from our own incompetence. But I expect we will be happier if we can embrace our own confusion and incompetence!
There are worse things than feeling comfort and ease in the midst of whatever is happening, even if our ringside seat on the leading edges of our age is slowly drifting towards the rafters.
Loved your cyber-story… Gary, and his friends have called me for years too. After a while I said, “Stop calling! I don’t have that computer anymore.”
He said, as if deeply hurt, “Why are you lying to me?”
I said, “Why are you trying to scam ME?”
Now I have my machine answer for me… maybe he and his friends will tire of this inanity…