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July 23, 2013 | 02:47 PM
Beware hucksters

Sad to say, we are a nation of hucksters. Selling seems to take precedence over people's privacy and common courtesy. Now advertisers see robots as splendid opportunity. But "robo" calls are offensive, to say nothing about interrupting routines.

A few minutes ago I took a call beginning, "Is this Teresa? If this is Teresa ... " Hanging up I wondered where this was going. Or was it a charity?

If businesses can make your phone ring anytime they want, and force messages on you, and no one is on the other end except automated digital machinery, Big Brother surely has arrived. It is scary to think where such things could lead.

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Several times in recent months a youthful, energetic male voice declared, "Don't hang up! Congratulations!" I didn't feel congratulatory, but I did hang up. What was he selling?

By habit I hang up instantly. My daughter says why don't I look at the 800 number on caller ID and not answer. But the ringing continues, and besides I've taken to collecting these automated infringements on my private life.

Think about it. Digital machinery does all the work. The sponsor doesn't have to talk to anybody The only human directly involved is me and my privacy.

I've been on no-call lists, but they don't seem to be the answer. If you can use the phone to make anyone else's ring, it is a stretch to call it credible selling, to say nothing of invading private space. What really bothers me is the Big Brother dimensions of this.

On one occasion I was expecting a follow-up call about a friend's death. When I answered, the greeting went, "If you are a senior citizen ... " It was a little more harassment in an already stressful situation.

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"Congratulations! You have pre-qualified for..." Five words was all I needed. American hucksters in action.

There is a sad dimension to all this. Sometimes the come-ons are from charities. Or I think they are charities.

"Do you or someone you love smoke?" I wasn't curious (or tolerant) enough to find out where that one was going either.

Considering how often I am otherwise interrupted in the course of a day, these added unsolicited intrusions take on serious proportions.

"Hello! This is a very important message." If it were, wouldn't you think a real person would be delivering it?

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Hawking, peddling, showmanship, call it what you will — common courtesy is not part of the process.

Oh, oh, there's the phone: "This is Lisa calling about your credit card account."

Johnson was a long-time English teacher at Badger High School.

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