Al Smith, Stop Calling Me

by Alan J. Claffie

I'll be happy when the election is behind us.

It's almost impossible to tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are because one guy's buying TV time to say he's good and his opponent's bad, while the opponent's doing the same to say the exact opposite.

If they just stuck to doing their politicking on the TV, where I can mute the idiot box for the duration of their pitches, that would be fine. It's their money, they can spend it trying to reach me that way as much as they want.

When they interrupt the peace and quiet of my valuable slumber, they've crossed the line.

In local politics, Al Smith is running for County Commission President. His campaign seems to be made up of yard signs, advertisements in the local paper, and, sadly, calling residents and leaving recorded messages on their answering machines.

I work the third shift, usually hitting the sack around 7:30pm and getting up somewhere around 2:30 or 3pm. Most who know me know this schedule and avoid interrupting me during those hours. Mr. Smith does not, and I cannot tell him because when he calls, it's not really him, it's a recording.

This has happened twice now. The first time came when we were out of town for the weekend. We returned to find a message on the machine. Once I heard enough to know it was a politician and it was a recording, I stopped it well short of the point where it got to its point and deleted it. The second time jarred me awake at 12:20 in the afternoon. I saw the Caller ID and it gave no hint as to what it might have been: Private Caller, Private Number. The machine picked up and the message was left. Mr. Smith wanted me to check out his ad in the forthcoming Maryland Independent newspaper.

There were no mentions at the end of the message explaining how to opt out of Mr. Smith's annoying phone calls. What a pain in the neck.

Are pre-recorded phone messages bad? Yes. They're so bad, there's a law against them. It's called the "Telephone Consumer Protection Act" and here's the pertinent part:

It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States or any person outside the United States if the recipient is within the United States...

(B) to initiate any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party, unless the call is initiated for emergency purposes or is exempted by rule or order by the Commission under paragraph (2)(B);

The statute, while simultaneously barring prerecorded messages, perplexingly requires such messages carry identifying information within their message:

(A) all artificial or prerecorded telephone messages (i) shall, at the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity initiating the call, and (ii) shall, during or after the message, state clearly the telephone number or address of such business, other entity, or individual;

Had Mr. Smith's message had some information that would let me unsubscribe from his rambling recordings, I'd have done that already rather than whine about it here.

Imagine if every candidate for every office took Mr. Smith's strategy of phoning up constituents and assaulting their answering machines with their political drivel? I'd never get any sleep! I should consider myself fortunate that only Mr. Smith feels the need to take his campaign across the line where his message is easily where I can find it to interrupting my daily routine to tell me where to find his message.

If I have to put up with this for another three weeks, November can't come soon enough.

Since I can't get a hold of Mr. Smith or his campaign, I'll ask it here. Mr. Smith, please stop calling me!

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