Thank You for Calling. Now, Go Away

I don’t know how many of you have been burdened by “blasts from the past.”  This doesn’t refer to the long-lost friend you’re eager to see.  No, we’re talking serious antiheroes, and their lackeys.  In this case, especially their lackeys.

You can figure it out, even if it hasn’t happened to you personally.  After disowning a complete and total asshole who has done everything he — or she — can think of to damage your life, you begin hearing from other people who most certainly are not associated with said asshole.  If you get suspicious and ask, they’ll put one hand behind their backs and deny everything.  The hidden hand has its fingers crossed.

Those people, most you seem to meet by chance, would like to know how your life is progressing.  Are you healthy?  Are you in a relationship?  If so, with whom?  You haven’t made any ill-advised visits to law firms, have you?

Okay, these examples may be a bit off the wall.  If you’re not careful, though, some people who want to be your new friends just might learn enough about you to keep Disowned Asshole well-informed.

For simplicity, in the rest of this post Disowned Asshole will be referred to by the initials D.A.

I receive telephone calls from strangers.  Not a lot of them, but even one or two are enough to be obvious.  A couple of callers have begun by greeting me by my birth name (the name D.A. always called me), claiming they’re responding to my message (what?) using a call return device.  Then they try to convince me they dialed a wrong number.  This must be the dumbest scam ever.

The callers aren’t getting any info other than confirmation that I’m still living.  Maybe I shouldn’t say, “Yes, this is (birth name)” when answering the phone, but nearly all of us will do that without thinking.  D.A. and I are in a competition to see who can live the longest, due to the way he committed fraud with my parents’ estate.  If I predecease him, he inherits the money he’s keeping out of my reach in a trust fund (I get a little bit out of the fund, but, well, it’s complicated).  If he predeceases me, his heirs inherit later, after I’m gone.  I suspect he’s hoping for the former.  I’m not thrilled with either prospect, but if the gods offer me a choice I’ll go with the latter.

I have not consented to any contact with D.A. for seven years, and that decision isn’t negotiable.  I have no reason to contact him, either, either personally or by “carrier pigeon.”  However, for more than seven years others have “reached out” on his behalf.  Some of those individuals are people I’ve met, and others aren’t.

Sometimes I’m not certain whether a bizarre, boundary-disregarding encounter has anything to do with D.A.  A few months ago, for security reasons I saved a screenshot of a Facebook messenger conversation.  The new Facebook friend, a person I met through another writer’s account, had begun asking personal questions that didn’t sound right.  He was probably just a socially awkward type, but I took precautions after blocking him.  Document everything you can.

Presently, I have only thirty-five Facebook friends.  With a few exceptions, they’re people I know personally.  However, the public Facebook account — the one with the Helen Christie name — receives “likes” from anyone.  I’ve accepted the fact that anything I post publicly is genuinely public, and D.A. might see it.  To hell with him.

Now, to answer your question about the apparent seven years and more than seven years discrepancy in an earlier paragraph:  Before disowning D.A. altogether, I would frequently get disgusted and refuse to speak to him.  He never apologized for the insults, lies, fraud or other disgraces, but he was satisfied he was patching things up by having a mutual acquaintance trap me on the telephone.

The caller would start a casual conversation with me, and after we had discussed the weather and other crap at length the caller would ask, “Do you want to talk to _______?  He’s right here.”

I always lied and said “yes,” because I didn’t want to put the caller — the pawn — into an embarrassing position.  So much for being nice.

I’ve learned through experience that there is no such thing as an absolute ex-directory telephone number.  Listed or unlisted, people with the right connections can reach you on the phone.  I’ve had my current cell number for about a year, and that’s where the most suspicious calls from strangers have arrived.  Personally, I can’t find my number in any online directory, but someone has.

For awhile, I engaged an impish sense of humor.  If the Caller I.D. number was unfamiliar, I’d answer by saying, “Hello.  You’re on the air.”  I got pretty good at it, but my talent was wasted because each time I answered that way it turned out to be a robocall.

Until that fateful day…

I believe the caller who got a bad surprise really was someone who had just dialed a wrong number.  After telling him he was on the air, I heard a gasp, followed by silence.  Then he said something in a language I couldn’t identify, but I thought it might be Spanish.

I don’t speak Spanish, so I explained in common English words that I thought a friend was calling and the “on the air” thing was a private joke the friend and I shared.

The caller understood what I said (although I don’t think he knew it was a lie), so a good time was had by all.

I haven’t answered the phone that way since, which explains why there’s still a problem with the proverbial blasts from the past.






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