Michele Bender photo

Michele Mikesic Bender

Folks spotted robins on branches; others observed flower buds peeping through the winter debris.

Ah, spring!

A bat with the wingspan of a commuter plane leisurely flapped by my window Friday night. Apparently, he was my sign.

My five-month-long dispute with a phone company is nearing a truce. If I could only have spoken with an actual representative, there would have been no problem. If I get permission (a legal point needs to be addressed), I will tell all the whole story.

I sat in on a Facebook discussion about cellphones, cable TV, landlines, etc., with some old and new friends, and I got an earful.

I’d been totally satisfied with just a cellphone for more than 10 years (particularly with my handicap burden) and I plan to always have a cellphone. 

But for another reason, I had to get a landline installed.

That day, four friends and six company employees knew my “new” number, and 20 minutes after the installer and two friends left, I got my first nuisance call.

Craig B. posted on Facebook: “Scammers are out like crazy! My phone alerts me if it’s a scam so I can block it.”

Craig, I’m thrilled to announce my new landline phone has the same delicious feature.

Angels created the “National Do Not Call Registry” list to prevent all of us from insanity. 

It was a wonderful idea until the virus took over the world.

Apparently angels must be quarantined and wear face gear. (Wonder how they manage ear bands with halos? My hearing aids and the bands make my ears throb.)

Robotic cherubs have replaced heavenly polite and informed operators. I have tried twice so far to enroll my landline, with very strange results. I’ll write about it sometime.

My gal-pal Teresa from Windber receives a slew of scam calls in the evenings. 

Phono-bots try to convince folks they’ve won free cruises (but must send a deposit, of course), their car maintenance warranty must be renewed now, their credit has been breached and it’s imperative that they call and confirm bank and financial details.

“One day, we received three phone calls from our number!” she complained. “How do they do that? Most don’t leave a message, but others leave detailed, convincing speeches. I just know that some folks not so worldly will return the call and be cajoled into sending money.”

I know what she means. A solemn-sounding nameless man (flag!) told me my Social Security number had been compromised, and crooks were opening accounts at big-ticket stores and swanky hotels.

Caller ID said this yokel was phoning from Oil City.

“Wow!” I gasped. “When did Social Security open a satellite office in Oil City? Will my tax refund come faster now?”


Let’s visit “Al,” my soon-to-be-ex-cell. Starting about 6 p.m.

Sunday, Al decided to quit. After 12 hours, I reported it by computer.

A screen told me, “Describe your problem.”

“No service for over 12 hours, not even 611,” I typed.

A smiling avatar appeared. “I am a live tech. How can I help?”

“Glad to hear you’re alive.” Tap, tap. “I’m a regular customer, code #XXXX, no service for over 12 hours, not even 611.”

“You are calling from a landline,” he noted.

“Yes, because I have no cell service.” Tap.

New screen appears.

Three options available to assist you.

We can confirm your problem with an e-mail. I checked “No.”

We can call and schedule a phone appointment for Tuesday.

“No service. No cell. Did you plan to try smoke signals? You can only reach me on this landline.”

“We are not permitted to make outgoing calls from this office.”

“One ZZZ office is not allowed to call another ZZZ office or a ZZZ customer?”

“That is correct.”

“Goodbye, livewire. Hope you enjoy the mailroom.”

They’re wearing us down, but even worse, they’re making us paranoid.

Tuesday, caller ID announced EMER Comm. I tentatively whispered, “Hello?”

Another official-sounding guy told me I needed to provide personal info to enroll in a new alert and response system called “CARES.”

Seconds later, they called back. That frightened me.

Imagine my surprise when Tuesday’s The Tribune-Democrat headline read, “Thousands sign up for Cambria County new emergency alert system.”

Yes, I had a blonde moment and was mortified. I called and told the Emergency Management Agency man that I was a wingnut.

I asked him: “What could I say in my column Saturday to help you folks?”

The Emergency Management coordinator said, “Assure your readers that this is a private, unthreatened, reliable system meant to quickly alert citizens of impending emergencies and disasters.”

Readers ... sign up, vaxx up, mask up. Let’s celebrate a spring filled with blessings. 

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and regular community columnist for The Tribune-Democrat.​ She can be reached at MsGeezerette@aol.com.

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