You can call me anytime

It is the most passive-aggressive of American moves in recent memory. The inability to say “No” is winding its way through legislation and judicial proceedings at a cost of millions upon millions of dollars. It is the most expensive “No,” and the least efficient or effective way of saying it, in recent memory.

The National “Do Not Call Registry” is, in effect, in effect. The registry is now in its infancy at the Federal Trade Commission, barring the lawsuit that will be heard Nov. 10 on grounds of violating business’ right to free speech. The Do Not Call list registers your name and number and warns businesses (with fines of up to $11,000 for each infraction) not to call you. Based on initial justifications, Americans are just plain fed up with “solicitors” bothering them at home. They are utterly exhausted with the phone incessantly ringing off the hook during dinner, lunch, “date night,” sex … They lie. The reality is, they are completely tortured when the phone rings during their reality show.

I can hear the screaming from sea to shining sea, “Don’t they ever leave me alone!” The self-evident truth is that Americans are more obsessed than ever before with being in contact with “them,” the mysterious solicitors who dream of ruining privacy everywhere. American consumers download junk, surf catalogs, chat with strangers, complain to their credit card companies, and make nice with cell phone companies at an ever-more impressive and alarming rate. Here, it is not hard to imagine the irony of a culture whose members demand the federal government to help them hang up, while each has a cell phone tucked close to their vital organs.

“That is different,” I am told by the “Do Not Call” fanatics (who I hesitate to call, I assure you). Americans want the choice of who to call, they want to initiate the contact, they want to dial the phone, they want to decide the color of the new condo timeshare and, because of this, I assumed they would get perverse pleasure in screening out solicitors.

It obviously wasn’t enough.

Evidently, Americans in the privacy of their own home don’t know how to say a polite no-thank-you and then hang up. Maybe it is because they have to say “yes,” sooooooo much that they grow wary of saying no. Maybe it is because they know that the evil “solicitor” is really their neighbor who just lost their job, or the new student who moved in down the hall, or their teenage daughter taking a shot at her first job. Regardless of who it is, though, how is it more logical to initiate massive federal oversight than to say a tart, but sweet apple-pie-flavored “no-thank-you”?

Most of all, I know the Do Not Call fanatics are not telling the whole truth. They act so surprised and incensed at the solicitor. They act as if their “right” to privacy has been ripped away like the foil wrapper on a lo-carb health bar. They act as if they have each been burned a thousand times by vacation packages and credit card offers gone terribly awry.

They act as if they really have dinner with their family.

The rest of the truth is something that every American knows: Those who are obsessed with not having their privacy intruded upon – as these people are – most definitely already have caller ID. So, I have my own new program in the works for the 55 million Americans who demanded to be on the Do Not Call list: When the phone rings, just say no.

Oh, wait, has that already been used?