By Hannah Berman

We refer to them as “robocalls,” those automated calls that drive so many people to distraction. I am one of those people. Despite the many attempts I have made to get rid of these calls, I have been unsuccessful.

On several occasions, I did as suggested: I pressed this number and that number and put my name (and my phone number) on lists that would supposedly prevent me from receiving these calls. Baloney! None of it worked. I still get the calls. Initially, the annoying robocalls came in only on my house phone, or what is sometimes referred to as a landline. My mobile phone appeared to be exempt, but, unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

Back then, if a call would come in while I was busy, I would stop what I was doing and answer the call only to discover that there was nobody on the line. I have been known to scream — or to use words I prefer not to disclose publicly. Eventually, I stopped answering the calls. I would look at the screen to see if I knew who was calling. Early on, it was fairly easy because when I saw a phone number along with the name of a city or state that was unfamiliar to me, I just didn’t pick up the phone. I still do that, but there is a new wrinkle in this plan. Because I have aged, I am no longer able to see clearly what is on the screen. So now, in addition to stopping whatever it is that I am doing, I need to search for my glasses before I can determine what to do.

Just when I thought that robocalls couldn’t be any more annoying, things have indeed gotten worse. Years ago, when I had children or grandchildren in Israel, either studying for a year or perhaps visiting that country for a few weeks, their calls to me displayed Israeli phone numbers on the screen. But that is no longer the case. Thanks to advanced technology, visitors to Israel now carry mobile phones that have United States phone numbers. Some are out-of-state numbers and others are New York-area numbers. Since there is never any name associated with these phone numbers, it is a reasonable assumption that what is coming through is a robocall, which I have become accustomed to not answering. On countless occasions, because I don’t pick up my phone for those unknown numbers, I miss calls from family and friends in Israel.

It happened again one morning just last week. My daughter and son-in-law were in Israel, and when they called I didn’t recognize the phone number so I ignored it. Apparently, they assumed I wasn’t at home and didn’t bother to leave a message.

Later that same day, I was at home and had the phone receiver nearby when they called a second time. Once again, no name was displayed on the screen and I didn’t recognize the number or the location that the call was coming from so for the second time that day I opted not to take the call. But this time I got lucky. My daughter decided to leave a message for me and I was fortunate enough to hear it. I quickly reached for the receiver and took the call. That was when I learned that it was she who had called earlier in the day. Happily, I was able to pick up the phone before she hung up.

What this means is that now, in addition to calls with unfamiliar numbers and locations being a major annoyance, there is the possibility that I am rejecting calls from people I do wish to speak with. On several occasions I declined to take a call because I assumed that it was an automated one, when, in fact, it was not that at all. So now, there is a third component to robocalls. Adding to the fact that they are annoying and irritating, they are a source of frustration when I discover later on that the missed call was from a grandchild.

Either I ignore all calls with unrecognizable numbers and locations, or I pick up all such calls in the hope that it is a child or grandchild calling from Israel. It’s not a great choice, but it’s the only one I have. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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