I’ve been unusually distracted recently.
Apparently there’s an issue with my car’s extended warranty. This dilemma, about which I am reminded regularly via thoughtful calls to my cellphone, has been nagging at me, like a fragment of a song lyric you can’t quite remember.
Worse still, it’s not clear which of my two vehicles is the problem.
I have two, and neither, so far as I can tell after sifting through the wads of receipts wedged into their respective glove boxes, actually has an extended warranty.
So now, in addition to worrying about the status of the warranty, I fear I might have acquired this additional, and no doubt valuable, protection by fraudulent means.
This wasn’t intentional, of course.
But I know better than to argue ignorance of the law.
And based on the frequency of the phone calls, the people in charge of the extended warranty are quite eager to speak with me.
This sort of eagerness, in my experience, is proportional to the amount of money involved.
Lest I carry this charade beyond a reasonable number of paragraphs, I recognize, of course, that these calls are not legitimate.
I don’t have an extended warranty on either of my vehicles.
And if I did, the company that sold me the warranty wouldn’t sic the automated call machine on me to address any trouble.
Among the distressingly long roster of scams that pollute our world of saturated communications, these extended warranty calls strike me as especially transparent.
The much more insidious versions prey on, for instance, our emotional response to the possibility that a loved one is in danger.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be a relative whose car has broke down in a distant city, even a modestly talented impersonator might be convincing enough to prompt you to divulge personal information, the modern digital equivalent to handing over your wallet or opening your purse.
The warranty calls, by contrast, seem to me both impersonal in their approach and implausible in their content, a combination that makes them more amusing than annoying.
But of course they must work, or else my phone wouldn’t keep ringing.
Along with millions of other phones, no doubt.
Volume, I’m sure, compensates for the low success rate of these sleazy ventures.
Just as a gill net dragged through the ocean or a great river will bring in a lot more fish than a single hook dangling below a bobber in a farm pond, automation allows scammers to peddle their criminal wares to a mass audience.
Probably I would be depressed to have this question answered, but I am curious about precisely how many of these calls are placed in the U.S. in a given day.
I doubt that I’m considered a ripe target — I presume the tech-savvy people behind these operations have at least a general idea of my net worth, which is decidedly modest.
And yet scarcely a day passes when my phone stays quiet (not that I much mind the interruption; my ringtone is the University of Oregon’s fight song, and if I don’t recognize the caller’s number I usually tap my fingers on my desk for a couple of bars).
I suspect that these calls, which are easy to ignore and even easier to lampoon, have affected me in at least one way.
I haven’t bought a new car in going on eight years, and I don’t expect to be dickering with a sales manager for many more years. But I’m pretty sure that whenever that occasion arises — presuming such transactions will still be conducted from chairs upholstered in unconvincingly fake leather arrayed around a cheap table — I’ll give a slight start, as from a minor fright, when the phrase “extended warranty” reaches my ears.
I have read many hundreds of obituaries in nearly three decades at the Herald, and although these documents naturally have many similarities, each is, like the people whose lives are memorialized, unique.
I have yet to tire of reading these odes.
I find it eternally fascinating to ponder the ways in which a life extending for many decades, and occasionally for the whole of a century or a bit more, can be distilled into some hundreds of words.
But only occasionally do I come across an anecdote, or even a single sentence, that strikes me as particularly piquant, something perhaps suitable as an epitaph.
I read one such recently in the obituary for Viola Perkins, who lived most of her life in Baker Valley and was involved in a host of good works.
Toward the end of her obituary was this sentence.
“And by golly, she could get cows — anybody’s cows — to gather and come running to the gate when it was time to move them, with a hearty ‘suuuuboss.’ ”
I also learned that Viola baked scrumptious chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies.
A fine skill, certainly. And one worth including in an obituary.
But I believe there are far more people who can bake a tasty cookie than there are people who can get cows — anybody’s cows — to go through a gate.
Viola was one. I wish I could have seen her working cattle. I’m sure those who did see that spectacle will always remember.
Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.