This is your captain calling

With seeming regularity in recent weeks we pick up the phone to hear a great ship horn blow. “It’s your captain calling” continues the message.

That’s about as far as the telephone solicitation gets with the pre-programmed recording. A quick hang-up and the call is gone and then on to the day’s business.

Standing in line today at the grocery store an old colleague got some such call. That prompted the cashier to tell her story about making dinner only to get interrupted by a “technician from Microsoft” who wanted her to go to her computer. She didn’t fall for it, but an elderly friend had.

There are dozens of other examples of telephone solicitation gone awry. Typically there is always something to sell, or a con in the works. Despite best efforts by the media and the local constabulary to inform people about the latest monkey business, some poor soul will fall victim to a great deal or offer from a stranger.

As kids, we’re told not to speak to strangers, but as adults we seem to think ourselves beyond that guidance. A good number of years ago, 30 to be exact, we received a call from a firm in Toronto selling stock. New to the workforce and pretty bright eyed to the way things really work, we bought a little bit of stock. Through a blessing from above and not our own smarts, we were able to buy twice and sell half once to break even. The second lot to sell, which would have been the profit, never happened. From that point on, the company went into receivership, paperwork came and went, and a valuable lesson was learned.

A guiding light for us at the time in the field of business listened to that story. In his quiet, thoughtful, yet plain-spoken way, he said something to the effect of, “Dave, do you really believe a guy from the city is going to phone you way out here in the country with a deal of a lifetime?” Enough said. That advice has hung with us for decades.

Of course, there are plenty of people who still hope for the best and believe the lines that get spun.

Few could blame the people receiving calls in the last federal election. Surely Elections Canada, as the call was described, is a trustworthy organization. The fly in the ointment though, was the automated message suggested polling sites had moved and that voters would need to proceed to a new station to cast their ballot.

The outcome of that vote suppression tactic is now under investigation. Why those robo-calls took so long to become an issue is a question in itself, but for now we are satisfied to see the matter reviewed.

While the inconvenience of sales calls from the captain and others are just that, an inconvenience, the use of robo-calls to suppress the vote or skew the outcome is a travesty that should have all Canadians concerned.

But, times are busy and many of these issues that speak to the fundamentals of a free vote are quite complicated. Besides, a call just came in for a free special weekend in Collingwood at a resort. Sounds too good to be true – but shucks, it’s free.