Home > Magazine > ChaiTime > Fun Time: BE WARY WHEN THE PHONE RINGS



Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai
November 2016

When my phone rings, I usually answer it warily, even when it’s someone I know. If it’s a name or number I don’t recognize, I usually ignore it. When strangers call me, it’s rarely to give me good news. No one ever calls me to tell me that I’ve won the lottery or been nominated for the Nobel Prize.

My aspirations aren’t quite that high, of course. I’d be quite pleased if someone called to tell me that I’ve won a free pizza or been nominated for the No-Bill Prize (no bills for a month) or even the No-Bull Prize (no political speeches for a month).

A surprise invitation would also be welcome. Barack Obama has been in the White House for almost eight years, but has never once called to invite me to dinner. I’m beginning to think he doesn’t even know I exist.

Wouldn’t it be great if world leaders randomly chose ordinary citizens to have dinner with now and then? Just imagine how excited I’d be if my phone rang and it was Obama on the other end.

Me: “Hello.”

Obama: “Hello. This is Barack.”

Me: “Barack who?”

Obama: “Do you know any other Baracks?”

Me: “Sorry, I should have recognized your voice. It’s about time you called.”

Obama: “What do you mean?”

Me: “You’ve been president since 2008. It’s about time you got around to inviting me for dinner.”

Obama: “Dinner? No, I’m calling to see if you’d like to contribute to the Hillary Clinton for President campaign.”

That’s what usually happens when someone calls me. They want something from me. When my insurance agent calls, it’s never to tell me that I paid too much and will be receiving a refund. Nope, he calls to find out if I’m interested in buying more insurance. It’s not enough that I have auto insurance and homeowners insurance, I also need life insurance (in case I die), knife insurance (in case I cut myself with a knife) and wife insurance (in case my wife runs away with another man).

But I guess I should be thankful. At least I’ve never received a call from one of the scam artists recently busted in Mumbai. Police arrested 70 people who had been working in call centers and allegedly swindling Americans by posing as IRS agents. The scoundrels—if they are indeed guilty—had been telling their victims that they owed taxes and needed to pay immediately or risk being arrested. The money was deposited in U.S. bank accounts before being transferred to India.

I’d like to believe that if my phone rang and it was someone posing as an IRS agent, I’d be smart enough to realize that it was a scam. But I’m guessing that the conversation would go like this:

Me: “Hello.”

Caller: “Can I speak to Mr. Durai? This is the IRS.”

Me: “The IRS? Are you calling me about my refund?”

Caller: “What refund?”

Me: “I was expecting a refund. I paid too much in taxes.”

Caller: “Actually, Mr. Durai, you paid too little. You still owe us $3,000 and if you don’t send the money right away, we’re going to arrest you.”

Me: “Oh no, I’m totally broke. That’s why I was waiting for the refund.”

Caller: “Do you have any possessions?”

Me: “Yes, I have a dog.”

Caller: “Can you sell it?”

Me: “No, I can’t sell it. My wife would kill me.”

Caller: “Do you have life insurance?”

Me: “Yes, but if my wife kills me, she can’t collect on the life insurance policy.”

Caller: “If we send someone to kill you, your wife can collect the life insurance and pay us the taxes you owe.”

Me: “But I’d be dead.”

Caller: “Yes, but at least you wouldn’t owe any taxes.”

Me (shaking in fear): “Please don’t kill me. Where should I send the money? Please give me the address and I’ll send it right away.”

Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.

[Comments? Contributions? We would love to hear from you about Chai Time. If you have contributions, please email us at melvin@melvindurai.com. We welcome jokes, quotes, online clips, and more.]

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