A Useful, If Minor, Life-Hack


Are you still getting those NYC area-code scam calls from a recording speaking entirely Chinese on your cell phone? Has nothing succeeded in getting them to stop? I found a way to at least make them entertaining!

I spent a month or so (six calls) pressing arbitrary numbers when I got one of these calls, in hopes of indicating enough interest in whatever scam they were selling to get a human on the phone. I finally found it with option “9”. It happened this morning.

Then, I implemented my plan. On the theory that my once fluent but now terrible Danish would sound more or less like broken English to someone whose first language was neither of those, I cheerily launched into a conversation with the nice man on the phone.

He clearly spoke almost no English, throwing together nothing more capable than two-word phrases like “Speak Chinse”, and “good oppotunity”, so most of what he said was Chinese (of which I speak perhaps ten words, none of which were remotely useful in these circumstances, but that was the point!), but he seemed game. Speaking entirely in whatever Danish I could still muster, I proceeded to spend perhaps ten minutes telling him, in the most polite and pleasant tones I could muster, what I thought of his personal hygiene, appearance, and intelligence, and providing a number of instructions as to what he should do, primarily to himself and his own mother. I found that the key to success in my little game was to listen carefully to what he said and try to sound as though I was responding to it. Well, that and occasionally dropping the English phrase “How much?”, in an attempt to ensure he thought there was a chance of a sale…

Speaking only western languages, I find the tonal nature of Chinese difficult to understand even on an emotional level, but I’m pretty sure that he was becoming more and more agitated as this went on, to my delight. After ten minutes or so, he apparently gave up, as we were abruptly disconnected mid-sentence (his, not mine).

Now, I know this sounds like a petty waste of my time, but consider:

  • I was nearly peeing my pants laughing after ten minutes of politely insulting this person to his face in the most creative ways I could think of, so I had some real fun.
  • I got to practice my Danish for the first time in years (maybe not the ideal vocabulary set, but still).
  • It is more than likely that I ruined that scammer’s morning, which I consider a karmic responsibility discharged.
  • During those ten minutes, I tied up a con-artist, meaning that he could not be engaged in bilking some elderly Chinese man or woman out of their life-savings.
  • All of these things together provided me a few moments of true joy in the midst of an otherwise drab workday.

Seriously, you should try it!