DIANE MAKAR MURPHY Answer the phone or let it ring? It's a tough call

During the day, I like to ignore a ringing telephone. It is, perhaps, surprising since daytime calls usually bring terrific news.
Like many of you, I get calls telling me I've been selected "for a low 2.9 percent introductory interest rate" or a "free 8 x 10 portrait" or a "basement inspection" or a "complimentary test" of my home's water.
Still, like you again, I suppose, I like to ignore a ringing telephone.
This is very difficult during the school year, however.
For example, just the other day I reluctantly answered the phone, expecting to hear a window company "would be in the neighborhood," and found it was the Boardman High nurse instead. That's why I don't ignore the phone during the school year.
We used to have an answering machine, which allowed me to screen my calls.
CALLER: This is Charter One Bank. We seem to have a problem with your mortgage.
ME: (Out of breath, running to the phone, hearing who it is) Hello! Sorry. I wasn't going to answer. I thought it was a telemarketer.
CALLER: I understand completely.
But now, with the computer regularly tying up our phone lines, we have remote voice mail. As a result, I can no longer screen out unwanted calls.
Recent call: Today was no exception. When the phone rang, I thought, "I hope that isn't the school calling," and went to answer it. Josh, my son, tells me I always expect the worst. But I think of myself as the Catcher in the Rye -- I'm not expecting the worst, but I am prepared for it. I picked up the receiver.
It was silent. Big clue.
"Hello, hello, hello?" No reply. Bigger clue.
Click. Voices in the background. Quick, hang up! It's not the school. Too late.
"Hello, is John Murphy there?"
"No, he's not."
"Does he have a wife available?"
Does he have a wife available? The wording was so odd, I couldn't help but reply, "He has several; which one did you wish to speak with?" Despite the dangling participle, it was terribly clever, I thought.
Not to be outdone, the female telemarketer said, "Whichever one is available."
Hmmm ...
Reasoning: Now, I used to hang up promptly after politely saying, "I'm not interested." My reasoning was that these telemarketers were poor dumb schmucks like me trying to eke out a living. I reasoned that, since I knew I wasn't going to buy anything anyway, getting them off the phone quickly was the best way to be kind. I was saving them time and effort.
Then I started to get Sunday calls. And late-night calls. And five or six calls back to back across the lunch hour. Add to these the fact that computers do the dialing now, so that the telemarketer doesn't waste any precious time -- but YOU do ... "Hello? Hello? Hello?" Gosh, I had begun to get annoyed.
So, I clarified, "No, I mean which wife do you wish to speak with?"
And she clarified, "Whichever one is available."
And my cleverness was severely strained, so I said, "I'm sorry, all 12 of them are indisposed."
Our undaunted telemarketer had the last word. "Then I'll call back later," she said. Click!
Well, she won, I guess -- although I didn't buy any windows, water purifying systems or disability insurance, and didn't sign up for a new credit card, Direct TV or dance lessons. She's going to call back, and I'm going to answer it.
The thing is, I still have one ace up my sleeve. Just which one of John's wives should actually answer the phone? Estelle, the whiner. Betty, the burper. Bertha, the giggler. Judy, the profane one. This could actually be fun.