One of the more irritating occurrences in daily life is the unsolicited telephone call. The person answering the phone is greeted with, 'How are you today?' You may feel like replying 'Who wants to know?' or 'What business is it of yours?' or simply, 'Bloody awful' but the likelihood is that you will answer cautiously, 'Fine.' As you draw breath to ask who is calling the caller has moved to the next part of the script. 'I am calling on behalf of . . . ' and if you're not very alert you may find yourself answering a series of seemingly innocuous questions about your interests, family, employment. Beware! Your identity may be at risk. At the very least the caller is not remotely interested in your health or well-being and simply wants you to sign up to a scheme of some sort.
On a par with this is the casual caller at the door who wants to know what you eat, whether you want double-glazing or if you are feeling charitable. He may try to ascertain if you own the property in which you are living. As he turns away from an unrewarding offer to trim the trees or clean the roof tiles he may casually enquire if your car is for sale.
Occasionally a caller may be quite forthright: 'Are you thinking of selling that motor-bike?' You may be sure that your house, your movements, the position of the vehicles on your drive have been noted. We have a number of deliveries made to our house and have been assured on more than one occasion that we must have been out when a delivery was attempted because the dogs didn't bark. They don't always - the visiting dogs make more noise than the residents! The delivery man I like best - and there are many regulars that I really like - is the one who has said, on a couple of occasions, 'I tried to deliver this parcel earlier but there was no answer so I thought I'd come back to see if I could deliver it now because you're never out.' That was kind and thoughtful but not totally accurate - we do go out frequently, just not at the times he usually tries to deliver to us on his round. He is the sort of man who will note an unusual absence or occurrence at one of his regular ports of call and alert the police. No dead and decaying bodies on his watch, bless him.
I understand that everyone has to make a living somehow and the callers are unfailingly polite if somewhat insistent but I find it intensely annoying when someone I have never met and will never see again asks if I'm having a good day. If this approach is designed to put the 'target' at ease it is singularly ill- considered.