Call me, maybe. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

The NSA has one message for Americans, and it is: “Call your grandma.”

“Seriously,” the NSA went on. “We know who you are calling, every call of every day, as the AP says. We have all your phone records, if you’re a Verizon customer. We would have asked for AT&T’s too, but AT&T customers have never actually gotten a call to go through. We know whom you call, and for how long. And I know you talk a good game about your grandmother and how much she means to you, but we can state for a fact that most of your calls are not to her. For instance, Darrell here has called his grandmother zero times in the past month but has placed repeated calls to Domino’s, even though we have records of him stating that ‘their pizza tastes like cardboard’ and that ‘they said they changed it up, but I can’t really taste the difference’ on other calls (also not to his grandmother). He has also called his wife six times; a woman who is not his wife, three times (but all of those were short calls during daylight hours, so probably it’s nothing to be overly concerned about); his daughter, 18 times, all one evening after her presumed curfew; and what we have discovered was the 800 number for ExtenZe Male Enhancement two times, first hanging up after 30 seconds in confusion, then redialing it, then hanging up immediately.”

The NSA official produced a big chart to demonstrate these findings.

“And Lisa here has placed 18 hour-long calls to her best friend from high school but zero calls to her grandmother, even though her grandmother could probably really use a listening ear right now. Her grandmother has placed 18 hour-long calls to an 888 consumer complaints line for foot fungus cream, where the person doing the dinner shift just lets her talk, because he has been instructed to do so. Lisa’s grandmother, two weeks ago, also called a late-night Hot Links 900-number chat line, possibly confused as to its intended purpose, but stayed on the line for 43 minutes. What we are saying is: Lisa, your grandmother needs you right now.”

“Lisa’s grandmother has also forwarded her several e-mails expressing worry about the surveillance the government is conducting,” he/she/it went on, “although we don’t know about those, of course, and we disagree with their content. This is the best way. Look, let me demonstrate. If you want to catch tuna in the ocean, what do you do? You don’t just fish for tuna. You fill the ocean with a giant net that scoops up tuna, dolphins, the occasional swimmer, lampreys and even Nemo. And then you rest assured and confident in the knowledge that you have definitely caught the tuna and also, hey, look, a lamprey! That’s cool!”

“I recognize that pained and agonized sigh from your many phone calls to your siblings,” the NSA official went on. “Let me try another example. If you want to make certain that all the bad people are behind bars, you put everyone behind bars. Please stop sighing heavily. Look, if you want to pick out the abnormal data of the few people doing bad things, you need all the data on the good people who aren’t doing bad things, or how will you know what’s normal and what isn’t? The more data, the merrier!”

The NSA official fixed us with a gimlet eye. “Oh, NOW you’re going to complain about people having access to your data? Have you MET yourself? If your behavior on the Internet is any indication, all you do all day is authorize people to have access to your data, because you have nothing to hide. And now you want to start screaming about how you have a right to privacy? Please.”

“Besides, what if a good person becomes a bad person? Then you really, really need that data! Look at Anakin Skywalker. Blond, kind of annoying, always complaining about sand — seemingly innocuous, right? But then it turned out he was Darth Vader! And it was great that we had all his telephone records going back to infancy!”

“Look, it’s not like we’re listening in on all your calls. That would be mind-numbingly dull. And don’t worry about saying ‘terrorist’ out loud. We understand that just because you say something at one point to a specific group of people doesn’t mean you actually believe it. For instance, President Obama used to say that he favored transparency and opposed Bush-era policies that offered ‘a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide.’ ”

“We get it.”

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.