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Telemarketers and Other Suppertime Annoyances
I'm convinced that, when we bought our home about a year ago, all those papers we signed at closing were not legal documents at all. They were phone lists. Nearly every evening the phone rings, and it'll be someone trying to raise money for the fire department or the police department, or trying to give me a free family portrait, or sell me cosmetics, or a telephone company trying to outbid all the others. I've received phone calls for everything but a CNN poll; no one's ever polled me about anything.
But you know what I discovered? All these sales people have scripts that go something like this: "Hello. Allow me to introduce myself and the reason I'm calling." (Legally they have to do something like that.) I know these are just people trying to make a living, but I'm trying to eat my pot roast and not comparison shop car insurance at the dinner table.
I have friends who hang up on telemarketers. Others blow whistles into the phone receiver--or do they do that for other annoying calls? I can't remember. But I just can't do that, so I usually ask a lot of questions before the person has a chance to finish his introductory speech.
For instance, the other night someone called about installing a security system in my home. "I just wanted you to know that for a limited time we are offering free installation," the young man said.
"Free?" I asked.
"That's right. We have service representatives in your area right now, and they would be glad to come out and explain the system to you."
"Why, the one we are selling and offering to install for free," he answered.
"How do you know I haven't had one installed already?" I asked, making my voice thick with suspicion.
"I ... er ... I don't," he said. "Do you?"
"Why would I tell you that?"
"Because I just want to know if you have one or not--to see if you would be interested in buying one from us."
"How do I know you aren't some cat burglar calling every house in the neighborhood to see who has an alarm system and who doesn't? And as soon as I go to sleep you're going to sneak in and steal everything I own. How do I know that?"
"You say representatives are in my neighborhood right now?"
"A couple, maybe."
"What are they driving?"
"I ... ah ... I'm not sure."
"If you seriously believe I'm so interested in security--and assuming you aren't a cat burglar--then why would you think I'd let a total stranger into my house? What sort of security business are you in anyway?"
"Well ... these are home security systems that--"
"How did you get this number?"
"I ... er ... I'm not sure. It was here when I got here."
"When I say, 'The fat man walks alone,' does it mean anything to you?" I asked.
"Who's Abbie Hoffman?"
"I don't know."
"Where's Jimmy Hoffa?"
"I don't know."
"Was anyone on the grassy knoll?"
"What grassy knoll?"
"And you claim you're in the security business."
"Look, ma'am, perhaps we're not the security service for you," he said. "As a matter of fact, I'm taking your name off the list right now."
"What kind of list do you have there, young man?"
"Just a list ... list," his voice cracked on the second list. "But I'm destroying it right now. As we speak. Hear that?" And I could hear the sound of paper being ripped. "All gone. I'm sorry I bothered you."
I softened my voice a little and said, "Hey, I appreciate that. And just between you and me, if anyone asks, this conversation never happened. Okay?"
Then, with a shot of panic I screamed out, "Oh my goodness!"
"Someone in a dark blue van just drove by," I told him, whispering. "Are your men in a blue van?"
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it sure beats letting your blood pressure boil so that you choke on your pot roast. Besides, it entertains the kids. (And, believe me, that's hard to do. They're bored with all my jokes and stories.)
Has anyone ever called to sell you burial plots? They're fun to talk with, too.
"I know this isn't a very pleasant subject to address," the young man who had called said, "but what is even worse is the idea of leaving this entire burden to fall upon your family."
"What do they look like?"
After a long pause he finally asked, "I'm sorry, what do what look like?"
"The plots. The burial plots."
"Ah ... well, I'm not sure. Like any other plot, I guess."
"Well, are they grassy?"
"Then who mows them?"
"You know, I don't know. I can have a representative come by and explain everything. We have one in the neighborhood right now, and I'm sure he'll have pictures and samples and stuff."
"Do you sell plot covers?"
"Yeah. I don't want my plot to get all muddy and nasty. I'd like to keep it covered and dry. You know, in case people should come to visit after church, and they're wearing their good shoes."
"I've never had anyone ask about covers before," he said. "But I can check on it for you."
"That's okay. Let me ask you this: If I buy a plot now, can I use it before I die? You know, to have picnics, family reunions, things like that."
"I-I'm not sure. It's just a plot--in a cemetery. And I don't think it's very big."
"How far apart do the stakes have to be in a game of horseshoes?"
"I don't think the plots are that big."
"Then maybe I should buy several--end-to-end though, not side-by-side," I added.
"I think I can do that." But he didn't sound too sure.
"Do these plots come with a guarantee?"
"Yeah. Like if I buy a beautiful, grassy, sunny spot and I die, how do I know you won't bury me somewhere else, like next to a toxic waste dump or something?"
"We don't bury people, ma'am. We just sell the plots."
"Do you sell a lot of plots?"
"I think we sell a lot of plots."
"How many plots in a lot?"
"I don't know. A lot?"
"Uh ... listen," he sounded more frustrated than ever. "I can send a representative right over, and he can answer all your questions."
"About those representatives ..."
"When things get kind of slow around there ..."
"They don't like, you know, hurry things along, do they?"
"If you are implying that they--"
"Oh my goodness!" I shouted.