Monday, September 16, 2002

I hate telephones. I love telemarketers. Those should be mutually exclusive statements but I find that they are not. Telephones interrupt me and seldom in a pleasant way. (If you are reading this and you call me frequently, please understand that I am not talking about you. I am talking about everyone else that calls me. You are special. You are my favorite. I thank God every day that you have my phone number. Really I do.)

I have a talking "Caller ID." It is the coolest thing that I own. I keep the volume turned all of the way up so that I can hear it all throughout the house. When my phone rings I automatically sigh. And then I listen. After the first ring a lovely female computer-voice announces the phone number that is calling. Or, if you are in the top 20 people that call me, it actually announces your name. By the third ring she has finished reciting your number. By the fifth ring I have figured out who you are. By the sixth ring I have decided not to answer. You'll call back. Or you'll catch me in person later. Or if I'm really lucky you will simply email me. Take how much I hate telephones and reverse it and that is how much I love email. I can read it when I want to. I can delete it if it annoys me. I can pretend I never received it. I can claim that I mistook it for junk mail and blew it away. Or, most likely, I will read it and respond in a timely fashion. You see, email does not waste time. That's because most people don't want to spend time typing. So they get to the point and then click "send." Email is effecient! But with telephone calls you have to go through that entire thing where you are thinking, "all I really want to do is fall into my mega-cushy-chair for a few minutes and watch The Weather Channel but this person wants to chat. I don't want to chat. I want to start a fire on the stove so I can have an excuse to hang up." It isn't the people that I don't like. It's the act of talking into a wire. It's the interruption. Why do I have to jump up and answer the phone just because a bleeping noise started emitting from it? Do I really have to be that closely at the worlds fingertips? I feel like Pavlov's dog only I never get the milky bone. The phone bleeps it's 21st century tone at me. I immediately stop doing what I want to be doing and go to respond to ... who knows what? Sometimes the call is for someone else and I can smile and return to my own little world. Sometimes, though rarely, it is a wrong number and I can laugh with a stranger about the absurdity of making an accidental acquaintance. But usually it is somebody that just wants to talk whether I want to or not. And then what do you do? Courtesy demands that you be polite and pretend to want to talk as much as they do. In the meantime you have missed "local on the 8's" five or ten consecutive times. It is just not right.

But there is one phone call that I jump to answer. Several times each day my talking caller ID lady will say, "Caller Unknown." Allllll right! This is one I want! You see, telemarketers think that it is a stroke of brillance to block their number so that when you look at (or listen to) your caller ID you won't know who they are. And they know that you are sooooo curious to find out who is calling you that you will grab that receiver right up to your ear and give them a big old "howdy!" Then they'll talk at 90mph so that you can't interrupt. They assume that you are too polite to cut in and as long as they keep talking they you won't beg off and tell them "no thank you." At my house, at least, this is where they are wrong. You see, telemarketers make their living by assuming that they have you at their mercy. They know you are a nice person and you'll either listen to them or you'll hang-up. They don't mind hang-ups. Hang-ups don't take up any of their time. They move right along to the next lucky caller. But there is one thing telemarketers cannot stand! There is one thing that drives them crazy! They totally go beserk... they totally freeze up and don't know what to do... when you feign interest and ask questions so stupid that you really have to streeeeeeeeeeeeetch your intelligence to come up with.

For instance, I had one call me recenlty from AT&T. He explained that this initial stood for "American Telephone and Telegraph." He wanted to set me right up with a home security system. You see, the president of their company had been on my very block that week and had noticed that not many people had their companies burglar alarm installed on their home and if I would just allow them to put up a sign stating that I had their system... well... they'd install one for free!!!!

Now I've done my share of stupid things in life. But I'd like to think that my bucket of gullibility doesn't go that deep. Besides, as I pointed out to the kind salesman... "Isn't it difficult to take time to tap out a message to the police when someone is breaking into your house?" My comment met with silence. And then a "What?" I explained that having a telegraph as my burglar alarm might not be the way to go. If somebody is breaking into my home and making off with the family jewels it is much quicker to use the telephone to call 911 than it would be to learn Morse Code and tap out S.O.S. on the American Telephone and TELEGRAPH gadget they were wanting to install. The nice man with the foriegn accent spent the next minutes explaining how I had misunderstood the meaning of "telegraph." Of course I never heard him. As soon as I was sure he was suitably frustrated and tied into knots, I lay the phone down on the table (quietly, of course) and made my way back to channel 45 to watch Misch Michaels talk about the next cold front coming in from the upper plaines. It was a solid ten minutes before I heard the loud "beepbeepbeep" noise coming from my receiver in the next room signaling that my friend had discovered my absence and had hung up. Gosh, I hope he had a nice day.

I understand that the state of Illinois is about to put together a "Do Not Call List" for telemarketers. It will cost you $5.00 to get on the list. If you are on the list and they call you they can get in big, big, trouble. Like they will probably lose their phone books for a week or something. I haven't decided whether or not I'll pay the five bucks. I'll really miss the little guys if I turn them off. And besides, my phone will keep right on ringing. It always rings. That's because it hates me. And from now on when it rings I'll KNOW I don't want to answer it because it will be somebody that I'll know and have to see face to face soon. And if I answer it... I'll miss "Local on the 8's." Life is full of hard choices. So if you call my house, and the phone just rings and rings and rings... I'm out. Really I am. There is nobody home. And you can't leave a message because I don't have an answering machine. But... you can always email me.

(Special Note: After re-reading this blog I realize that it could appear insulting to my nearest and dearest friends. I urge you to realize that I LOVE YOU! This blog has nothing to do with you... it has everything to do with telephones. Come to my house... let's sit and drink vanilla cokes and shoot the breeze. Feel free to drop by! Let's climb in the car and go grab a pizza. I love spending time with my friends. You are the spice of life! It's just this wire that comes into my house... it keeps ringing... and talking on a wire isn't a nice as sharing a pizza. Know what I mean?)