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It's funny how sensitive some telemarketers can get.

Cold Calls

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CLICK.

Don't you hate it when someone slams a phone down in your ear?

I don't.

For the past week I've been playing a game I call "Goad the Telemarketer into Hanging Up First." At last, a game even I can win.

In fact, every single solicitor who has barged into my home over the telephone this week has ended up slamming down the phone in anger. Hasta la vista, baby.

What a switch. After decades of cold dinners and lost family time, I've finally taken control of my own telephone.

It began by accident last Monday night. I was just relaxing after a stressful day at work. The kids were in bed, the dishes were done, and I'd poured myself a glass of cheap chardonnay. The wine was on its way to my lips when the phone rang.

I glanced at the clock. Precisely 8:59 p.m. — one minute before it would have been illegal to solicit by phone in Virginia.

It was one of those mortgage companies you've never heard of. They were calling to offer me money. Lots of money. More money than my house is worth. All I had to do was answer some personal questions about my salaries, savings and investments.

"Please take my name off your list," I sighed.

"I can't do that," the officious woman replied. "You'll have to call back during business hours."

Something snapped.

"What are you wearing?" I asked.

CLICK.

I grinned and raised my glass in a toast to dial tone. The next night, the phone jangled during dinner. It was one of those pseudo-cops asking for a contribution to a police charity.

"I'm really busy right now," I said, as he launched into his scripted spiel. "May I have your home number so I can call you back later when I have time?"

He cussed at me. Then, CLICK.

Next, it was one of those pesky carpet-cleaning services.

"Excuse me," I said right away. "May I please have your credit-card number, the expiration date and the name as it appears on your card?"

"Why?" the indignant rug lady wanted to know.

"Because I can't do business with anyone who won't provide me with that information."

CLICK.

Now, every time the phone rings I take a deep breath and chant to myself: This phone is mine. I pay for it. I control it. Once I ascertain that the person on the other end of the line is a telephone solicitor I pepper him or her with questions.

Anything goes.

"I don't have to answer that," shrieked a woman trying to sell me vitamins this weekend after I asked her how much she weighed.

"Hey, you called me," I reminded her.

CLICK.

For many of us, these incessant phone calls are a persistent source of irritation. We work hard. We're weary when we get home. We just want to spend the little free time we have in the sanctity of our homes, unmolested by telephone peddlers.

Trouble is, most of us are too polite to these callers. As far as I'm concerned, the usual rules of polite conversation don't apply to strangers who barge into my home.

Funny. For folks who make their living by annoying others and trying to wheedle information out of them, these solicitors turn out to be a surprisingly sensitive bunch.

When the phone's on the other ear, that is.

CLICK.



Noted
Tucked inside the latest edition of the Virginia Travel Guide, an annual publication of the Virginia Tourism Corp., is this observation: "Virginia Wonder: Richmond is said to be second only to New Orleans in America in the use of decorative cast iron." The mind boggles. We must know: Who counted it all?

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