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Punch Drunk: Jack's Turkey Texts



For more than 30 years, Butterball has been helping befuddled turkey chefs like me cook their birds — and cook ’em right. Or at least cook them enough to not poison their entire family. Not killing people is always an important part of Thanksgiving.

Butterball famously has run its helpline since 1981. But this year, for the first time ever, people can text instead of call. And this isn’t like Siri answering your questions with her canned responses — no, these are real people in the Butterball Turkey Talk and Text Center, talking and texting turkey with you.

The company says that 50 people will be working the help lines Thanksgiving Day. Imagine a Wall Street trading floor but with grandmas and eggnog instead of red-faced guys in suits and cocaine. Actually there probably will be cocaine there too.

I love this. Let’s be honest, talking on the phone to anyone, especially a stranger who’s also a turkey enthusiast, is horrible. Anything we can do automated these days, we do, right?

Although this is the Butterball hotline’s first year on text, the company started using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube videos in years past to help dumb people such as me. It also noticed more males calling in — because we’re not great at these things. So Butterball has hired more men to man the lines. It’s also hired more Spanish-speaking turkey advisers.

Turkey adviser, or in this case, asesor de pavo. What an awesome seasonal job title. I’m more a stuffing advocate myself.

It’s remarkable that Butterball is staying current and fresh because, you know, it’s a poultry company.

Where you at, Perdue? Cargill? Jennie-O?

Can’t text Tyson Foods, can I? (Although sometimes I get drunk and try.)

Butterball’s Talk Line co-director Sue Smith tells media that the company is “just evolving based on consumers’ needs. It’s the natural progression for the talk line.”

Butterball says the most-asked question remains the same: How long does it take to thaw the turkey? The answer: Allow at least 24 hours for every 4 pounds.

Others call asking how long to cook the bird. Some simply need reassurance. One woman apparently has called every Thanksgiving for the last 20 years for a one-on-one pep talk.

“Listen Agnes, I don’t want to hear any excuses. Your arthritis is just pain and weakness leaving the body. You’re a helluva turkey-cooking machine. Now tie that apron tight, fill up that turkey baster, get your butt in that kitchen and play like a champion today!”

As for me, I’ve never tried to cook the turkey because I’d prefer not to give my loved ones intestinal parasites. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a few Thanksgiving-related questions for Butterball.

Such as: Dear Butterball, Uncle Bill has already had two boxes of wine and now he’s threatening the neighbors. What should we do?

Dear Butterball, Why do bad things happen to good people?

Do humans have giblets?

Do you see yourself as a lovable Thanksgiving company or turkey murderers? Or both?

Will Trump ever concede this race?

When a turkey is pardoned, where does it end up going? 

After we mutilate their corpses, do the turkeys go to heaven? 

What do you do with the beaks? Can I have them?

I’m starting to get a wattle. Any recommendations on how to reverse that?

Is a turducken the closest thing we have to modern-day chimera?

Will Butterball have the answers to my queries? Maybe not. But I have nowhere else to turn.

The number is 1-800-BUTTERBALL and it will be open 24/7 from Nov. 17-24. And please remember, it’s not a sex hotline — unless you make it one. S

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