Chuck Norris listens too!

I received a text from my brother Ryan last week while browsing through the comic stacks at the local Barnes & Noble.  A few blocks down the road, Kevin was training for football season at his high school; the heat index that day had risen well above a hundred, adding another complaint to his daily list of grievances: stupid weather inserting itself between annoying little sisters and stupid women who drive foreign automobiles.  Anticipating a long drive home, I had decided to slip inside the bookstore for an iced tea and a scone when my phone rang.  The following conversation resulted:

Ryan: “Murph!  Listen to Bolero by Ravel! The essence of awesomeness! Listen to it loud!”

Me:  “Okay, I’ll see if I can find it at home.  My phone doesn’t seem to see it.  Try Requiem for a Tower.  It’s like peering at God’s personal playlist.” Continue reading

New Tactics

phoneAs the economy continues to sink through the cold waters like a mob-informant in cement capris, companies struggle to extort every last dollar from the American public.  Mostly it comes down to getting the message out, tantalizing the consumers with promises of low prices, huge savings, and free trips to Guam — Hafa Adai!, if we could just have your credit card number.  In particular telemarketers attracted by the stench of financial ruin, buzz and swarm about the modern phone-owner like flies on carrion.  Indeed the medieval theories of spontaneous generation has not faded, merely ascended to the commercial stage.   Not reproducing, telemarketers merely emerge from the nation’s fiscal muck and mire, budding false promises on that second mortgage or insurance advice on auto repair.

In the past we’ve done well to just ignore them.  Hearing the familiar click of recorded voices, I hang onto the line for while . . . feigning interest while flipping grilled cheese on my griddle, allowing their phone bills to climb a few extra cents.  When the line dies, I imagine another has bitten the dust. One less name on their lists, one less call to make each day, one less interruption while I write. Recently though, desperation has begot ingenuity.  No longer do I hear a recorded message, some robotic mountebank on their silicone soapbox, promising happiness through liquid tonics and interest-free loans.  No, the caller asks for me by name, first name no less, and then once convinced I am listening, begins to feed me the sales pitch on insurance, mortgage, or the latest cable plan.  In some cases, they sound like old friends . . . masking their ploys with a friendly greeting and a familiarity reserved for second-cousins, college roommates, and your local bartender:

“Hey Murph, how ya doin’?  Do you want to earn an extra fifty dollars each month?  Of course you do, man.  Who wouldn’t right?  Then consider BucketList Life, bud, for all your life insurance needs.  If you do, we’ll invite you to that party Saturday night.  All the cool kids are coming . . . and that hot chick.  I can set you up, dude.  Just switch to BucketList Life: hot girls and cool premiums . . . ”

An effective gambit for all but Shannon’s best friend, Charley, who encountered one persistent salesman last Saturday:

“Hello, Murphey residence,” Charley answered, picking up the phone.

“Yes, this is Felisha, is Mr. Murph home?”

“Uh, yeah,” Charley stammers.  “Who may I ask is speaking?”

“Yeah, this is Felisha.”

“Um ok, yes,” he says slowly, naturally confused by the total lack of introduction.   “Uh . . . and who do you work for?”

“Just tell Mr. Mike that this is Felisha.  I have to talk to him.”  Note the use of my Dad’s first name. Cheeky.

Charley looks at me.  I ask who they work for, and Charley just shrugs.  In the background Mom screams to let me take the phone but Charley seems to be having fun . . .  Still, he seems quite lost as to why the caller refuses to give a last name, a company, or descriptive adjective explaining the purpose of the call.

“Yes, um.  Who do you work for again?”

“I’m Felisha.  Just tell him Felisha is on the phone.”

“Ok, yeah.  Well the thing is he’s upstairs at the moment so could I take a message or . . .”  Charley here attempts to blackmail the caller into revealing her intent by threatening a lengthy wait while he hikes upstairs.  Our caller, Felisha, is not to be swayed.

“You don’t have a phone upstairs?”

“Uhhhh .  . . no.”  This is partially true.  Our portables by nature do not work ten feet from their station.  Some manage to work well on the second floor but we never recall which; thus we play several awkward games of testing several phones on the stairwells before delivering the waiting voices of sisters, friends, and fire marshals to the parents.  Nonetheless, Felisha remains steadfast in her task.

“Well how about a cell phone?”

“Um, yeah, well we have them, but since you called on the home phone, you wouldn’t be able to talk to him.  You need to call on the cell phone.  Even if I give him a cell phone — which he doesn’t have — that won’t work either, you see?”

“Well can I call him on his cell phone . . ?”

“I guess . . .”  Charley shrugs.  Knock yourself out lady.

“What’s the number?”

“Um, I forgot . . .”  Never give telemarketers another person’s cell phone number, unless they really really deserve it.

“Can you just tell him that Felisha is on the phone?

Charley goes upstairs and walks around asking what he should do.  He visits Dad who tells him that he has no idea who Felisha is;  take a message he says.  Charely walks back downstairs.

“Hi Felisha, can I take a message?”

Click.  End of conversation.  Telemarketer: 0/ Charley:1

Dial a Doctor

The phone rang sometime during lunch, immediately after I had taken my first bite of a delicious egg and mustard sandwich. My mouth now full of egg, ham, and bread, I answer with garbled “Hewoo?”

The voice on the other end sounded stern, impatient, and quick like a German headmistress or someone who used words like “fiddle faddle.”  She was calling from the hospital.  “Is your father available?”

I choked down the bolus of chewed bread and protein, coughing out a semi-audible “No, no he isn’t.  May I . . .” before she interrupts.

“Can I leave a number?”

“Sure,” I say grabbing at a floret of pencils which in my haste spill out onto the floor (I may have cursed.).  An audible impatience sighs across the line.  I grab at an old notebook.  “Whenever you’re ready . . .”

Nancy — that I learn is her name — hurriedly fires off ten numbers and informs me that she will be “here” (I assume an office at the hospital) until four.

“Oh,” I stammer, “May I ask what this call is regarding.”  Now I think this a prudent question; although I know that Dad is scheduled for some minor surgery this Monday.  In fact, he asked me to drive him to and from the hospital.  However, I also realize that the time of his appointed surgery may been moved in the past, so knowing that this message concerned Monday’s visit — as oppose to the surgery several weeks ago — would be important.

“I am calling from the hospital,” she answers, stressing the word hospital as if it was sufficient explanation for anyone.

“Oh, ok . . .” I burble, wondering if I had inadvertently attempted to violate some patient/doctor confidentiality  and got caught in the process.  “Thank . . .”


“. . . you.”