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My Bell's Been Rung

by Stephen Lautens


May 4, 2001

We've finally managed to get the cable and long distance salespeople to stop calling. All we had to do is fake our own deaths and pretend the people with our phone number were lonely evangelists anxious to talk to anyone.

Now if we can only get the phone company to stop trying to find something - anything - to sell us.

Our problem is we view the phone as a bit of a necessary evil. Sure you need it for emergencies and the occasional birthday call, but on the whole we get far more incoming calls than we dial ourselves.

Some of them are family - bless them. They have an uncanny ability to know exactly when our dinner hits the table. Or when you're watching the last ten minutes of a twelve-part murder mystery on TV that you have invested the last three months in. The rest of the calls are charities, surveys and people looking for someone named "Rhonda". 

We're obviously on some sucker list or being punished for doing something really bad in another life.

So we've resorted to screening our calls. We hardly ever run for the phone any more until we hear who it is leaving a message on the answering machine. Too often we've bounded up the stairs only to be asked if we've considered the benefits of owning our own chinchilla farm. 

At least now if we're going to bang our shins flying to the phone, it's going to be for someone we want to talk to.

Lately we've been getting a lot of calls from the phone company itself trying to sell us new services. After about ten hang-ups in a row, I finally broke down and answered the phone before the machine could pick up.

An enthusiastic young man was calling from the phone company, and asked if I would like to buy "phone jack insurance". At first I thought it was a joke, like offering Stockwell Day a good deal on a long-term office lease. 

But no, the phone company wanted to offer me insurance at only $3.95 a month in case anything goes wrong with the phone jacks in my house. I pointed out the last time I wanted a new phone jack installed, the phone company told me to go to the hardware store and do it myself. All the more reason for insurance, I guess.

I passed on the phone jack insurance, as well as their pitch to insure my $20 phones from accidental damage for another four bucks a month.

The phone company's last pitch was to get me to sign up for their answering service. "Why should I pay you ten bucks a month when I have an answering machine that I've already paid for?" I said, getting back to my original point.

"With ours people can leave messages while you're talking on the phone."

"But I like to screen my calls."

"Then you can get our call display service for an additional fee."

"Then I have to get off the couch and look at the screen," I pointed out. "How am I supposed to hear who it is?"

The phone company salesman paused for a minute. "You could always get our service and leave your answering machine plugged in." 

There was silence. "Sounds kind of dumb, doesn't it?" he admitted.

No dumber than phone jack insurance, I guess.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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