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
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 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