If I get one more of those goddamn automated comments in my Blog that is actually an advertisement, I'm going to shoot someone. I spend half my time deleting that shit. It's not bad enough that out of 30 emails, 29 of them are spam? I have to clear out spam from my own damn website, too?
If you're not sure what I'm talking about here, go to the Blog and have a look around. There's a place for readers to add comments to any given day's entry, and lately I've been getting a slew of automated advertisements for casinos, software, and terrorism websites (presumably the ads are for sites about fighting terrorism, not recruiting sites for it, but who knows? I never click the links to find out). I delete the ads as soon as I see them, but it's a real pain in the ass.
The recent deluge of uninvited proof of capitalism has gotten me thinking about last year's implementation of the national do-not-call list. I would like to say here and now, with no sarcasm whatsoever, that I'd be first in line to physically pleasure whichever Congressman came up with that brilliant idea. And since I'll be in D.C. in a couple of weeks, you may be able to catch me on CNN acting out this gratitude. Unless we're talking about Ted Kennedy because... ew. Oh, and Arlen Specter because isn't he about 600 years old? And, um, no offense, but Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Dole and Carol Moseley Braun are also out because I'm not really into the whole lesbian love thang.
Actually, I'd only go through with the physical pleasure offer if we were talking about Orrin Hatch and then only because he's Mormon and wouldn't deign to have a sinner like me in the first place.
So basically, scratch that offer.
My point is that I'm really really grateful for the national do-not-call list. I've had the same phone number for almost 10 years now and it had gotten onto everyone and their mother's telemarketing list. The whole thing started with Oscar Montez and snowballed from there. I used to get an ungodly number of telemarketing phone calls (assuming you define ungodly as I do, which is to say, any).
I should probably explain who Oscar Montez is. Or was. And I have to take some guesses in the story because I have no idea what happened to him. Apparently nobody else does, either. See, when I moved into my first house ten years ago, I started getting these phone calls asking for Oscar Montez. Mr. Montez had somehow gotten himself on quite a few people's telemarketing lists and now it seemed I'd inherited his old phone number.
Since I had no idea who Oscar Montez was, and it was obvious that anyone who was calling for him must be a telemarketer since this wasn't his phone number anymore, I took to telling people he was dead. "Oh, Oscar?
That usually got people off the phone pretty fast. And it was entertaining as well.
Unfortunately, the "Oscar Is Dead, Miss Him, Miss Him" tactic backfired on me. You see, after awhile it wasn't just telemarketers calling for Oscar. No, beyond just the regular old sales pitches, I began getting phone calls in Spanish from kindly sounding people asking for Señor Montez. People who were bewildered when I tried to tell them in slow and rather loud English that there was no Montez at this number. About the best I could do was "No Montez aqui". They would hang up and immediately call back as if I'd explained that he'd just run over to the 7-11 for cigarettes and would be right back. Either that or they hoped they'd misdialed and if they called back, no crazy gringo chick would try to tell them that their loved one was missing in action. But alas, it wasn't as if I was hiding Mr. Montez from them - he simply was no longer at the number.
This happened several times a week. And it lasted - I'm not kidding you, people - for years.
The most heartbreaking call I got was actually a message on my answering machine. I came home on Christmas Eve about 18 months into having this phone number and saw my blinking answering machine. When I listened to the messages, there was a long, rambling thing in Spanish. Many, many people were on this phone call, ok? The phone had literally been passed around a room full to bursting with people and then all those people sang something to Oscar Montez. And he had not had this phone number for at least a year and a half.
I swear, it got so every time the phone rang I thought it might be Oscar Montez, asking if he'd gotten any messages.
I often wondered what exactly happened to Oscar Montez. Why didn't he send his new phone number on to his friends or relatives or whoever these people were? They were clearly not creditors or the Mexican Mafia or anything like that. They seemed friendly. They sincerely wanted to talk to him. The calls often sounded like they were from another country and, at least from the sound of the Christmas call, the people on the other end wanted to wish Oscar well. Who would just up and leave and not tell anyone? Why did he vanish from these people's lives without forwarding his new number? It sort of made me sad.
Of course, that hasn't stopped it from becoming nearly legendary in my family. Every once in a while when my parents are over and I get a phone call that's a wrong number, my mom will ask if it was for Oscar Montez. It never is, anymore. The calls for Oscar Montez eventually dropped off (it took about 5 years), but the telemarketing calls kept coming.
The worst telemarketing calls were the automated ones. I'd pick up the phone, say hello and then hear dead air. I never immediately hung up because sometimes this legitimately happens - the connection is slow to be made, or the person calling didn't hear you or whatever. But more often than not, I'd say hello again and there would be some chirpy, but robotic automaton answering, "Hello. Please stay on the line. We have important news for you."
Not goddamn likely.
Sometimes I would stay on the line just to yell at the person on the other end. Don't bother firing up your email to point out that this is some poor slob's job and how would I like it if someone yelled at me while I was working. First off, no matter how well you're paid or what your job is, you can be yelled at by someone while at said job. Trust me, ok? I know this for a fact. Secondly, I'd like to explain that I was a telemarketer. And before you fire up another email calling me a hypocrite and a cretin, please know that I was a telemarketer for exactly 8 hours before I quit the job in absolute disgust and went home to take a hot, soapy shower. Honestly, people, it made me feel dirty. I was supposed to try to get old ladies to buy subscriptions to the local newspaper. There was an automated dialer and you'd just be sitting there when -bang - in you ear you'd hear some wheezy afternoon T.V. watcher. And then you had to make the sales pitch before they hung up on you.
I was horrible at the job. I'm just not pushy enough, in the first place. In the second place, I'm not a big enough believer in capitalism to try to scam anyone into buying something they don't need. I just couldn't face day after day of a job that make me feel like such human scum. So I quit.
And this is my point about yelling at telemarketers. It's not like they're paid so well that they couldn't just to go McDonald's and get a job flipping burgers and at least have better perks. Getting them to want to quit their jobs isn't like you're taking food out of their children's mouths. And if they quit that's just one less person to call me and interrupt my dinner.
Of course, all this theorizing is moot, now. Happily, now that my phone number is on the national do-not-call list we get virtually no unwanted phone calls. Oh, the occasional charity gets through but I can live with that.
As long as they're not looking for Oscar Montez.
- KNP April 27, 2004