THE PHONE started ringing during dinner and over the next two hours, eight people would call asking for money.
The first caller said: ''Have you thought about storm windows for your home?'' I'm thinking about roast beef for my stomach right now, I said. Maybe some mashed potatoes, too. And a garden salad with Bleu cheese dressing.
In fact, I said, there's a very similar meal on the table in front of me -- which the flies happen to be fighting over even as we speak.
Two minutes after I hung up with Mr. Storm Windows, the phone rang again and the second caller said: ''Sir, this is the Red Cross. Would you be willing to give blood?''
I couldn't give any blood now, I said. You're supposed to have something in your stomach when you give blood and there is absolutely nothing in my stomach. If I gave blood right now, I would keel over and cause a nasty scene that would frighten away all your other donors and probably the janitor as well.
In fact, while I've got you on the phone, you better send an ambulance. The paramedics will recognize me right away. I'll be the guy passed out near the phone.
About a minute later, the phone rang again and the third caller (this is true, swear to God) said: ''We're having a special on cemetery plots this month.''
Buddy, I said, you couldn't have called at a better time. I'm just about starving to death right now; it's probably a matter of minutes before the vultures start circling. Go ahead, sign me up for a plot. Make it a quiet, shady area that faces that great Italian restaurant across the highway.
On and on it went, one phone call after another for the next two hours, one person trying to sell me something, another asking for a contribution to this charity or that.
In light of this hellish experience, here are a few suggestions for all you telephone solicitors out there:
* What is it with you people and dinner time? DON'T CALL DURING DINNER! Ever wonder why folks are so grouchy when you call? Or why they threaten to come after you with a fire ax? Or why they slam the phone down even before you can blurt out that you're with VISA? (Yeah, that's just what I need, another credit card to max out.)
You wouldn't win any congeniality awards either if you were jumping up to answer the phone every five minutes while your dinner was getting colder than February.
* Let's keep the introductions brief, OK? I don't need to hear: ''Hi, this is Irene Cupperman, assistant vice president of our local chapter of Save the Rain Forests.''
I don't need to hear all that. You and I aren't buddies, Irene. You're not coming over for drinks any time soon. Just tell me what company or organization you're with and let's get on with it.
* This one's important: Don't ask me how I am. I HATE when you ask me that (the answer, by the way, is hungry.) You don't care how I am. You're just trying to weasel me into hiring your lawn service company or tossing 50 bucks your way for the policemen's ball.
What do you think, I just fell off the turnip truck?
* Let's get to the bottom line in a hurry. How much do you want? I haven't got time for a lot of chit-chat. I got a meal on the table that's turning into a block of ice.
* Don't ask me any stupid questions, OK? I received a call from one charitable organization (which will go nameless here) and the woman's first words were: ''Sir, do you want to help blind children?''
I felt like saying: ''No, lady, I want to lock 'em all in cages. That's the whole problem with this country: Too many blind kids running around. It's ruining things for the rest of us.''
Instead I went ballistic and shouted: ''OF COURSE I WANT TO HELP BLIND CHILDREN! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU DIALED, HITLER?''
So knock off the stupid questions and get to the point.
* But let me say this: If I gave to every single charity that called me trying to raise funds, I'll tell you what would happen.
Pretty soon we'd have to have a fund-raiser for ol' Kev here. Because ol' Kev would be flat broke, OK? Which means they would soon turn off the electricity in ol' Kev's house and take away his car and force him to exist on tap water and saltine crackers. Hmmm, yummy.
And you KNOW what would happen then, of course. Ol' Kev would be calling YOUR house and soliciting contributions for his new organization called ''Get Ol' Kev Back On His Feet.''
I'd probably call around dinner time.