Don't bother to call me, I'm not answering


November 05, 1995|By Brian Sullam

WHEN THE PHONE rings at my house, the calls are generally not for me unless the caller is a telephone solicitor.

I came to this realization last Saturday.

I was home alone and had to answer the phone.

Normally when I am home, I let my daughters answer. Most of the calls are for them, anyway.

My 14-year-old daughter gets the majority of the calls. If they aren't from her school chums, they are from a few boys who appear to have taken a fancy to her.

I deliberately avoid eavesdropping on her calls, but sometimes her voice is so loud I can't help but overhear her side of the conversation. Those calls are from her girlfriends.

When a boy calls, it is hard to tell she is on the phone. She is so quiet that it difficult to tell she is actually carrying on a conversation.

At this point in her life, calls from her girlfriends still outnumber calls from boys. But the ratio could change any time, according to my wife, who claims a special expertise in these matters.

My 11-year-old daughter doesn't get quite as many calls as her older sister. But she, too, gets her share every evening. One of her friends routinely calls our house about 15 minutes after dinner. We can almost set our watches to Molly's calls.

Why bother answering?

As a result of the kids' monopolizing the phone, my wife and I don't bother answering any more. We figure there's no sense because the calls are never for us, anyway.

This past Saturday, I spent most of the day alone. One daughter slept over at a friend's house, and my wife and other daughter were out shopping.

I had settled down with a week's worth of mail. In the middle of separating the bills from the junk mail, the phone rang.

At the other end was a solicitor calling on behalf of the Baltimore City chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. Actually, I was surprised to hear from this organization because I had given them the brushoff a week earlier.

I had been walking out the door to run a few errands when the phone rang. "How are you today?" the solicitor asked. "Harried," was my one-word response. After a moment of silence, the solicitor asked, "I guess this isn't a good time?"

"That's right," I responded and hung up.

Apparently, my abrupt answer didn't deter the FOP.

I listened to the pitch about how my contribution would supplement the organization's retirement fund. In return, I would receive a decal that I could put on my car to show that I had donated to the police union. I told the solicitor I wasn't interested in giving, and hung up the phone.

The phone had been back in its cradle for less than a minute when it rang again.

It was a telemarketing company that was peddling Bell Atlantic Visa cards. With a wallet full of credit cards, I really don't need another, I said.

But you can't get a 2 percent reduction in your phone bill from them, the solicitor responded. She then ran through a list of the credit cards' other features, none of which I found very compelling. I told her that I didn't want to sign up. She came back with an argument that I wouldn't have to pay an annual fee if I used the card just once a year. I finally told her no offer was good enough to entice me to get another credit card.

I enjoyed a few minutes of peace and was able to dispose of a week's worth of junk mail, which ironically included a half-dozen solicitations for credit cards. As I dumped these unopened letters into the waste basket, I thought to myself that it was a shame I can't get rid of the telephone solicitations as easily as these letters.

More calls

The phone rang again. It was a long-distance telephone company. After receiving dozens of unwanted calls from more long distance companies, I don't even let the solicitor finish the first sentence of the spiel. Thanks, I tell them, I am happy with my current carrier and have no interest in switching.

The woman, who must have developed quite a tolerance for abusive calls, politely thanked me for my time and hung up.

I ambled into the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee. The phone rang again.

"Am I speaking to the owner of the house?" the male voice inquired.

"Yes, I own a portion of it, but the bank's share is larger," I answered, silently congratulating myself for the witty retort.

Then he launched into a scripted pitch for remodeling my home.

I interrupted. "You're too late," I said. "We redid our house a year ago and have no need for your services."

About this time, my wife and daughter walked in the door.

Before my wife could ask if I accomplished anything, the phone rang again. I was closest to the phone, so I picked it up.

There was a click and then the unmistakable voice of one of those computer generated calls with their hyperactive voices.

"Hello, my name is Bob, have I got an offer for you."

Brian Sullam is The Sun's editorial writer in Carroll County.

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