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Funny Messy Life

80 EpisodesProduced by Michael BlackstonWebsite

Stories about life, relationships, and culture delivered in a way that will help brighten your day or at least make you ask, "What is he smokin'?" But don't worry. It's all in good fun and it's family friendly. I'm Michael Blackston and these are tales from my blog - in audio form - all based on rea… read more

14:46

Messing With Telemarketers - 029

   If you have a phone in your pocket, you know the frustration that comes with what I’m getting ready to talk about. Telemarketers and the annoying trends most of us have to deal with on a daily basis. There’s something to be said about the days of good old when you made a call by picking up an enormous receiver that weighed approximately fifty pounds and asked a woman on the other end whose job it was to physically switch around wires on a big board in front of her - her name was always Marge - and you asked her to patch you in to Big Al at the market so you could have some eggs, butter, and bread delivered because you wanted a buttery egg sandwich. Back then, a telemarketer would have to get through Marge and her nosey wall of defense in order to bother you, but today, well … that’s what this episode covers. I’m Michael Blackston and you’re patched into a party line called my Funny Messy Life.



   Today’s technology is great for a lot of things, but it also makes us vulnerable and gives easy access to predators. I want to talk about phone predators. There was a time when the word Telemarketer was pretty much a blanket statement. It brought to mind a peaceful, easy feelin’, interrupted suddenly by an energetic voice on the other end of the phone wanting to sell you a prescription to Egg Sandwiches Weekly or asking for a donation to the local volunteer fireman’s fund so they can feed the homeless egg sandwiches.

   But now, there’s a division within the word. Telemarketers still emerge from their dungeons at suppertime to offer a great deal you just can’t miss, but lately it’s more likely the other kind - some recorded voice selling insurance or a credit card, or you’re being informed that you’re the subject of an IRS investigation and all you have to do is give some guy with an Indian accent your Social Security number and they’ll fix everything for you.

   What’s happened is that now we’re almost happy to get a real person on the other end trying to sell us something. At least we can actually tell someone we’re not interested and if we ask to be taken off their list, they might - I say might - comply. With the scams, they’ll usually give you the option of pressing nine to be taken off their calling list, then they call again from a different number the next day.

   That’s another thing. They hijack local numbers so you think it’s a legitimate call. This isn’t new to anybody, but it’s stupid annoying and so I’ve started trying to play around with them to waste their time since they seem to have no problem wasting mine. Unfortuantely, they must’ve have gotten wise to my shenanigans and put a note on my number to hang up on me when I press one to speak to a representative who would be delighted to show me how I can make $20,000 a month right from my toilet seat.

   It’s usually the insurance calls that hand up on me, but I got to have some fun before they decided to block me. Yeah. THEY blocked ME! Here’s a sample of how one of these conversations went …

   The phone rings and I don’t recognize the number. Caller I.D. tells me it’s from Beaver Snout, Montana. I know it’s a telemarketer, but I’ve got a couple of minutes while the paint’s drying on the tombstone I’m etching, so I think, why not see how far I can take this?

   I answer the phone - “Hello.” - and low and behold a recorded voice starts the pitch.

   “This is A-Plus Ultimate New-Fangled Hum-DInger Insurance and Associates with an amazing offer - Don’t hang up the phone! …”

   I think to myself, “Oh, buddy, I don’t plan to.”

   “We want to give you some exciting news about how you can now get super-duper sweet insurance for you business at a fraction of the price you’d pay for regular business insurance. Press 1 to speak to a representative who’s waiting now to show you how we can change your life, or press 9 to be taken off of our call list.”

   Now I’m at a juncture. I know that if I press 9, not only will I not be taken off the list, but there probably won’t even be a recorded Thank You and the call will be ended with a cold, rude click. On the other hand, I can speak with the representative who’s waiting now with baited breath, and probably in an accent I’ll barely be able to understand, to tell me how they are going to change my life! I’m feeling spicy, so I press 1.

   A voice comes on the line that sounds anything but happy to be working for A-Plus Ultimate New-Fangled Hum-DInger Insurance and Associates, but at least he has an accent I can understand. “This is Carl. Are you looking for insurance for personal use or business?”

   “Business. I’m self employed, but I don’t have any insurance.”

   “We can certainly help you,” Carl sighs, then asks, “Can I get your name?”

   “Oddly enough, Carl, my name is Carl also.”

   He starts to input my information. “Carlton … may I have your last name?”

   “No, it’s not Carlton. My name is Carlotte. If I’d have been a girl, mom was gonna name me Charlotte, but when I scooted out of there and she saw I was a boy, she settled on Carlotte. Also, my dad sold Hondas.”

   He sighed again. “Is that really your name?”

   Now I know he’s on to me, but his job is to try and sell me something, so as long as he has me on the line, he thinks there might be a chance. “Yes, it is.”

   “May I have your last name, Carlotte?”

   “Driver.”

   “How many employees would you need to ensure?”

   “That depends on how many are left at the Home Depot when I drive up.”

   “Is there anyone who works for you on a regular basis?”

   “Of course.”

   “How many are there?”

   “Hey Carl - his name’s Carl too - how many people are you today?”

   “I don’t understand, Mr. Driver.”

   “You ever see that movie, SPLIT?”

   “Yes …”

   “It’s like that, only Carl don’t turn into no monster. Yes, I do. No, you don’t. Yes, I do! Shut up, Carl! Sometimes he’s the only one that comes to work, but sometimes he’s a whole crew. I guess you would call him a beast.”

   I hear him tapping something into a computer and at this point, I’m impressed at his tenacity. Salesman Carl either really wants his commission for some really bad insurance or he desperately hopes he can get me to tell him my Social Security number.

   I guess he regroups and decides to play along because the next thing I hear is, “Let’s do it this way, Mr. Driver …”

   “You can call us Carlotte.”

   “Certainly, Carlotte. I’d like to see if you come up in any of our databases as having previously been insured with us. It’s something we have to do by law. May I have your Social Security number?”

   DING DING DING!

   “We have several.”

   “Alright. What’s the first one?”

   “1”

   Carl taps, I wait.

   “Yes … next number.”

   “2”

   Tap, then, “Go ahead.”  

   “3, I think. Then 4.”

   “Mr. Driver, are you messing with me?”

   “YES WE ARE, YES WE ARE, YES WE REEEA-LLY REALLY ARE … SHUT UP, CARL! GO BACK TO YOUR HOLE!”

   Annnnnd CLICK.

   Sweet satisfaction. I’m the reason Carl the salesman will probably look for a different job two weeks after being hired by A-Plus Ultimate New-Fangled Hum-DInger Insurance and Associates.

   It’s not always sweet satisfaction, though. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and end up feeling bad for the guy.

   The other day, my wife and I were Christmas shopping for a couple of underprivileged kids and my phone rang, interrupting my Christmas spirit and the I.D. said the call was coming from Australia. I don’t know anybody from Australia, but I DO know how to do what I  consider a decent Australian accent, so in order to keep a smile on my face, it was, as they say, on.

   “Ello, mate.” I intended to use every single Americanized Australian cliche I could think of.

   “Hello, Mr. Blackston. This is James. How are you today?”

   Uh oh. This guy knows my name.

   “Fine, mate. I was just about to throw some shrimp on the barbie and then hit the bush to hunt me a few Dingos.”

   “That sounds like fun. I won’t keep you - I know you’re probably busy, but I notice you have your domain through GoDaddy and I wondered if you might need any help with your website.”

   I’ve gotten these calls before, usually from somebody with the aforementioned hard to understand accent, and when I say I’m not interested, they persist until I have to hang up on them with a hearty, “I said good DAY, sir!” But this guy seemed like he genuinely wanted to help me and sounded like he was working hard to support his family. He didn’t sound like he was from Australia, but it didn’t matter at that moment in time. There could be any number of reasons my phone identified the call as having come from the land down under. James sounded like a red blooded American, but he could’ve been on vacation with his family. Maybe they were taking a nap from the red blooded American touristy things they were doing over there and James couldn’t sleep, so he thought he’d squeeze in a little work, trying to offer aid to those in need of web design assistance. Perhaps he was a big wig at the company and was on a business trip, but had a bit of free time to get his hands dirty with the honest work that made him the man he is today. I don’t know why I knew from the start that I could trust him - I just did. It was something in his voice. And now here I was, using a fake Australian accent,  stuck in this insincere conversation with a man who just wanted to put food on his table. Shame on me, I thought to myself, then interrupted that thought to point out to my wife, a cute stuffed crocodile that struck my notice for some reason.

   “Hey, Kayla - ow ‘bout wranglin’ that croc into the buggy. Crikey, she’s a beaut!”

   Then it was back to James.

   “Listen, mate. I appreciate your concern, but I’ve got all the help I need with my website. Howevah, if I decide I need a touch of assistance, you’ll be the first one I reach out to.”

   And that’s where the call ended. I picture James softly hanging up the phone, wiping a tear from his eye just before it has a chance to roll down his cheek, and beginning to dial the next number of the person he has a strong yearning to change the life of with his sweet, sweet web designing skills.

   I told my wife I had to be more careful with the way I answer my calls and then we finished shopping for the children. I think we ended up adding a framed photo of the big, weird looking auditorium in Sydney and an Outback gift card.

   I guess I really should step aside for a second and explain that I have no problem with callers who have accents. I’ve made a bunch of mentions about people I have a hard time understanding and I need to explain a little further.

  1. I’m hard of hearing, so I prefer someone who speaks clear english because if they don’t, it’s like the old game of telephone you used to play as a kid, except it doesn’t go through eight people before it gets distorted.

   “Mister Blackston, I’m calling from across the street to tell you your house is on fire.”

   “Of course I know Fred Flintstone used his feet to spin the car’s tires! What’re you calling me for?”

  1. I don’t mind an occasional telemarketer, but the constant barrage and refusing to stop calling once I’ve asked to quit it for the love, drives me insane. So if they DO have an accent that sounds like it comes from a place where there’s a lot of sand, don’t insult my intelligence by telling me this is “Bubba.” I know what a Bubba sounds like and you ain’t no Bubba! If you want me to believe you are who you say you are, try being yourself.

   Of course, I realize they may have a name that’s hard for a red blooded American to pronounce, but it won’t matter if we get far into the conversation anyway. If I’m having trouble, I’ll just call you Bubba.

   Well, I’m glad I got that off my chest. Don’t be a stranger - if you enjoyed this or want to communicate with me, go to the website at funnymessy.com and use the contact page or email me directly at funnymessylife@gmail.com. Yeah, I did that so it’d be even easier for you. The website has all the stuff you need to subscribe, too, so you get notified immediately when I submit a new episode. See, I want to be your friend and I promise - I won’t call you Bubba.

   I’m Michael Blackston and thanks for sitting in on another aspect of my Funny Messy Life.

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