Nothing Up My Sleeve

Jon Gallagher

Reach Out and Touch Someone Else….


During my period of unemployment, I’ve had a chance to sit down and make a list of jobs I wouldn’t mind having.  Among those are Pitcher for a major league baseball team (I’m not particular – minimum salary is $425K per year), Illinois Governor (couldn’t do worse than Blago and you get a free house down in Springfield), college professor (but I’ve got a few more years of education to go and I’m running out of time), writer (not for the Zephyr, but a best selling author who gets to go on book tours), circuit court judge (“Guilty!  Next?) and actor (I’d have to be a character actor, I’m afraid, and that might not be a good thing).

I’ve also made a list of occupations that I’ll NEVER take, even if I have to pick up aluminum cans along the road to make ends meet.  Among those are EMT (fainting EMTs are not in high demand), Repo-man (taking my life in my hands while legally trying to steal cars is not my idea of a jolly good time), airline employee who has to explain that they’ve lost a passenger’s luggage (would that person EVER have a good day on the job?), vacuum cleaner salesman (mainly because those who employ the salesmen are among the lowest forms of life on Earth), and telephone solicitor.

It must take a special kind of person to be a telephone solicitor – or at least a good one.  You have to cold call someone you don’t know, interrupt them while they don’t particularly want to be interrupted, try to sell them something they didn’t realize they needed up until two minutes ago, and be able to handle being cussed out and hung up on several times an hour.

They also have to put up with people like me.

I once talked with a phone solicitor who was not on the job.  He told me that he actually didn’t mind people who hung up  on him because that allowed him to press the button that dialed another number, thus getting him closer to a sale.  Those who were quick with their hang ups were his favorites.  He hated people who kept him on the phone for several minutes and then didn’t buy.

Which is exactly what gave me my ammunition for the next time I was called.

Whenever a phone solicitor calls me, especially since I’m on this alleged DO NOT CALL list, I try to make their life as miserable as I can.  When an unknown or unavailable number pops up on my caller ID screen, it’s time to have some fun.  It depends on what I’m doing at the moment as to how much fun I have.

Sometimes when the solicitor asks for me, I tell them, “Just a minute, I’ll get him,” then put the phone down and continue whatever I was doing.  I used to keep track of how long it was before they hung up, but that got boring after a while since most of them don’t even last a minute.

There are other times when I speak with them, but I respond v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y.  I’ll say a word, wait a few seconds, then follow it with another word, wait, and so on.  I actually had one solicitor who suggested that I go back to having sex with myself before he clicked off the line.

Another response I’ve been known to give is in a foreign language.  I can hold my own in French, but there are times when a solicitor might be able to tell that I don’t speak it fluently, so I just make up my own language, peppered with a few English words, a dash of French, a handful of Spanish words, but mainly gibberish.  The solicitor’s puzzled response is usually worth the trouble.

Although I’ve never tried it, a friend of mine suggested arguing with the telemarketer.  It doesn’t matter what they say, just take the opposite side and argue with them about it.

A few solicitors who have called me have been told that they need a better job.  Once, a marketer for a local vacuum sweeper company called and told me I’d be entered into a drawing for $100 worth of groceries if we let the demonstrator (not a salesman), come out and show us their product.  Whether or not we won the drawing, we’d receive a case of Campbell’s tomato soup just for allowing them into our home.

I told this solicitor that the was no $100 prize (I’d done an investigative article for the Zephyr about the scam), and that he needed to get a better job.  He ended up arguing with me about his job and he started bragging about how good he was at it.  We went at it for probably five minutes before I finally said, “If you’re so good, why are you wasting so much time talking to me instead of someone who might let you come out?”

There was a long period of silence before he slammed the receiver down on his end.

I had an ad in the Yellow Pages for a few years, advertising myself as a magician.  I am constantly amazed by the number of people who call, not to hire me as entertainment, but to try and sell me something.  I’m not sure what the “something” is that they’re trying to sell, because the conversation never gets that far.

Usually these idiots who call don’t pay attention to the ad.  They’re just calling a business, and assume that they’re reaching a retail outlet or an office or something.  They never ask for me or for the magician; they always ask for the owner.  That’s usually my cue to start messing with their brains (what little brains they have anyway).

Once, after I’d gotten several calls in one day, one of the morons called and asked to speak to the office manager.  I told him to hold on and took the phone to my four year old daughter. 

Hey, she was close enough to being an office manager!

She took the phone and started jabbering away about what Max and Ruby were doing on TV.  I’m not sure what the solicitor said to her, but she seemed surprised that he’d never heard of Max and Ruby, so she started singing the theme song to him.  I wish I could have seen his face.

He eventually hung up; I’m not sure what took him so long.  My daughter was well into the fourth time through the song before I took the phone away from her.

My favorite call came several years ago when I was still delivering pizzas for a living.  I would get home from work after 1:30AM, then wind down for about an hour before heading for bed.  This means I wouldn’t get up until around 10AM or so.

There are telemarketer laws that say they can’t call you before 8AM.  One morning, my phone rang at 8:01AM.  I was dead tired and wasn’t even sure how I was going to mess with him yet because my brain was still asleep.

And then it hit me.  I knew what I was going to do.

Midway through his pitch, I started to snore.  It was this loud, obnoxious growl from the back of my throat that must have sounded awful over the phone.  He stopped mid sentence as he tried to figure out what he was hearing.

Meanwhile, I continued to snore.  He said, “Uh, Mr. Gallagher?  Mr. Gallagher?”

Now I want to tell you, it’s really hard to fake snore when you’re also trying to suppress laughter.

Then the guy said, “Mr. Gallagher!  Yoo-hoo!  Wakey-wakey!  Mr. Gallagher!”

Somehow, I was able to make the snorts and chortles sound like I was still sound asleep and snoring louder than the Boston Pops.

The telemarketer went and got his boss to come and listen.  Then the boss tried to wake me up too!

I started “talking” in my sleep, making it sound as if I had someone in bed with me.  I’ll bet I had half the telemarketers in their office listening in before I finally got bored and hung up.  If I’d have known who the company was, I would have sent them a bill for entertaining them for the better part of fifteen minutes.