This week my grandmother turns eighty-nine. Consequently I am staying with my parents so I can attend the celebration. I enjoy my jaunts home, whether or not my parents also enjoy my visits changes from moment to moment.
My generation does not believe in landlines. One of the perks of coming home is getting to answer my parents’ home phone. My father uses this line to call his clients and telemarketers use this phone as a way of irritating my father. When I come home I use the home phone to annoy the bejaysus out of telemarketers.
My favourite thing to do when I hear the special long distance ring is to pick up the phone and in the highest tone in my register say “Hello?”
Invariably the telemarketer asks “Is Mr. Phillip D. Belnar there?” which is a complete bastardization of my father’s name. No one calls him Phillip, his name is Phil. Furthermore my father’s business associates would never use the “D.” in his name and most importantly my family’s name isn’t even Belnar, it’s Bilnur.*
I take this as a sign that mischief must be made. Using the top of my register again, a full three octaves above my father’s low tenor, I’ll answer “This is him.”
Occasionally the telemarketers will be slightly annoyed by this and ask again “Is Mr. Phillip D. Belnar there?”
And I’ll doggedly answer a second time “This is him” acquiescing slightly to their demand to speak with a man by lowering my voice, but only a little. “Is there a problem?” I’ll ask.
“Well Mr. Belnar”, they’ll answer, “It isn’t so much a problem as an opportunity”.
At this point, I’ll cut the salesperson off and let the most ridiculous ideas spew from my mouth, making sure not to take a breath to allow the telemarketer an opportunity to interrupt. “You know I’m so glad you called, I actually have an opportunity for you! Cardboard umbrellas, now wait a moment there, I know what you’re thinking- That dog won’t hunt.”
This is my favourite part of the conversation, increasingly call centres are being outsourced to countries where English is a second language. These companies can teach their employees all of the grammar in the world, but there’s nothing like an outdated Southern saying to throw a non native speaker off. You don’t realize that confusion makes a sound until you hear it.
I’ll continue with my absurd pitch, railroading both the telemarketers’ original purpose and their puzzlement. “Now how many times have you left an umbrella somewhere and lost it?” I’ll say once again without pausing. “Really the item in question is disposable, so my question to you is –Why not treat it as such?” It’s at this point in the non conversation, because the formerly tenacious salesperson has been forced to give up their end of the call from the absurdity of my behaviour, that they hang up.
I consider it a personal badge of honor that I have only had to end a call on a telemarketer a handful of times.
*For obvious reasons this is not my father’s real name. Although I create such minor mischief as impersonating my Dad, I’m not in the habit of putting his full name on the internet. Unless of course I was going whole hog and putting his phone number alongside with the message “For a good time call”.