Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Say 'Hello'"

I have regularly been vilified – that’s “mildly criticized”, for the highly sensitive – for my unacceptable phone etiquette.

(Note: This post will be a litany of excuses, followed by regret.  Just in case you roll your eyes at the excuses – rest easy.  I get my comeuppance in the end.)

Some famous writer long ago said… something like,

“I hate the idea that anyone with a nickel is his pocket can make a bell ring in your house.”

That’s how I feel about telephones. 

Throw in the quote from the Walter Brennan character in Red River:

“I never liked strangers.  Because no stranger ever ‘good-newsed’ me.”

That’s how I feel about strangers calling me on telephones.

(Just offering a contextual underpinning before we proceed.)

I’m a traditionalist.  The phone rings, I answer it.  (Don’t talk to me about “Caller I.D.”  It is not in the mix.)  Who knows?  It could be a family member in need of assistance.  Though that emergency situation has been fortunately rare, the possibility thereof lays me open to the world. 

A world that, in pursuit of personal objectives, never considers my inconvenience.

(Note to Myself:  Write an acceptable post about “self-interest”… in a culture that believes that “self-interest” benefits the “common interest.”  Remember the musical Li’l Abner:  “What’s good for General Motors is good for the U.S.A.”?  Self-interest is the engine of capitalism.  Good luck trying to harpoon that sacred… whale.)

Moving right along…

Ten times a day – and some days, substantially more often – even on Sundays – you are sitting at the table, or heading contentedly to the “facilities”, or dropping dreamily off to sleep, and


I pick up the receiver and in a voice of guarded apprehension say,


(OBVIOUSLY READING FROM A SCRIPT)  “Hello, Mr. Po…Poner... Po… mer…an….”


Frequently followed by an appropriate expletive.

I have heard telemarketers have the ability to call clusters of people at the same time and whoever answers the phone first, that’s who they talk to.  Sometimes, I wait them out.  Best-case scenario:  I pick up the phone after three rings and there’s nobody there, because some other “Unfortunate” picked up before I did.  But sometimes, my response is compulsively Pavlovian.  The phone rings once.


“Hello, Mr. Pom… Pominatz…”

And they got me again!

Sometimes – more frequently than any other kind of call – it’s the family member of a building contractor – “My husband’s a contractor” or “My Dad is a contractor” – I guess the actual contractor is too shy or embarrassed to speak on the phone – informing me that they are currently in my neighborhood, offering free estimates on home repair.  (After a thorough inspection:  “Doesn’t look like you need anything.”  How often do you think that happens?)

Sometimes, it’s a “Clean Air” operation, informing me about government rebates on solar panels.  Sometimes, it’s the Santa Monica “Canine Patrol”, soliciting money for police dogs.  Sometimes… I don’t know who it is because I hang up when they pronounce my name wrong.

Sometimes, it’s not people – it’s prerecorded “Robo-calls.”  A bank, promoting new, excitingly low interest rates.  During the political season:  “This is Bernie Sanders.”  I go, “Really?”  It’s not Bernie Sanders.  It is prerecorded Bernie Sanders.  I wonder if they’ve ever estimated how “personal disappointment” affects voter turnout. 

And of course there is the recorded message announcing the IRS is about to sue me.

Is there any surprise I am impatient whenever the phone rings? 

No really.  Is there?

Okay, so yesterday morning, I am immersed in my blog writing.  The phone rings.  I pick it up to make it stop ringing.  And I hear a pre-recorded woman’s voice say,

“I am the mother of a child with severe allergies who needs EpiPen to save his life…”

Hearing it’s a “Robo-call”, I reflexively hang up.

I then feel immediate regret. 

A mother whose child desperately needs medicine, and I slam down the phone before hearing how I can help.  Was I not listening?  Or was I too busy feeling “justifiably aggrieved”?

I attempt to salvage the debacle, retrieving the 2016 “General Election Sample Ballot.”  Maybe her call was to ask me to vote for one of the (seventeen) California initiatives.  (Which I unquestionably would have.)

I assiduously go down the list:

The “Firearms Ammunition Sales” initiative?

I don’t think that’s it.

The Marijuana Legalization” initiative?

“EpiPen” is about allergies, not “Lucy in the sky with diamonds.”

“Condoms for Porn Stars”?

That’s not the one.  Though truth be told, I would be less likely to hang up on an Adult Film star’s mother.

The solicitation is probably related to the “Prescription Drugs” initiative, but I do not know for sure.   I feel terrible.

“Hair Trigger” responses:  Bad for presidents.  Bad for Pomerantz.

But you see, we get all these calls…

It is always helpful to have somebody to blame.  Still, somewhere, a little boy is having trouble with allergies…

And I, impulsively, hung up the phone.

No comments: