Sunday, July 6, 2003

If it weren't for solicitors, I'd have no one to call me

Every day

Paul Daugherty

We're waging war against telemarketers now. As if that's a good thing.

The Federal Trade Commission a week ago launched a do-not-call registry for people who don't want their meatloaf interrupted by pitch-people hoping to sell them windows. The list had 735,000 names on it in the first 24 hours.

Which might be OK for you.

I happen to like solicitors. I think of them as friends.

If I don't hear from one after 20 minutes on a weeknight between 5 and 8, I get depressed. "What, you too good for me now? You find someone else to buy replacement windows?''

If you are like me - a dull, suburban, fortysomething white male whose nonevent existence rivals the secret life of library stacks - these are the only people that call you.

The phone rings all the time at my house. It's more dependable than Big Ben. It's never for me. The Kid Down The Hall's girlfriend calls every few minutes, between breaks to breathe.

These kids talk for hours. They get on at 11 p.m. They say goodnight when the sun comes up.

"What do you talk about?'' I asked him.

"Stuff,'' he said.

"Stuff? Five hours of stuff?''

"Sometimes, we can't sleep.''

"So what do you do, just breathe deeply into the phone?''

"Well, yeah.''

My wife gets calls. She has friends. I have no friends. OK, one. Kincaid is my friend. He never calls.

Jillian, my daughter, gets calls. Calls? She's more social than butterflies.

As many personal calls as I get, I could use ham radio. Except when my good friends from the long-distance phone service thoughtfully dial me up during spaghetti and meatballs.

"Mr. Daughter-ty?''

Yes! Yes, I'm here! Where have you been?

I've bought new windows once a week for the last six years. My basement is so dry, a camel could live there. You wouldn't believe my collection of credit cards. All so my phone pals won't feel, you know, rejected.

"Sure,'' I say. "My chimney hasn't been swept in a day and a half. Come on over. What are you doing for lunch Friday? Do you play golf?''

Is there a list for people who want more telemarketing? Who do I call when I need another insurance quote? What do I do when the six or seven aluminum siding calls I get during Entertainment Tonight dwindle to a precious one or two?

There must be more vacations to give away. I've been to Orlando so much, I'm growing big dog ears. Whenever anyone says "three days, two nights'' I start to drool.

I've been chosen. I've been selected. I've been ... pre-approved.

I win. I'm a winner. I'm special, too. I'm once-in-a-lifetime. At no extra charge to me, the homeowner. There is no risk. It's money-back guaranteed, yes it is. All for me! You don't get this sort of validation standing in the check-out at Home Depot.

Just because you don't act quickly before supplies run out, don't come crying to me, or to my friends on the phone.

You should see me on the weekends. I'm a mess. I have to leave the house between 5 and 8. The silence is too much, so I take to the road, searching for a telethon.

I live for Monday, when the computer calls at about 4 in the afternoon, just to make sure I'm home, then hangs up when I answer. What a life-affirming moment that is.

The only bad thing is, my phone pals aren't especially great with the name. Sometimes, it's Door-ity. Others, Dogg-erty or Daughtry or, bless them, Doff-ery. It's Dock-erty, OK? Hard, Scottish K sound in the middle.

But what's a mispronunciation between friends?

I've often thought that...

What? OK, be right there. Gotta go. My friend on the phone wants to seal my driveway. It has been four days. It's due.


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