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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Can We All Just Go Back to Telegraphs? Please?!

If you’re not part of the solution, then you’ll probably like it around here.

I’ve had my weekly dose of telephone shenanigans today. I may not even answer the phone again until the weekend, for fear of overdosing on the weird shit that seems to come through the line every damned time I pick up the receiver.

First, it was the glass company. Which one, I don’t even know. But here’s the conversation, in its entirety:

Me: Hello, this is Charlie.

Her: Hi, this is <garble garble> from <blah blah blah> Glass. Do you happen to have a windshield with nicks or cracks?

Me: Um… no?

Her: Okay, thanks. Have a nice day. *click*

Now, maybe it’s just me, but isn’t that just a teensy desperate on their part? Are they really cold-calling everyone in the greater Boston area, just on the off-chance that they’ll get a few bucks’ worth of business? How many people do you think are sitting around with a big spiderweb crack in their car’s front window, just sitting by the phone waiting for a glass replacement company to call? ‘Oh please call… oh please, oh please, oh please. Don’t make me look in the Yellow Pages; it’s been six weeks, so call already! Call… now! Now! Now! Oh, why won’t you call me!?

Frankly, I don’t see it. The number of hits they get with this approach have got to be minimal, at best. Even with short calls — my conversation took all of about six seconds — they’re gonna get to what, maybe eighty people a day per dialer? Out of a couple of million or more within hailing range of their garage? And in those eighty or so people, they have to find at least one who has a car, has a cracked windshield, is too lazy to do anything about it, doesn’t already have a garage that’ll do it, actually has the money to pay for it, and is willing to give their business to some chick who randomly spam-calls them on a Wednesday morning. Who’s bright fucking idea was that?

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this sort of ultra-specific — and yet completely untargeted — mass-dialing does work, and I’m just behind the curve. Maybe soon all sorts of companies will be using this cunning and innovative technique. I can’t wait until we hear these sorts of things in response to our ‘Hello? in future:

Hi, I’m just checking in to see if you have a llama that needs to be spayed or neutered. Free spitguard and clipping shears if you make an appointment now!

Hey! We’re offering a two-for-one special today on thirty-foot steel girders. They’re great for skyscrapers, dams, reinforced bunkers — you name it! Now’s the time to stock up, because this offer won’t last long!

Hi there. Do you or anyone you know happen to need a replacement rear bumper for a ’73 Corvette? ‘Cause we’ve got ’em, and they’re cheap, cheap, cheap!

May I interest you today in an emergency organ transplant? Kidneys, lungs, liver… anything you have that might be critically failing? We’re number one in customer-patient satisfaction, you know.

God help us all. And this on the day that the ‘Do Not Call’ registry gets called into question. I can see the potential for vein-popping annoyance in my near future. And yours, too, unless you’ve been waiting for that big sale on jumbo-size steel beams or recycled hearts. In which case, just stick close to the phone. Your lucky day is coming soon.

The other telephonic tomfoolery to which I was exposed came courtesy of ING. You know, the savings account people that are always advertising with their annoying orange letters and dots and shit like that. Everything’s orange with them. I can’t help but wonder if they’re leading us into some fully color-coded investment options. Red for the people who like risk, and green for the retirees and conservative among us. Blue for overseas investments, et cetera. It’ll be the Garanimals of personal finance. ‘Oh, no, sir, we can’t possibly add that mutual fund to your portfolio. You’ve got mostly blue and purple in there now, and we couldn’t possibly add an orange. Think of the clashing!

Anyway, I was just calling them up to change our address. Everybody else in the world — including all of the mass-market weiners — have made the transition to sending mail to our new home. But ING has not.

(Maybe it stands for ‘Idiots Not Getting the message’ or ‘Intentionally Not Going to change your address; I don’t know.)

So, anyway, I had to call to set things straight. Which finally happened, but not until I’d been put on hold for a while, which is where the problem lies. Now, I’ve got no problem with being put on hold for a few seconds. really. I’m not one of those ‘Type A’ bastards who’s got to have things done now, now, NOW! And frankly, I appreciate the fact that ING chooses not to subject their customers to Muzak or easy listening crap or any of the other uncontroversial-but-dreadfully-eye-gougingly-boring forms of non-entertainment that many companies use to annoy the people they have on hold.

The problem, though, is what they do use to annoy the people they have on hold. Namely, a series of clever little radio commercials for their products and services. Which, again, is fine, I suppose. It seems a little self-indulgent to plug your own shit when you’ve got a captive audience who’s already called you, but fine — I can forgive that. And to be fair, the commercials are sort of cute, I suppose. They’re mainly tongue-in-cheek tales of the adventures of ficticious folks who either do, or should have, use ING’s investment products to build their money. No problem there. But they don’t start these commercials for each caller; they run constantly, just like Muzak would. And so, it’s quite possible to be put on hold in the middle of one of their little mini-plays, and hear something like the following, as I did:

Old Woman Voice: Oh, yes, I’ve been wanting to do this for years!

Old Man Voice: Aaack! Let go of the knob! Let go of the knob! Aaaauuuuaaaahh!

Now, maybe I’m the only one who finds that particular exchange somehow inappropriate — though strangely titillating — as a ‘Hold’ message. And a narrator did soon after kick in to explain what the hell any of this (and the minute or so that I missed before it) had to do with the services that ING is peddling these days. But then again, maybe not. I’m not the only smartass I know, after all, so I’m sure there are other folks out there who’d be inclined to wonder whether they’d accidentally stumbled onto a ‘Granny Humpers’ porno soundtrack. You know the kind, where ‘Dirty Gerty’ slathers herself in stewed prunes and does unspeakable things with a walker, or uses Grandpa’s ‘shakes’ to her own advantage. That sort of thing. Um, not that I’d know, of course. I’m just saying. Um, yeah. Moving on.

Anyway, I thought it was a bit odd. But for a company that takes six months or more to register a customer’s address change, I suppose that synchronizing their ‘Hold’ tapes to their callers is pretty low on the old priority list. So I shouldn’t really be surprised.

In other news (silly reader, seques are for kids), it looks like I may be gainfully employed again soon. I have one offer on the table. (Well, okay, technically ‘on the hard drive’, but I could print it out and lay it ‘on the table’ any time I want. So I’m counting it. Nyah.) I’ve also got another lead who are checking my references now as a last precaution before making me an offer, apparently. So as long as my old colleagues don’t sell me out — bribe money, don’t fail me now! — I may have two jobs to pick from. Oh, the decisions! Whatever shall I do?

I know — I’ll go pour champagne all over myself to celebrate! That always puts me in a good mood. Of course, I don’t think we actually have champagne in the house right now, so I’ll have to use cooking wine or tequila or something, but that’s okay. Any booze bath is a good booze bath, I always say. Maybe I’ll write more later, after I’ve dried off and sobered up. Ta!

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