Every night at dinner, just as I'm bringing that first forkful of salad to my mouth, I get a call from some charity do-gooder or some chirpy young thing named Krystal trying to sell me portrait photography.
Listen, you telephone solicitors out there: You ever wonder why people seem so grouchy when you call?
Could it possibly have something to do with the fact that they've just jumped up from the dinner table for the fourth time to talk to some total stranger who's babbling something about storm windows?
Huh? Do you think that could be a little irritating?
And you know that . . . that choking, gagging sound you hear when people first get on the phone with you? Any idea what that's from?
Well, I'll tell you what that's from.
That's from -- forgive me if I lapse into medical jargon here -- PEOPLE TRYING TO TALK WITH A MOUTHFUL OF $% FOOD!
BECAUSE IT'S $% DINNER TIME!
WHEN PEOPLE SHOULD BE EATING AND NOT TALKING ON THE $% PHONE!
Look, I don't want to tell you telephone operators how to do your jobs. But for God's sake, let me offer a few suggestions:
No. 1 -- I know this takes all the fun out of the job, but is there " any chance you could call when people aren't sitting down to eat?
That way maybe you and I could have a conversation without my wife pounding me on the back, trying to dislodge that piece of chicken caught in my throat.
And that way maybe I wouldn't suddenly drop the phone and keel over, and you wouldn't have to listen to the wail of an ambulance as it screams up to the curb a few minutes later.
No. 2 -- Let's tighten up on those pre-pitch introductions, OK?
Do I really need to hear that you're Robert Wallaby from Robert Wallaby Home Improvements and you've been in the business 27 years and never been indicted and your great-grandfather, Jeremiah Wallaby, started the business back in 1925 from a little two-room shack and blah, blah, blah.
Let's get right to the bottom line.
What are you selling and how much is it gonna cost me?
No. 3 -- This one really burns me up. Don't say: "And how are you tonight, sir?" Because you don't care how I am.
I could tell you I just had both arms amputated and you'd say: "Sir, are you tired of lugging around bags of fertilizer and peat moss? From now on, why not let the professionals at Lawn Magicians take care of all your lawn service needs?"
So let's cut out the chit-chat. Look, you and I aren't buddies, OK? You're not coming over for drinks any time soon.
In fact, if you don't come to the point, I'm going to be hanging up in about five seconds -- assuming I don't black out first from this piece of steak shutting off my windpipe.
No. 4 -- Don't ask me any stupid questions, OK? I had an airbrain from some charity call a few years ago -- this is absolutely true -- and ask: "Sir, are you interested in helping blind children?"
I felt like screaming: "NO, LADY, I WANNA LOCK EM ALL UP IN CAGES! THAT'S THE WHOLE PROBLEM WITH THIS COUNTRY -- TOO MANY BLIND KIDS RUNNING AROUND SPOILING IT FOR THE REST OF US!"
I mean, of course I want to help blind children. Who do you think you dialed, Pol Pot?
Another time, this terribly earnest college kid from one of these animal rights organizations began his pitch by asking: "Sir, do you know how many fur-bearing animals are trapped illegally each year?"
Gee . . . had that figure on the tip of my . . . drawing a blank now, though . . . um, 97,205?
No. 5 -- It's important that you understand this next part. I can't give to every single charity that calls, OK? Because pretty soon I wouldn't have any money left for silly things like food and clothing and mortgage payments.
And next time my mother called asking for money for medicine, I'd have to answer: "Gee, mom, I'm all tapped out. Just gave my last few bucks to the Baltimore County Retired Streetsweepers Fund. Can't you wait 'til next month for those heart pills?"
The point is, if I gave to every charity that called, pretty soon I'd have to start a charity of my own.
We'd call it the "Help Kev Get Back On His Feet Fund."
And you telephone solicitors know what would happen then.
I'd rip a page right out of your handbook.
Yep, I'd start calling your house and asking you if you could spare a few dollars.
I'd probably call around dinner time, too.