THIS COLUMN is directed at all you telephone solicitors, who have apparently decided that a great way to earn a living is by calling total strangers at the most inconvenient times imaginable and asking them for money.
Tell me: Do you people ever wonder why I seem so cranky when you call?
Could it possibly have something to do with the fact that I just sat down to dinner after a long day at work and was just lifting that first forkful of food to my mouth when the phone rang, so I jumped up and tripped over the dog and opened a gash in my knee that'll need nine stitches, and when I finally got to the phone I found out IT'S SOME JERK WHO WANTS TO GIVE ME A GOLD VISA CARD?!
You think that could be a little annoying? Huh?
Think a person is going to be in a sunny mood after something like that?
No, me either.
Anyway, after thinking long and hard about it, here are a few tips for you phone solicitors that might make our dealings more pleasant:
Tip No. 1: Don't start by asking me how I'm doing.
God, I hate that. Let's face it: You don't care how I'm doing.
If I said: "Well, I was doing fine until they found this spot on my lung," you'd say: "Good, good. Sir, the reason for my call is to inform you of a unique new security system from Safe-Guard Enterprises . . ."
So who's kidding who?
Let's cut the chit-chat and get on with it.
My corn on the cob is already so cold I could use it to drive tent stakes into the ground.
Tip No. 2: Don't keep calling me by my name.
Look, you and I aren't pals, OK? We're not going out for beers anytime soon. You're not coming over to meet the wife and kids, either.
And when it comes time to send out Christmas cards, I won't be thinking: "Gee, I should probably send one to that guy from the home remodeling company who keeps calling during dinner."
My advice is, we keep this whole conversation as impersonal as possible.
That way you won't feel so bad when I cut you off in mid-sentence with a curt "I'm not interested" and hang up.
Tip No. 3: Don't ask me any stupid questions.
The following story is absolutely true, swear to God.
A few years ago, a woman from a charitable organization called and began her spiel by asking: "Sir, are you interested in helping blind children?"
I said: "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'm interested in helping blind children. Who do you think you dialed, Pol Pot?"
Another time, this guy from a lawn-care service asked me: "Sir, do you know how many animals are killed each year by toxic chemicals irresponsibly spread on lawns?"
Tell me, how do you answer something like that?
"Well, off the top of my head, I'm gonna say 15,365. But that's just house pets -- your dogs, your cats, and so on. Now if you're talking deer, squirrels and woodland critters, too, it's probably more like, oh, 65,000. Ballpark figure."
Tip No. 4: Hurry up and get to the point.
Look, I'd love to stand here listening to the riveting tale of how you've been in the aluminum siding business for 30 years and you took over the company from your dad, who was in the remodeling business for 50 years himself and yadda, yadda, yadda.
Yeah, I'd love to hear all about it.
But you know what, pal? If I don't get some food in my stomach pretty quick, I'm going to black out. And when I crash to the floor in a heap and open up another gash, this one across my forehead, that's going to end the conversation, anyway.
Plus, I have to keep the line open so the other 900 people who want money from me can call.
Tip No. 5: If I say I'm not interested, it means -- pay attention, this part's important -- I'M NOT INTERESTED.
It doesn't mean you keep rambling on and on about mortgage rates and refinancing charges and cash-back options.
What it means is, it's time for you to say goodbye and hang up.
And it's time for me to get back to my steak, which is now so cold I should use it as a doorstop.