Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls. I’ll Get It.
As my kids will attest, I have three immitigable personal quirks (okay, at least three). One: I can’t walk past a light switch without turning it off if no one’s in the room. Two: An outside door left open during the winter while our heater is running or in the summer while the air conditioning is on pushes every penny pinching, energy conserving button in my body.
And three: I simply cannot let a phone ring without answering it.
I can’t stand to even let voicemail pick up a call because I know how many people – my own kids included – simply hang up rather than leave a message.
I’m sure there’s some deep, disturbing psychological neurosis responsible for this character flaw. Lord knows a handful of skilled therapists have been able to purchase vacation homes just from analyzing oddities of my personality that are too numerous to mention here.
Last week I wrote about the inordinate number of unsolicited calls we’ve received for months now made by telemarketers with nearly identical pitches selling home improvements. As much as these incessantly interruptive calls drive me crazy, not answering them would be even worse. Trust me on this. To not answer a phone is to wonder if one of our kids in some far-flung territory is in dire trouble and needs rescuing. Or maybe that call was from an attorney representing an unknown relative who recently died and left us their entire collection of priceless Pokemon cards. Or it could have been a personal call from Barack Obama wanting to have a beer with me and discuss the state of race relations in our new American utopia. The problem is, you just never know.
My wife always has some sage comment like, “If it was important, they’ll call back.” To which I usually answer, “Seriously? What if they can’t? What if terrorists were about to abduct them and they only had 10 seconds to make a call before murderous thugs broke in and that call we just missed was the one chance they’ll ever have to make a call for help and we never, ever, ever see or hear from them again. Huh? What if?”
See what I mean? My poor wife.
Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some canine DNA in me. I mean, my hearing is so attuned I can hear a phone ring in the very back room of our house when I’m outside in the front yard, standing on the top rung of a ladder leaning against the roof, with the neighbor’s gas-powered leaf blower on maximum annoy, while a heavily loaded dump truck lumbers uphill past our house and multiple helicopters hover overhead covering the latest Southern California car chase. Oh, and every dog in our neighborhood is barking its head off as a pack of stray cats fight for territory in the bushes under my ladder. Is somebody gonna get that phone?!
As soon as I realize that nobody but me hears the ringing, I will risk life and limb to hop off the ladder, dive over the hedge and do a commando roll on the lawn, hop back up, dash through the garage and leap over various exercise equipment – coming dangerously close to altering certain body parts in the process – crash through the door into our family room, make a flying leap over the couch and in mid-leap snatch the cordless phone from its charging cradle on the desk.
As I stab the “talk” button and hear the dreaded dial tone, I let out an anguished groan. Looking around, I suffer the pitiful smirks from whatever family members were present to witness my insanity (but apparently felt no compulsion to answer the phone themselves!).
“They’ll call back,” my wife says. And sure enough, the phone rings again less than five minutes later.
And of course, it’s a telemarketer.
I’ll see you ‘round town.