This needs some backdrop. I am of the following beliefs/persuasions:
- Non-Christian, and disinterested in reconsidering that.
- Committed to leaving people alone about that, if they leave me alone. I thus consider all active proselytizing very offensive and annoying, one of the worst social misbehaviors there is.
- Some businesses and jobs are not legitimate employment, and that practice of a bad job liberates me from social obligations of courtesy and honesty when it intrudes on my life. I’m not moved by ‘they’re just doing their jobs.’ So are drug mules. If your job is to bother people who did not ask to be bothered, that’s a bad job.
So not only do telemarketers annoy me, they are fair game within the confines of law, just as are missionaries who dare bother me on my property. It does not follow that I am always necessarily dishonest or mean to either. It simply means that, within the confines of the law, I may be so if I choose, and I feel I’ve done nothing wrong. They always had the choice not to bother me. I wasn’t bothering them.
The only enjoyment I can get from a telemarketing effort, therefore, is a sense that I made it less worthwhile for the telemarketing company and its employees. To some extent, whether I do that through comedy, annoyance or venting depends upon the conduct. Obviously-read scripts offend me. Scripts that imply insults to my intelligence offend me. Illegitimate questions offend me, and since the querent has no right to ask me anything about my whole life, all telemarketing questions are illegitimate, especially if the individual has not even asked whether s/he may start asking them.
I’ve handled it various ways over the years. I actually got a robocall operation to leave my cell phone alone when, after about eight hangup calls from them, I called back and strongly implied that I had the power and will to traverse the electronic medium and cause grave physical infirmity. (That’s illegal, and not normal for me, but I was pretty tired of what amounted to crank calls. Oh, and it worked.) With males, I have been known to attempt a sultry tone hinting at seduction. I often take charge and say “I’m asking the questions here. How did you get my number?” I’ve pretended to have comprehension disabilities, or to speak little English. I give stupid answers, or make up a bunch of baloney. If I’m feeling lazy, I just say I’ll go get the person they want, pretend to call someone to the phone, lay it down and just not return. A minute wasted, some other person somewhere spared a call, the company’s money wasted, my little good deed for the day.
One time, some twenty years ago, I decided that I had the perfect screw-you planned out. I would preach. I was raised around a lot of that, for my father loved the 700 Club and religion was rammed down my throat by emotional and physical abuse all through my teens, until I (predictably) threw up. I know how to imitate a televangelist. So, next time the phone rang, and it was someone telemarketing me, I had all tubes loaded with canister. This was going to be my most successful, obnoxious telemarketing response ever. This would be for the ages.
“Good evening, sir, I’m Susan with Suchandsuch Co. Who is the main decis–”
“You know, I’m going to give you something better than a sale today,” I blared in my outside voice. “I’m going to give you the truth of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! It says in the Bible…” I went on. And on. And on. I pontificated for minutes; no hangup, no interruption. I turned up the heat: “…because the alternative is the fires of Hell, and there is a real Hell, and it’s even worse than you imagine…” I quoted John 3:16 and offered interpretation. I began to wonder why she hadn’t just hung up, or butted in to bring the conversation around to what she wanted to sell, or responded in any way. I did this for about five minutes, getting a little curious, but starting to run out of wind.
When I began to slacken, she finally spoke up. “Wow, this is so wonderful. I also am born again, and it’s so great to meet someone who believes as I do and isn’t ashamed of the Gospel. Sir, this has been the best call of my day, and thank you so much for sharing your faith with me. I’m at work though, and I have to get going on other calls now, but God bless you, and have a wonderful evening. Good night!”
I never did find out what she wanted to sell me. I stood there, blown-out, dumfounded, struck silent, my whole plan having backfired about as back as a plan can fire. It was like the South Carolinians had tried to fire on Fort Sumter, but due to incompetent artillery direction, had shelled downtown Charleston instead.
Then I did the only thing that a sense of justice or humor would allow. I laughed until I was incoherent, red-faced and gasping for breath. In fact I’m tearing up laughing just thinking about it.
I haven’t pulled the preaching stunt since.