How to Have Fun with Telemarketers.

Chimney cleaners. Chronic disease organizations. Electric company suppliers. Cancer societies. Extended automobile warranties. College alumni fundraisers. Companies making vague promises to lower interest rates on loans you don’t even have. They call constantly; often at the most irritating times. Sound familiar?

You hang up as soon as you recognize the crackling pause after saying hello (the telltale indication it’s a telemarketing call). But this does not work. Stubbornly, they will call back the next day … and the next … and the next. Requesting they no longer call your number is laughable. These people are trained in the art of loopholes and tenacity. They have no scruples.

Giving money – no matter how small – to charities seeking donations in hopes the’ll leave you alone only provides respite for a brief period of time. Plus – many of these organizations sell your number to other charities, which means your “please go away” donation just opened up an avalanche of more pesky non-profit calls.

The National Do Not Call List is ineffective. Businesses  have found ways to circumvent the rules. Non-profits are excluded from the Do Not Call List, as well as political surveys.

How do we cope with such intrusiveness? If we can’t beat them, we must join them. In order to protect our sanity, I offer you The Underground Writer’s “How to Have Fun with Telemarketers”:

1. Inform the telemarketer (or charity) they have called just as Family Story Time is starting. You will need to have a children’s book by the phone at all times in order to make this work. Place the phone on speaker before you start reading the book out loud.

“I hope Pete The Cat is okay with you, it’s the book my son chose. Otherwise, we have Frog and Toad or Ferdinand The Bull.

2. Pretend you and your spouse are in the middle of a heated argument and get the caller involved.

“Boy, am I glad YOU called! Listen to this. My husband? He NEVER takes the garbage out. So, like, yesterday I put it on the back porch because I didn’t want it stinking up the kitchen -”

“Um … Mrs -”

“Wait. I’m not finished. So I put it on the back porch and some sort of animal gets into it. Now there’s garbage EVERYWHERE and he’s telling ME I need to clean it up! Since I put the garbage on the porch. But here’s the thing -“

3. Act thrilled that someone has called your home. This requires asking questions about the caller, and diverting their questions.

“Why, hello Maria from The National Protect Indigent Feline Association! Where are you calling from?”

“Indiana. Would you be willing to pledge just twenty-five-”

“Indiana? What part?”

“The middle part. Would you be willing to pledge just -”

“I’ve never been to Indiana. What’s it like?”

“It’s fine. Mrs. Underground Writer, there are thousands of homeless -”

“Know someplace I’ve never been? Alaska. Yup. Never been. Can’t say I necessarily WANT to go since I hate the cold…”

4. Invite the caller for dinner (since they always seem to call during meals). Literally: Put the phone on speaker and plop the receiver in the middle of the table and announce how you never have dinner guests. Then, act as though they are actually present.

“I hope you’re not a vegetarian. We’re having steak.”

or

“We’re so happy you can join us!”

5. Start singing – Broadway show tunes seem to freak telemarketers out quickest.

6. Have a child who plays an instrument? Wonderful! Have them play a song or two.

“Before I answer your question as to whether or not I’m happy with my electric supplier, my daughter wants you to hear her practice Hot Cross Buns on her clarinet.”

7. Ask their opinion on your new curtains. But they can’t see your new curtains? Exactly. Describe in great detail what these curtains look like: color, pattern, how they match the color on your walls. What we’re aiming for here is, boring. Much like their call.

8. Put your toddler on the phone – preferably one who is just learning to imitate animal sounds.

“Mrs. Peters? My name is Jason and I am calling from the Lower Your Credit -”

“Ohhhh, Jason! I am so glad you called. My two year old just learned to make all the sounds on Old McDonald’s farm! Listen…”

“Mooooo! Oink! Oink! Oink! Baaaaa!!!”

“MRS. PETERS??”

“Neigh! Mooooo! Quack!”

9. Seek medical advice. Persistent ache in your lower back? Lump somewhere? Hey, they called you.

10. In all seriousness, be polite. Thank them for calling, and ask that they remove your name and number from their calling list. Then inform them that you trace all calls, and you now know where they live and what kind of car they drive. And you hope they have a very nice day.

Facebook Users: Where Do You Belong?

It has been four years since I joined the 1.19 billion Facebook users. Throughout this period, I have observed very distinct behavior patterns of people who regularly use Facebook. After much rumination, sleepless nights, and obsessive floor pacing (well, not really), I categorized them into the following groups:

Braggy: For some, Facebook is a platform for bragging. These boasting comments are usually veiled as status updates.

Just threw together a Herb Crusted Beef Rib Roast with Pinot Noir Jus before taking little Kylie to oboe lessons.

Finished running 16.2 miles in 11 minutes. Who wants to join me tomorrow?

Sometimes, Braggy posts are written in a tired voice, as though being wonderful is exhausting.

While it’s hard getting up at 2 a.m. to squeeze in my four-hour total body workout, followed by preparing breakfast for the family, I know staying healthy for my family is important.

Last night James spelled Lieutenant! And he’s only 22 months old! I knew not allowing him to watch TV would reap loads of benefits. While it can be exhausting never having a break for myself, look at the fruit of my labor.

Literal Status Updates: Literal Status Updates give you a play-by-play account of the Facebook user’s day: what they are currently doing, what they are thinking, what’s on their agenda for the day. Literal Status Update Facebook users take the what’s on your mind? or what’s your status? question from Facebook quite literally. Literal Status Updates can include comments on ball games and TV shows the Facebook user is watching as they write their post.

At the grocery store.

C’mon Eli! Another interception?!

Time for lunch.

Making steak and potatoes for dinner. (With a glass of wine, of course. LOL!)

A sub-category of Literal Status Updates are Weather Posts – for those of us who live in windowless houses.

Snow!

Three inches so far and it’s still snowing.

19 degrees out! Brrrr!

Frequent Complaining Posts: Now, we are all prone to complain. Life ain’t easy, and commiseration can be soothing. The once-in-a-while-grumble is NOT included in the Frequent Complaining Posts category. It’s the daily gripe that falls into this group. Frequent Complaining Posts are similar to Literal Status Updates except they have a negative ring to them. For some people, Facebook is their way to share every sniffle and cough, every slight injustice that crosses their path. What’s most intriguing about the Frequent Complaining Posts is how these Facebook users are so eager to complain that they stop whatever they are doing to post  – whether it is while driving, or when they’re at work.

Another cold! Just when I was starting to feel better.

Grocery store is out of my favorite peanut butter. Are you kidding me?

Another sleepless night.

The Suspenseful Posts: These statuses leave you hanging. They are meant to make you wonder what on earth has happened, and are probably intended to have you checking back for updates.

So excited!

Can’t stop crying.

Best day EVER!

My poor hubby!

Sometimes the follow-up information to The Suspenseful Post is still very vague, especially when the original post was one of concern. While we understand privacy, it’s perplexing why the Facebook user who writes The Suspenseful Post in the first place would then keep the situation secretive. So you want us to know that you can’t stop crying, but you don’t want us to know why? Or What happened to your husband? What are we supposed to do with this information?

Political Posts: Are just that: statements about a political topic – which usually garners several supportive comments and “likes” as well as outraged responses. Things never end well, and opinions are rarely altered. De-friending over Political Posts is not uncommonSome Facebook users are regular Political Posters, while others stay away from the topics entirely – playing Switzerland in a messy war zone.

The Regular Rants: Just as with complaining, we all have a tendency to rant about a situation. The Regular Rants are akin to Frequent Complaining Posts, but with more of an edge. In these posts, however, the Facebook user’s anger seeps through their words. Regular Rants typically include lots of capital letters and exclamation points.

Could the guy driving in front of me go any slower? People older than 80 SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO DRIVE.

[insert name] is an idiot and I don’t know how ANYONE could be STUPID enough to vote for him!!

I can’t believe I went to college for THIS! What WAS I THINKING?

The Obsessive Topic: These Facebook users have a specific interest, issue, or cause that consumes them. Examples include a hobby, animal welfare, diet, a particular movement (such as gun rights or immigration reform), their pet, or a current event. When is it considered an Obsessive Topic? When the Facebook user posts at least once a day, every day about said topic. Pictures and links to unprofessional websites are common, as are the Facebook user “liking” their own status.

While every Facebook user has the tendency to dip their toes into each of these categories, others jump in cannonball style. Facebook seems to understand this, and has created a function that allows users to hide status updates from those habitual Political Posters, Regular Ranters and Frequent Complainers.

In spite of these behavior patterns, there are still Wonderful Posts – the comedic ones that make you burst out laughing, the posts with the pictures of your friends’ kids in silly Halloween costumes, the updates on ill friends, or the pictures of exotic vacations you someday hope to go on yourself. The Wonderful Posts are why I remain on Facebook, even though my kids watch television, I don’t cook Herb Crusted Beef Rib Roast with Pinot Noir Jus, and I could care less what Eli Manning is doing right this very minute.

New Awareness Months

Awareness months are all the rage. For every month of the year, it seems like one organization or another wants us of to be mindful of a certain illness, social problem, or hobby. Take the month of September, for example. The ninth month of the year is host to prostate, thyroid, and ovarian cancer awareness. August is motorsports, cataract and psoriasis (patches of red, flaky skin) awareness month. October is breast cancer, cholesterol, disability employment, vegetarian and influenza awareness month. Meanwhile November makes us aware of lung cancer, long term care, veganism and Alzheimer’s disease. (Click HERE and HERE for proof.)

There are even months dedicated for animal awareness, with September being National Chicken Month, and March Adopt-A-Rescued-Guinea Pig month. Because February is Pet Dental Health month, we will remember to check our cat and dog’s chompers. (Don’t believe me? CLICK HERE.)

While I understand the calendar is getting full of our need to be aware of so many diseases (and animals), I can’t help but feel that some issues have been neglected. Take Delusions of Grandeur for example. This is the belief that you are more wonderful and powerful than you really are. Meaning, you think you’re great, but others do not. Perhaps if there was a delusions of grandeur month, people would understand why that guy in the office is so obnoxious and self-centered.

April should help make us aware of Asymmetriphobia. This is the pervasive fear of lopsided, uneven things. People who suffer from assymmetriphobia will never be caught wearing mismatched socks. They may also spend a painstakingly long time hanging a picture frame to make sure it’s just right. Asymmetriphobia month would help us be a tad more patient with the family member who spends nine hours decorating a Christmas tree because the ornaments have to be evenly distributed. It might just help one of us to pause a moment and think, “Now wait a second. Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep knowing the dishes in my cabinets aren’t evenly stacked!”

Napkin On The Lap month would be huge. Placing your napkin on your lap while eating is not only proper, it saves people from having to see whatever schmutz you just wiped off your face. Putting napkins on laps during meals seems to be a lost etiquette. Let’s make people aware it exists and bring it back, shall we?

Having lived in a neighborhood with dog owners, I know first hand the intense frustration of finding dog doo on my lawn when I don’t even own a dog. Hence, a Pick-Up After Your Dog awareness month is an absolute must. Pet stores could seize this moment by offering discounts on pooper scoopers and waste bags. Additionally, very creative bumper stickers could be designed to inform others this important month exists. (Perhaps, instead of awareness ribbons, there would be awareness dog … well, you know.)

Lastly, the month of February could be Shopping Cart In The Middle Of The Aisle awareness month. What better to pair with Valentines Day than to be mindful of leaving your grocery cart smack dab in the middle of the aisle so it blocks everyone? For twenty-eight days (except for leap year, where it would be a blissful twenty-nine days) we wouldn’t have to say,

“Excuse me? Um … excuse me? But I can’t get by. Would you mind moving your cart over just a bit?”

to the shopper who is ruminating over the prices of competing pasta brands.  (I’ll be honest here – I am one of those really annoying shoppers who gets easily distracted and drifts down the aisle, leaving my cart in everyone’s way.)

Since there is Stress Awareness Month (April), National Asparagus Month (May) and Get To Know an Independent Realtor Month (February), I think Shopping Cart In The Middle Of The Aisle, Delusions of Grandeur, Asymmetriphobia, Pick Up After Your Dog and Napkin On The Lap awareness months could very well be a success.

Weird Candle Fragrances

For the past few years, candles have been all the rage. Yankee Candle is perhaps the most recognizable brand, while others have gradually emerged – many of them sold from the homes of candle party consultants (click HERE for some thoughts on those gatherings).

Perhaps it’s the competition they face by other aggressive candle companies, or maybe their marketers are bored with developing such commonplace aromas as cinnamon stick and floral bouquet, but some of Yankee Candle latest candle scents are downright … strange.

Take their newest fragrance, Whiskers on Kittens. Yes, you read that right. Yankee Candle is basically selling a candle that smells like cat whiskers. Unless, of course, they are haphazardly assigning names in the candle factory with no regard to what the candle really smells like. Maybe Whiskers on Kittens doesn’t smell anything like its name, and really smells like vanilla. Or, perhaps it does smell like its title … which would be, what? Tuna? Cat dander? Litter box?

Whiskers on Kittens

It took me several moments to realize what Yankee Candle was trying to do when I read the name for another candle (that was listed directly under Whiskers on Kittens). Picture Julie Andrews in her nightgown surrounded by a brood of singing children. The candle names are taken from the Sound of Music song “My Favorite Things.” This one was called Warm Woolen Mittens. Your guess is as good as mine. Musty wool? Dusty yarn? Smoke?

Bright Copper Kettles was next in the Yankee Candle catalog. Hmmm. Other than some antiquated plumbing in my basement, I don’t have any copper in my home, so I can’t attest to what a bright copper kettle smells like. The closest thing I have is my tea kettle, which isn’t copper but it used to be bright and is a kettle. I have to be honest here, the inside of my tea kettle doesn’t smell too impressive. What could the fragrance of this Bright Copper Kettle be? A metallic aroma?

Yankee Candle has also developed a line called Man Candles, which supposedly cater to men (because we all know men are secretly envious of women dominating the candle world). While my husband and I think they should have been called “Mandles”, Man Candle scents are equally perplexing. Take the first fragrance: Movie Night. A buttery popcorn smell? Or maybe the smell of beer and nachos?

Man Candles went downhill fast after Movie Night. The next candle for men was called Mmm, Bacon! The idea of burning a candle that has the aroma of bacon could be equated to Chinese torture. Wouldn’t that scent leave you in a state of perpetual hunger? I can think of nothing worse than smelling bacon and not being able to eat it.

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After Mmm, Bacon! was a candle called Man Town. I’m not really sure what a “man town” is, so I would have to guess this candle smells like sweat. And farts. Wait! The Yankee Candle catalog has a scratch and sniff sticker for this candle. It smells like … that popular cologne from the 1990s: Drakkar Noir. (Ironically, “Man Town” smells just like their scent “Over The River”, which leads me to believe Yankee Candle is recycling fragrances.)

First Down was another Man Candle. The picture on this candle jar is a football and turf. Unfortunately, (or perhaps for my sake – fortunately)  First Down did not have a scratch and sniff sticker like Man Town. Therefore, I assume it smells like rubber, or a locker room. Or maybe spilled beer.

The last Man Candle was called Riding Mower. I’m guessing fresh cut grass with a tinge of gasoline? Though, Riding Mower may not smell anything like a riding mower (because, truly, what does a riding mower smell like?). Yankee Candle may have been liberal in their name for this scent, so Riding Mower could smell like pumpkin spice or fresh pine needles.

I commend Yankee Candle in their attempt to remain competitive and use creativity in their fragrances. However, when their products have names fashioned after lawn equipment or the anatomy of a cat, then perhaps staying with traditional scents is best.

Is Age Just A Number?

Recently, I overheard a woman say she was too old to have long hair.

“At a certain age,” the woman declared, “ponytails and braids just start to look foolish.”

As I pondered her statement, I was reminded of the time my grandmother said that old women shouldn’t wear sleeveless tops. (Conversely, my other grandmother wore pink baseball caps with matching pink shoelaces well into her 60s.)

This brought a question to mind: when is someone officially old? Is a 76 year old woman who bicycles 3 miles a day, every day, old? Or is it the woman who is also 76 but uses a walker and reeks of White Diamonds perfume?

I lost sleep. I paced the floors. I forgot several items on my shopping list because I kept repeating the thought, “When is old, old?” I studied everyone. I took notes. I visited random nursing homes and stuck my head into the rooms before visiting a local American Legion to watch a Bingo game in progress. I then sat and worked late into the night –  by candlelight. I compared my findings. I chewed through three pencils and drank two cups of coffee until, at last, I had answered the question to my satisfaction.

“I have done it,” I whispered to a silent house, “I now know when someone is truly old.”

Actually, I didn’t do any of the above. I simply thought about the question as I washed breakfast dishes one morning. But I was – among the suds and aroma of lemon scented dish soap – able to devise a “You Know You’re Old” list.

The Underground Writer’s “You Know You’re Old When …” Checklist*

If you do five or more of the following, you are officially old.

  • There is a tissue box in the rear window of your car.
  • A flower is taped to your car’s antenna. 
  • You use the term “slacks” for pants, and wear said slacks when you exercise.
  • Everything costs too much, and you have difficulty making a purchase without comparing the cost of the item to what it used to cost “back in the day.”
  • You’re astonished that an adult could be born as recently as the 1980s.
  • Even if your financial situation does not require you to use the Early Bird Specials at restaurants, you always do so out of principle.
  • You are simply appalled by the younger generation: their clothes, music, behavior, and/or electronics. You also take issue with what people are naming their children nowadays. Names such as Kaden, Brooklyn, and Jayden are not real names in your mind.
  • If you are female, you wear nylons all of the time – even with “slacks.” 
  • You find electronics mind boggling. Just as you finally figured out how to set the time on your DVD player, your younger friend questions why you even have a DVD player since they will soon be obsolete.
  • Your car is either large (such as a Lincoln Town car) or small (such as a Toyota Corolla). Mid-size cars, such as Honda Accords, are never considered.
  • Your reason for visiting the mall is to walk for exercise, and not to shop.
  • While sleeping at night is nearly impossible, you find yourself randomly falling asleep throughout the day. 

*This checklist has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, or any other professional organization for that matter. This list it not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent aging*

You’re Not So Different From Your Car

Unlike an aged cheddar or bottle of Balvenie, people and automobiles generally don’t improve with age. As my husband once said after visiting my great aunt in a nursing home, 

“There is nothing glamorous about growing old.”

While attending graduate school, I drove an ancient Honda Accord that was held together by a lot of prayer and encouragement. The cassette player would run even when the car was turned off. Rain would get trapped in the moonroof and proceed to gush onto my lap when I put the car in reverse – soaking me to the point where I would have to go inside and change. It also seemed that as soon as I had one of its parts replaced, another would decide to break.

How I hated phone calls from my mechanic! As soon as the phone would ring I would squeeze my eyes shut and brace myself. He always started the conversation with,

“Hullo, it’s Karl, I’ve got some bad news. Your  _____ is shot.”

Your front wheel axle is shot. Your alternator is shot. Your motor mounts are shot. Your master cylinder is shot. Shot. Shot. Shot.

As I age, I have noticed how people are not so different from cars. Our body parts eventually become “shot” – just like my old Honda.  Arthritis is the human form of rust and corrosion. Our hearts – the fuel pump of the human body – stop pumping efficiently. Unless we can afford the services of a cosmetic surgeon (auto body shop) our exteriors become dented, scratched, and faded. Akin to transmission fluid leaking, we need to use the bathroom frequently during the night.

Some men tend to upgrade their cars – going from a practical Ford to a speedy red Porsche. Similarly, some men have the nerve trade in their wife for a newer version. One who doesn’t have dents or scratches. One who is younger, sleeker, and peppier. One who is fresh off the lot.

Ambulances are the human version of flatbed tow trucks. The mechanic – or car doctor – uses terminology we don’t understand. Similar to CAT scans and MRIs, your mechanic will run diagnostic testing that costs a bundle. A new car warranty is the automobile version of health insurance.

Food is our gasoline. The cost of filling a car’s gas tank can be equated to the expense of a large grocery order. Opening the refrigerator and seeing its bare shelves has the same feeling of frustration as noticing your gas light is on.

Cars are also like people in that there are big ones and small ones. Black ones and white ones. There are high maintenance, complicated people (Mercedes) and low maintenance, easy going people (Toyotas). There are people born in this country (Ford, GM) and people who immigrate from Europe (BMW, Lamborghini) and Asia (Mazda). Lastly, some people would rather avoid the snow (front-wheel drive cars) while others enjoy winter sports (the 4×4).

Thankfully,  that is where our similarities end. When a car reaches the end of its lifespan, it is sent to a scrapyard and crushed. When we reach the end of our lifespan, we are put in an overpriced box and buried in the ground.

It is unfortunate that cars and people don’t age as gracefully as say, a bottle of wine or a Redwood tree. But a bottle of wine and Redwood tree won’t drive your family on vacation or share the memories of their childhood.

The Saying Goes

When I was ten years old I  entered the house and greeted my mom with, “Hey! How’s it hanging?”  I will never forget her expression, or how I felt as she explained to me exactly what that phrase meant.

We all tend to use phrases incorrectly.  I once told my husband that I got the raw end of the stick. (Apparently, my ability to use idioms didn’t improve with age.)  Most of the time we use them in the correct context, but their meaning can be lost on others.  While other times, a phrase just rubs people the wrong way.

Here are a few examples:

Have a Good One: My 93 year old Grandmother summed this phrase up well.  When a cashier told her to “have a good one” my Grandmother responded,  “Have a good what?  Have a good s**t?”

No Offense: These two words are a red flag. Chances are – the person will take offense.  Let’s be honest here.  We rarely say,  “No offense, but you look great today!” or “No offense, but you are the smartest person I know!”  What follows “no offense” is generally bad.  Prefacing the insult with “no offense” does not lessen the blow, despite what some might think.  Offense IS usually taken.

If You Think About It:  You know how this is used: You’ll be having a discussion with someone and then they will say, “Well, if you think about it” implying that you haven’t given it any thought – but they have.

Don’t Take This The Wrong Way: See above comments on “No Offense”.

No Problem: This phrase seems to have replaced the good old fashioned “you’re welcome.”

Let Me Go: Typically, this phrase is used to wrap up a phone conversation.  “Let me go” is the signal that one person wants to get off the phone, but it infers that the other person won’t LET them hang-up.  Saying “let me go” is implying that you are being held hostage on the phone. “I should go now” is the politer version of “Let me go”.

It’s All Good: Um, no it’s not.  Just read the paper or switch on the five o’clock news.

Get Er Done: The fact that this phrase has sneaked its way into any conversation outside of the Louisiana bayou is a tragedy.  While its purpose is to encourage one to complete a task, one cannot hear the words “get er done” without envisioning a recently slain deer draped over the bed of a 1982 Chevy pickup truck that is littered with empty Budweiser cans.


These phrases may not rub you the wrong way.  After all, it takes all kinds to make the world go round.  So when all is said and done, we should just live and let live.