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By Mike Fak

[MARCH 10, 2004]  I find it truly amazing that something instituted by the American government actually works the way they say it will, but the national "do not call" list really works.

Like all of you, I found myself being inundated with solicitations over the phone. It got so bad that I started to become a rude, nasty SOB whenever one of those telemarketers rang my phone. Actually I have always been a rude nasty SOB. Telemarketers just helped me hone my skills.

Over the years I had my fun with these usurpers of privacy when I was in the mood. To the callers trying to give me a free trip to Branson, Mo., I would state that I hated anything to do with hillbillies, and I'd get a quick hang-up. When the sellers of packages to the Wisconsin Dells called, I would flip my loyalties and retort how anything that wasn't Southern wasn't American.

The real pain in the phone lines for my household was the people who continually called and said we had won a trip to Disney World. The fine print, never available over the phone line of course, was that food, beds, running water and transportation were not included. I received over a dozen of these messages on my answering machine, giving me a special offer number that I needed to write down before I called to get my super-duper prize.  

Finally on a Saturday night, one of these yahoos called and got the real thing, not my wife's pleasant "leave us a message" recording. I was really miffed at being called so late and found my nastier nature taking over. After the young lady told me she was mystified why I hadn't called back, I turned the tables on her. I asked her if, in the event I went to Disneyland, "Would I be able to wear one of the Disney character costumes?" After a brief "I beg your pardon" by this poor girl, I went on a roll. I explained to her that I always wanted to parade around as a Disney character and asked if I could be Goofy for a day. I explained that was my wife's nickname for me, so that's the costume I really wanted to wear. 

It took about 10 seconds of silence before the click on the other end told me I had been disconnected. Imagine, I was hung up on by a telemarketer rather than the other way around.

The very next day, a Sunday no less, I received a call from someone stating they were doing a poll for the University of Illinois. In less of a good mood than the day before, I told the person that I thought they were idiots for bothering people on a Sunday and advised this young lady to either put that information in the poll or place it somewhere that would prove itself uncomfortable when a person decides to sit down. I regained my edge and hung up on this marketer.

 

[to top of second column in this commentary]

That Monday, in late October 2003, I visited the e-mail site of the national Do Not Call registry. It wasn't hard to remember. It's www.donotcall.gov. I placed my home number in the system and waited for nothing at all to happen.

Amazingly something did.

Within two weeks my phone messages were only from friends and customers. Calls late at night were from just my son, who has no idea that old people go to bed early. In five months I have received only three calls that I didn't care to receive. One was a recorded message from President Bush telling me he personally wanted to talk to me. I e-mailed Republican Committee headquarters that the definition of a personal message meant I talked personally to the president and that a message didn't count. Politicians, of course, are exempt from the "do not call" program.

The other two calls were from sycophants trying to instill civic-minded duty in my mind by urging me to give money to a policemen's fund. I told the first individual who called that I would not give a donation that directed only 25 percent or less of my money to the cause they were soliciting (prove me wrong if you think you can). The man tried to get rude with me, but that of course was a mistake. That call ended up being so much fun it made my day.

The other time I received a call to give to the state policeman's benevolent fund. I advised the man that I was on the national "do not call" list. The man proudly explained how they, as a charitable organization, were exempt from such a list. I told the man that there was nothing charitable about telemarketers fooling benevolent associations into using their name to collect funds that lined the pockets of the telemarketers far more than the organization whose name was being bandied about as the charity. We traded a few excellent insults before ending the call. It was close, but I believe I beat the marketer to the hang-up.

The stories are the truth. In five months those are the only unsolicited calls I have received.

In the event you still haven't placed yourselves on the "do not call" list, please do. If you don't have a computer, go see a friend who has one. I promise the program works for the most part. The only flaw with the system is that on days when you feel like being a nasty rude SOB, you will have to take it out on your wife, not a telemarketer. We all know that doesn't work. 

[Mike Fak]

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