|Zootopia • Judy Hopps © Disney|
“Hello?”In three sentences, he’d told me three lies. His question about ‘Diana’ had thrown me off. The real Diana is my housekeeper who doubles as den mother. His ‘Diana’ was of course mythical. So was his phony soi-disant charitable foundation and collecting for rescue officers. According to telemarketing reports, the vast majority of police ‘charities’ and all but one military assistance organization vary from fake to fraudulent.
“Hey, is Diana there?”
“Nooo…” I say cautiously. “Diana won’t return until tomorrow.”
“In that case, maybe you can help me. I’m with the First Responders Philanthropy Foundation, and we’re collecting for police and firemen in your area.”
Notice the salesman’s generic use of “in your area,” instead of looking up where his targets lived. All said, he’d actually committed four deceptions. His caller ID number was faked, or in internet parlance ‘spoofed’.
I’d fallen out of practice. If I’d been on my game, our conversation would have gone something like this:
“Hello?”Asleep at the Switch
“Hey, is Diana there?”
(sharply) “Who are you and why are you using this line?”
“Maybe you can help me. I’m with the National First Responders Philanthropy Foundation, and we’re collecting for police and firemen in your area.”
“This isn’t funny. Get off this line immediately.”
“Sir, I can assure you I’m collecting for our fine first responders…”
“Sure, sure. You thought it would be funny to screw with an op. Where are you located?”
“Kansas City, but…”
“Your fake caller-ID says Jacksonville. You think interfering with federal surveillance is funny?” (muffled aside) “John, trace this idiot, find out where he’s calling from.” (back into the phone) “All right, clown, what’s your name?”
“Sir, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m hanging up now.”
This ‘story-telling’ began long ago when I designed software packages. Typically I worked nights when all was dark and quiet, I could concentrate, and I had Westinghouse’s computers all to myself.
A substantial part of our business came from Europe. As part of the deal, I had to be prepared to take phone calls from overseas and the Americas during the day… my sleep time. As a professional, I had to instantly snap awake when the phone rang… I’m still pretty good at sounding awake… even when I’m not.
That wasn’t the downside– the real bane was telemarketers. Post-Millennials who encounter phone solicitation only every week or two might not believe we endured multiple calls a day hawking encyclopedias, dubious diamonds, water softeners, and religious donations.
Telemarketers were the phlegm of phones, the bunions of business, the hemorrhoids of humanity. They interrupted family dinners, high school homework, television dramas, tender love moments, and possibly a romantic proposal or two. One day I fought back.
I had fallen sound asleep for the third time one fateful morning when yet another call came in. I snapped awake, prepared to deal with a tech problem in Sacramento, Senegal, or Switzerland, and I heard the following…
“Good morning, sir. We’re Kustom Kleaners and we’re offering to clean three rooms, yes, three rooms of your choice for only $29.95, and additional rooms for only $19 more plus tax, a real bargain. What do you…”I settled back to sleep until…
“How dare you.”
“How dare you. Let me guess. You saw the news and thought calling would be funny? Have a giggle while others listen in? Record this for a laugh with colleagues?”
“Sir, I have no idea…”
“Sure, right. The blood isn’t even dried and you thought you’d have a yuk, you and your so-called Kustom Kleaning caper, right? Never gave a thought to the victims, not even buried yet, eh?”
“Sir, I assure you…”
“You sick bastards, trolling families in their time of crisis, blood still everywhere, my wife sobbing, you sacks of…”
“Sir, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I won’t bother you again, I won’t. I promise.”
“Good morning, young man. I’m Fred of Fine Funeral Financing. Have you thought ahead about your loved ones, their grief at your final passing? That’s why we offer prepaid-burial services. Mega-Mortuary membership allows you to choose every nuance of your funeral arrangements, paid in small monthly increments until your passing. No detail is overlooked by our fine professionals. How does that sound to you?”Kranky Kraftmanship…
“Every detail? I pick out my own casket?”
“Of course, sir. We carry a fine line of hand-crafted Kustom Koffins, highlighting hand-rubbed lacquered woods, polished brass or even precious metals. Each vessel to the beyond is lined with the most comfortable of satin or other exquisite materials. How does that sound?”
“Wonderful. If I may ask, is it possible to purchase caskets with crosses on them?”
“Right you are, sir. Crosses are among our most popular adornments for one’s heavenly crossing.”
“This is really important to me. Can you mount the crosses upside-down?”
(long pause) “Sir, why would you want to do that?”
“It’s part of my belief system, an inverted cross is really important to me. Let’s write it up now, I’ll grab my credit card. Can you take the first installment over the phone?”
“Uh, sir. I’m not sure I can do that.”
“Why not? You said your coffins are the finest woods and the crosses come in brass. When the time comes, I need your guarantee each cross will be positioned upside down, one on each side and one on the… do you call it a lid or pop top?”
“I’m uh, I don’t think we can…”
“Can you ring up the total?”
“Uh, I’ll have to call you back, sir.”
“Okay, you have my number. I’ll be waiting.”
Each evening, I related these tales to my girlfriend who worked for Disney. At lunch, she shared my phone misadventures to a growing audience. A fan club of sorts developed. Disney artist Mark Chichiarra suggested the Kasket salesman would have really freaked out if asked to bury a buyer face down. Mark said, “Leigh thinks fast on his feet, doesn’t he.”
“On his feet? Probably not. Flat asleep maybe…”
Still the calls rolled in.
Coming up, a cottage industry of …