TBRARUMUD All-Stars: Telemarketing Gone Wrong

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | 2 Comment(s)

Let's go back.  Back in time.  I am a wise-ass, tightly wound, over-achieving high school student.   My dad, at that time, is a tightly wound oncologist who hates, above all, being interrupted by telemarketers.  Especially during dinner.

Context.  This is a time when cellphones don't exist and the constant interruption from phones was not yet the norm.  This is before caller ID and knowing ahead of time not to pick up an "Unknown Number." Especially during dinner.

And so, when my father did, on occasion, pick up the phone to find a well-enunciating young man or woman asking him personal questions with no lead in, or telling him about the marvel that is so-and-so running for lieutenant governor, he let em have it.   There were definitely a few different tactics that he employed.  There was the pointed dressing down, where the fact that he wasn't screaming made it all the worse.  And then there were the more seldom, but much more fun to watch "sprint and slams." These are where he says one line about the fuckery that is calling people during their family meals and then says BYE! and slams down the phone.

Context.  Now, when i say 'slams down the phone', I don't mean an iPhone was thrown down on a table.  This is way back when phones had two pieces, the base and the receiver . . . AND THEY WERE CONNECTED TO EACH OTHER!  And there was this wonderful empowering feeling that could be had by violently returning the receiver to the base, thus ending the call with a slamming sound on the other end.  the bases were pretty much built for that impact.  These were the good ol days i tell yah.

*Quick Tangent:  In the "you heard it here first department." We need a slam button for our cellphones.  A button you can press that will emit the sound of a slamming phone to the caller before hanging up on them.  The phone slam is an endangered species, and i think there really needs to be "an app for that." *end tangent

I tell you all this because one day back then I picked up the phone and heard what was essentially a telemarketer from some oncological journal, wanting my father to contribute.  I knew how to deal with these people.  I'd seen my father do it time and time before.  They said, "would Dr. Z like to contribute to the  . . . blah blah blah. 

"I'm sorry sir, but Dr. Z passed away."

"Oh oh, i'm so so sorry.  I'm sorry for your loss.  Have a good night."

I'm brilliant.  Face it.  You're laughing.  That means you're just as awful as me.  Doesn't it feel great.

My dad laughed to.  Hard in fact.  I remember that he thought it was super funny in that way that parents do where you can show your kid that you know what he did was hilarious but at the same time you restrain yourself so as not to encourage such behavior.

I went downstairs and returned to, most likely, watching some tv.  I'm not completely sure what was happening in my dad's mind upstairs, but i suspect it went something like this:

"That funny ass little shit.  Telling those money-callers i'm dead.  hilarious.  I mean, what's the worst that can happen.  Well, the journal could POTENTIALLY report that i'm dead.  and i guess that telemarketer could take it upon himself to tell someone in the magazine proper to but me in the obituaries . . . holy crap they're gonna tell everyone i'm dead."

Like i said, he was high-strung in those days.

About 45 min later he comes down stairs to talk to me about said phone call.  He is no longer laughing.  He says that i have to take responsibility for my actions.  Which means, he says, I need to call this oncology journal back and tell them that my dad is not, in fact, dead, as i had earlier indicated.

I'm 17 but i'm not blind to the ridiculousness of this.  I mean, it was the "fund raising department" calling for money.  Do they talk to the editors.  No.  How does one track down the person i told?  I can't.  How hilarious and humiliating is it to call someone to tell them that you lied about your dad's degree of alive-ness?   Very.

But the red lines slip-and-sliding horizontally across my dad's forehead made me sure that something would need to be done.  So I did my best.  I found a number for that magazine.  I called and talked to a totally different person.

I said,  "Look, here's the deal, you guys called to get money from my father, whose an oncologist, and I told the guy on the phone that my dad is dead.  Which he is not.  And so now i'm calling to let you know that Dr. Z is, in fact, alive.  He is worried that this might somehow get to the obituary section of your magazine and thus tell everyone he's dead, when he's not dead. "

Silence from the other end of the phone.  Then.  "Ok . . . I'll . . . um . . . let them know."  

I bet he didn't.  Smart money says that the guy i first talked to hung up and moved on to the next name on the call list --  and the second guy i talked to most likely hung up, said to himself "what the f was that" and went about his business.  Little did they know that in the background of those 2 ridic phone calls was a Shakespearean comedy/tragedy playing out at my house.

It seems, that once again, the joke was on me.


  1. On the fridge, next to the phone on the kitchen counter, was a whistle hanging from from a magnetic clip, ready for any telemarketing person who didn't know what time dinner was at the clark house. -david