Over the years, to earn my daily bread, I have smashed cable boxes, embossed metal tags, inventoried grinding wheels and tucked tacos. Some of these jobs were less horrible than others, but I imagine all of them are less horrible than having to sit by an autodialer, night after night, hoping someone will buy whatever it is you really don't feel like selling.

It can't be an easy life. The machine does the dialing; once you get an answer, you launch into some carefully-calculated script that doesn't allow for any variations beyond the simple Boolean: Visa OR MasterCard OR Discover OR American Express. Before long, your brain turns to tapioca, unflavored at that, and your soul cries out for something, anything, to break up the routine.

Well, maybe not. I've never actually done this for any extended period of time. Then again, I generally reach full tapiocahood after the third hour, which is probably not up to present-day telemarketing snuff.

You have to presume that everyone, with the possible exception of Alexander Graham Bell, who has the advantage of being deceased, gets these calls, usually right around dinnertime. I don't know about the rest of you, but this is my least receptive time, unless someone happens to be selling dessert. No such luck. I kept a rough tally during 1994, and while I got about two hundred offers to switch my long-distance service, two dozen new Time-Life book or record offers, close to a hundred magazine-subscription deals, any number of queries from venal politicians (usually Democrats) or would-be venal politicians wishing to unseat them (usually Republicans), and requests from scores of charities, some of which were actually legitimate, no one proffered so much as one lousy scoop of French Vanilla.

After this dispiriting experience, I installed a Caller ID box and a low-end voice-mail system, and basically just quit answering the telephone entirely. Now, clearly, if everybody did this, there would be a lot of people out of $6.00-an-hour jobs; on the other hand, I can't help but imagine they might be happier somewhere else. Unfortunately, there probably aren't enough smashable cable boxes to go around. Pass the taco sauce.

The Vent

#3
19 April 1996

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