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How To Answer the Phone Like an Idiot

The vultures from Lincoln and Tallahassee circle above, waiting for the moment when you are weak and feeble, unable to recognize your immediate danger and flee. They are the telemarketers, and they can be defeated.

Between 5:00-8:00 pm, answer your phone with a curt, slightly confused voice. If it's a telemarketer, assume the part of a total nimrod. No matter how idiotic you are, these people stay on the line. They have to. It's their job.

Here are some examples of actual phone conversations I've had:

Life Insurance Salesperson: Now, if you're killed in an accident involving public transportation, your beneficiaries receive One Million Dollars. If it's by private transport, that figure is reduced to One Hundred Thousand Dollars. And this service is free for three months!

Me: So, if I get hit by a bus--

Salesperson: That's one million dollars.

Me: What if a privately-owned plane crashes into a bus which blows up and takes out my car?

Salesperson (pauses): One million dollars.

Me: So, if I stow away on a Conrail freight-train and fall off drunkenly... that would pay an even 100 g's, even though the train is run by the government?

Salesperson: Yes, if it is recognized public transportation.

Me: What if an alien spacecraft plummets to Earth, and hits me?

Salesperson: I think that would be $100,000.

Me: But the UFO is controlled by an alien government! That's public transportation!

Unflustered, the Salesperson actually wore me down. I couldn't believe it. Now I have 3 months of accident insurance. Unfortunately, my ex-girlfriend (named as the beneficiary) is plotting to push me in front of a bus.

A week later, Pacific Bell, my local telephone company, called and asked if I would consider using them for my Cable TV service.

Pac Bell
(going through a list of services): Does your current cable company offer MTV?

Me (in bad, generic foreign accent): Yes, I get TV.

Pac Bell: No, do you get MTV?

Me: No, I am not a TV.

Pac Bell: No, do you receive the MTV channel?

Me: Do they have cooking shows?

Pac Bell: I'll put you down for 'no'.

Me: But I have TV!

Pac Bell: Do you get HBO?

Me: No, I don't have B.O. How dare you!

After about 10 minutes of this-

Pac Bell: The reason I am asking you these questions is because Pacific Bell would like to know wether you'd be willing to switch to their new cable service.

Me: Pacific Bell? The phone company?

Pac Bell: Yes.

Me: Can I talk to the TV?

Pac Bell: No. It's cable TV.

Me: I cannot call my relatives in Azerbaijan from the TV?

Pac Bell: No. You use the phone for that.

Me: Then why do I use the phone for TV? Can I talk to J.R. Ewing? I love Dallas!

The most ubiquitous of calls are from Credit Card companies who are willing to give a card to anyone who dares to answer the phone.

: You want to give me a what?

MBNA Bank: A credit card, Mr. Patterson.

Me: Cre-Dit Kard? What does it do?

MBNA: You use it instead of cash for purchases.

Me: Free money?

MBNA: No, look: All you have to do is give me your name.

Me: Alip Shezejanulo Patterson.

MBNA: How do you spell that?

(After explaining my name doesn't translate well to English--)

MBNA: How many people live at your residence?

Me: It's hard to say. Sometimes two, but other times six to ten. It depends on the refugee situation.

MBNA: And what are their nationalities?

Me: Please. Let's not get into that.

MBNA: Oh no. I need to. You are--?

Me: I am from Rhodesia but it has a different name now, Zimbabwae, but I left before that. Then I went to India where I learned Engineering. I picked up my last name in England though where I was adopted by the Pattersonsā.

MBNA: So-- you're white?

Me: Oh no! No. well- sort of. I'm not sure how to describe it. Do you have 'other'?


Me: Try French-Indian. I think that might-- oh wait. I forgot. My mother is from Mexico.

MBNA: So you're Hispanic?

Me: No no. She was originally from the Northwest Territories. Inuit.

MBNA: So you're Native American?

Me: Look, I told you I'm not from America! Are you a dummy?

(much later)

MBNA: So now I have to ask you this one final question, and the law requires me to do so.

Me: I am not a Communist!

MBNA (startled): No. that wasn't the question.

Me: But- I was watching J. Edgar Hoover and--

MBNA: He's dead.

Me: My God! Mizak- did you hear? J. Edgar Hoover is dead! Thank you, dear God!

MBNA: I just needed your social security number so I can give you this credit card.

Me: Give me what?

MBNA: The credit card.

Me: Oh, no. I can't have that. They say moneylenders are bad in the book. To own one is very bad.

MBNA: But we've been filling out the form for the last 25 minutes!

Me: Oh, we have? I thought you were the government. Sorry. But thank you for the news. We can finally come out of hiding now!

The kicker came a week later when I received a letter notifying Alip Patterson of his credit card cancellation.


MATT PATTERSON is a master of obscure dialects and antiquated slang.


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