Who's calling?

First call of the day:

"Hello, Mr. Brauer?"

"That's Brewer."

"Hello, Mr. Brewer. My name's Mindy. You can consolidate all of your bills into one monthly payment--"

"Sorry, Mindy, I'm not interested. Thanks anyway. Bye."

Third call of the day:

"Mr. Browner?"


"Hi, my name's Pat and I represent--"

"Not interested. Thanks. Bye."

Fifth call of the day:

"Hello, Mr. Braugher, I'm calling for Dustaway Carpet Cleaning--"

"I have no carpets." Hang up the phone without saying good-bye.

Seventh call of the day:

"Hello, is this Stella Breener?"

"Close enough."

"Hi, I represent--"

"NO!" Slam down the phone.

I know telemarketers are just trying to do their jobs. It's a hard job and I wouldn't want to do it. But they prey on those of us who work at home, and it's hard to remain patient as the phone rings again and again.

All day long, telemarketers call empty homes, ones where people hold jobs in offices and stores. Then they hit on one of us homebodies, and it's a feeding frenzy.

When you work alone all day, the shrill jangling of the phone is jarring. It always yanks me out of whatever level of concentration I've been able to muster.

Worse yet, the telemarketers often call during housework. My arms are full of laundry. Or I'm up to my elbows in dishwater. Or standing on a ladder. Then it's drop everything and go to the phone. No wonder I can be a little touchy.

Sure, I could let the message machine take the calls. Check them at my leisure. Erase the automated sales pitches. But the ugly truth is that many of us who work at home get a tad lonely. That ringing phone may be an important call from a client, we tell ourselves. Or, it might be a friend calling to lure me away to lunch.

So it's not just the annoyance of the call, it's the disappointment. Not only did the call not bring any good news, but it's a stranger, one who's not interested in me, one who's only out to dip his hand into my pocket. I feel so used.

Many work-at-home folks have Caller ID, a little box that shows who's calling before you ever lift the receiver. Wouldn't work for me. I'd still have to stop whatever I was doing to run over and check the box in case it's somebody I know and I can snatch it up before they're switched into answering machine limbo.

Supposedly, you can tell the telemarketers to "remove me from your list" and, by law, they can't call you anymore. I believe that about as much as I believe sending a "remove" message to e-mail solicitations will get you off the spam lists. And, even if it's true, a dozen new telemarketers will spring up to take that one's place.

Others who work at home advise me to talk the telemarketers' ears off when they call, then don't buy anything. They're wasting your time, this philosophy goes, so the only way to get even is to waste theirs right back. I don't have the patience for that.

Then there's the approach that I think made its first appearance on "Seinfeld." Say to the telemarketer: "I don't have time to do this right now. Give me your home number and I'll call you there." I don't have the nerve to pull that off.

During the summer, I hit upon the perfect answer. I let my 6-year-old son answer the phone. I only hear one side of the conversations, but they seem to go something like this:

"Hello, may I speak to Mr. Bruger?"


"Um. Is your mommy or daddy there?"

"Mommy's at work."

"What about your daddy?"

"He can't come to the phone. He's going potty."


"He's sleeping."

"Okay, thanks anyway."

"Have you ever seen the purple Beetleborg when he morphs into a super Beetleborg?"

"Uh, bye now."

"What's your name? Do you want come over and play?"

"NO!" Slam.

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