I hate telemarketers so much, I used to let the machine pick up all calls, just so I wouldn’t have to talk to someone trying to sell me something. Plagued with too much general kindness and specific sympathy for their terrible job, I could never bring myself to do what my piano teacher always used to: cut them off right away with a blunt “I’m not interested” and hang up immediately afterward. Unfortunately, this got me into trouble a lot, since most telemarketers aren’t fazed by polite refusals.

From the lovely and now-defunct comic strip, Monkeyhouse.

From the lovely and now-defunct comic strip, Monkeyhouse.

Once I wound up in the ludicrous situation of worrying about the telemarketer: like so many others, he didn’t enunciate clearly, and I as usual was too nice about saying no straight out, so I unwittingly half-agreed to subscribe to something. Apparently the sellers’ policy was to have supervisors speak to everyone who said they’d subscribe, because I ended up speaking to the caller’s supervisor and had to tell him that I did not intend to give them any money. He then proceeded to be quite rude about it, and bullied me about whether the caller had made clear what he was asking (and of course he hadn’t, and that was obvious, so I couldn’t quite say yes). I was left feeling very uncomfortable and guilty, hoping I hadn’t just gotten the poor guy fired. Another time the caller was so disgusted with me that she actually hung up on me instead of the other way around. Variations on this theme, et cetera, et cetera. I’m certain my “method” of dealing with telemarketers must be the wussiest thing about me. If I were writing me into a short story, this would be a great personality trait to describe to introduce me as a character, and it would make me annoying but also endearing. In real life, I know, it’s pathetic. All I can say in defense of my usually assertive self is that I am phone-phobic: until very recently, I was so scared of talking to strangers on the phone that my heart would beat faster every time I had to call someone new: restaurant hostesses, stores, interviewers, even acquaintances. For this I have no explanation, as I was trained to answer the phone from a fairly early age and as far as I remember it never bothered me when I was younger.

When I first moved into this apartment and had a land line installed, I forgot to put my name on the Do-Not-Call Registry, so I was getting several calls a day until someone reminded me that the registry existed. In the past few months, though, I’ve gotten several calls from local charitable organizations, which are not covered under the registry. These are all good causes, so add not-donating guilt to my usual issues with telemarketers, and you have a highly effective recipe for resurrecting my problems with unsolicited callers.

This evening, after almost agreeing to something again (this time the guy talked too fast, and he was asking for money to help families of police officers killed in the line of duty, so it’s really not like I could hang up on him), and then having to explain that I didn’t want to donate, I felt so bad that I just sat there for a few minutes unable to get back to my work. And then various thoughts coalesced in my brain to lead to a realization and then a decision: it’s not my responsibility to feel bad for telemarketers. It sounds like a stupid thing to not know, but I’ve spent so much of my life trying to learn to be kind to everyone and treat everyone with love and respect. The idea that it’s okay to not care about someone really goes against the grain. But I recognize that this is a big mental turnaround for me. So I thought I’d better get on here and write out my feelings so I could figure out what’s going on in my head.

And I am feeling better, because I have just noticed that this half-epiphany is not entirely unprecedented. Near the end of last year, I realized that my Berkeley experiences with the homeless had taught me to say no to people without rejecting either their humanity or mine. So I guess you could say that I’ve just now figured out that I can extend that realization to my dealings with telemarketers. Boy, does that make me feel better. Now I just have to figure out the best way to head them off right away, without outright hanging up on them like Mrs Banke used to do. Any ideas?

On an only peripherally related note, while writing this entry I discovered how awesome my lj-Archive software is for finding old entries. This is going to save me a lot of time.

And now, a contender for Cutest Thing Ever:
2005 March - NappingPlace
My sister and her cat. Setup and photo courtesy of Devin.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]