Whew. Where did that work week go? Today’s Daily Prompt poses an interesting challenge:  “Write about evil: how you understand it (or don’t), what you think it means, or a way it’s manifested, either in the world at large or in your life.”  And darned if I hadn’t already started work on a post that fit that theme…

I think it’s fair to say that evil comes in degrees. Big evil would be things like genocide and thermonuclear war and hunting white rhinos into extinction. But big evil can be so big and remote that it’s difficult to wrap your head around. I sometimes think it’s the smaller, day-to-day sorts of evil that have a more noticeable impact on our lives.

People, I’m talking about telemarketing.

I fervently hope that when Alexander Graham Bell arrived at the Pearly Gates he was held accountable for the evil unleashed by his invention. And whoever first thought of using the telephone to intrude on people’s lives with unsolicited sales calls should surely be consigned to the seventh circle of hell.

I hate telemarketing calls.

Not just because they are always timed for the moment I’m trying to put supper on the table.

Not just because they interrupt MY precious personal time to try to sell me things I don’t want and couldn’t afford even if I did.

Not just because I KNOW that there’s a huge scammy catch hidden behind that cruise that I seem to win at least once a week.

Mostly, I hate them because they have the ability to conjure ghosts.

phoneLet me explain.

The phone rang the other day. I noted that the call display said “unknown” and picked up. A heavily accented voice asked for me by a tortured pronunciation of my name. Except it wasn’t my name. It USED to be my name, pre-divorce. But it hasn’t been my legal name for more than five years. And seriously, if you’re trying to get me to buy your product or contribute to your cause, starting off calling me by a name that I have chosen to relegate to my past is not the best way to get my attention.

Years ago, when we were waiting out my grandmother’s final days, I got a cold-call from a telemarketing firm flogging, of all things, pre-arranged funerals. I lost it, and not just on my own behalf. I gave the caller my mother’s phone number and demanded that he make sure she did NOT get a call. This was not the right time for that particular intrusion in my mother’s life. It enraged me to think about all the other people who might be struggling with the recent or imminent loss of a loved one who might be getting the same random call.

My absolute worst moment on the receiving end of a telemarketing call happened well over 20 years ago, and yet I can recall as though it was yesterday the distress it caused me. The intensity of that distress likely came as quite a shock to the innocent minimum-wage earning caller at the other end of the line. I’m sure he was used to being brushed off or hung up on, but I doubt he was prepared for the full-on rant with which I lambasted him. After all, he was offering me a gift! A free offer. All I had to do was bring my new baby in to the portrait studio for a photo shoot and I would get a free 8 x 10 print!

Except there was no baby. There had been, briefly. Just long enough to squeeze in one trip to the maternity wear store and fill out one innocuous little draw ballot with my name and phone number. Then, as the first trimester drew to a end so did my hopes and dreams that maybe, just maybe, I would carry this one to term. Unlike the three I had already lost.

Talk about target-marketing gone wrong. How dare they assume that everyone who gets the call is either happy or indifferent? How dare they presume to be able to piece together enough data about my life to be absolutely 100% confident that this call from a stranger is not going to be a trigger? How dare they barge in on my healing to rub salt in my wounds, all in the name of drumming up business?

The head office for that portrait studio got quite the irate letter, and I also marched back to the maternity shop in person and demanded that they remove my name from whatever call lists it had been placed on. But it was too late to totally stuff that genie back into the bottle, so I continued for months to get coupons in the mail for diapers and baby food.

So really, it doesn’t matter what you have to offer. You have no way of knowing which of my ghosts it might bring forth out of the darkness. So don’t call me.

Just don’t.


7 thoughts on “Ghosts

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