Andrew L. Pincus: Worried about Emily the clumsy telemarketer

LENOX — "Hi! This is Emily!" a cheery voice chirps into the phone. A fit of giggles follows. "Tee-hee, tee-hee." Then: "I'm so clumsy. My headphones slipped. Just a second, I'll have them back on."

Yes, Emily. I know, Emily. You've tried this trick on me before. I beep off. I don't know what she's selling — a trip to Cancun, maybe — but she'll be back. All of them, they always call back.

Emily is one of my faithful telemarketer friends. There's the stern-voiced woman who tells me my account has been flagged. Another caller wants to help me pay my electric bill. There's one who wants to give me a 75 percent discount on a holiday resort. And, of course, the IRS agent who wants to arrest me.

"This is a courtesy call," they say. Or: "Please do not hang up." Or: "You have been selected."

We want your money. Money. Money.

But I worry about Emily. She's better than the others. She has a storyteller's gift.

I picture her working in an unheated cubicle in the back of an abandoned warehouse somewhere in Iowa. (Why does it have to be Iowa?) All around her, in other cubicles, other members of the sisterhood are calling and begging. I wonder, do their headphones fall off?

She's in her late 30s, has two kids at home and needs to work to supplement her husband's earnings (he may have been laid off). She's an amateur actress. Or maybe she just has the voice and took part in the high school Thespians. How else to account for that show of cheery incompetence when I pick up the phone?

What I really want to do is ask Emily about herself.

"Emily!" I say. "How are you, darling?"

"Sir, I can't speak to you. I'm on business hours."

"Can you meet me after work at Joe's?"

"Sir! For $759.59 you can have "

"Come on, Emily, don't you get tired of all this?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"I mean, does anybody ever fall for your act?"

"Well "

"Let me take you away from all this, Emily. In my gondola. We'll fly "

She beeps off. She doesn't know I don't even buy from Amazon over the phone unless it's for something I can't buy locally. Nor would I hGave picked up her call if I could get caller ID on my pricey AT&T handset. The whatsis doesn't connect with the whoozit.

God bless the inventor of the robocall.

Technology will set us free. Technology will bring us together. Technology is the future. Is the future. Is the future.

So I worry about Emily. How many sales she makes. What she gets paid. Does the boss molest her? Who takes care of the kids? Is she a recording? Is she recording me?

I worry about having a charlatan in the White House. I worry about the future of the planet. I worry about an economy that makes people like Emily annoy people like me while people unlike either of us fly to Cancun on private jets.

It's a way to make a living, I tell myself. So is robbing a bank. Instead of the bank, they're robbing our homes. They're stealing our privacy.

Let it ring. If it's important, they can leave a message. They never do. They never do. They just call back.Emily, let me buy you a new pair of headphones.

Andrew L. Pincus writes about classical music for The Berkshire Eagle and is an occasional contributor to the opinion page.          


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