It’s not your fault. I’m sure you had only the best of intentions when you invented the telephone and it truly changed the world in amazing and positive ways. You could not have anticipated that it would someday also be used as an instrument of torturous harassment.
“No, listen, I said PUT ME ON YOUR DO-NOT-CALL LIST!”
We’ve all endured the telemarketing calls, of course, like robo-Jennifer, who regularly calls to warn us that the FBI has reported serious crimes in our area and offers to install a security system in our home for free. And, in case you’re wondering, yes, we’re on the National Do Not Call List, a waste of taxpayer money which magically does absolutely nothing when you add your name and phone number to it. I’ll spare you my rant on political robocalls since we have blessedly made it through what felt like the longest presidential campaign season ever.
There is yet another insidious category of unwanted phone calls and if you’ve gone to college or have a child in college, these are probably quite familiar. For decades, my husband and I donated a paltry sum to our alma mater’s annual alumni fund drive. Now that we have a son in college (and a daughter not far behind), we have stopped this silly practice so that every spare penny can help pay for our kids’ education.
Our alma mater did not take this turn of events lightly. They stepped up their calling efforts, mailings and emails. I stopped answering their calls and ignored all other forms of communication. In an act of desperation, they sent us a “proud alumni of…” baseball cap, which is now collecting dust in a pile of stuff on a countertop. Though they have spent more trying, in vain, to obtain our $25 check than it’s worth, they seem far more obsessed with high alumni participation in the fund drive than in the amount they reap. Oh well. By the grace of Caller ID, I will continue to ignore their pleas.
When the phone rang this past Tuesday night at eight o’clock and I saw that the call was from the university my son attends, I was pretty sure it was a fundraising call. Pretty sure, but not certain. Because there existed a remote possibility that something could have happened to my baby (if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you understand this is not all that remote), my maternal instincts commanded me to pick up the phone.
A perky student introduced herself, saying she wanted to make sure that their records were up-to-date and fill me in on all the wonderful services made possible by the school’s parent organization. Crap, a fundraising call. Mind you, this comes just a week or so after the due date for the spring semester tuition bill – a fine bit of timing, don’t you think?
I didn’t want to be rude to a student, so I tried to patiently play along until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Here’s the gist of the conversation:
Perky Student (reading from a script): So, is your daugh….uh, son enjoying the university?
Financially Tapped-Out Mom who recently paid spring tuition bill and just finished Hanukkah/Christmas shopping: Oh yes.
PS: Has he decided what he’s going to major in?
FTOM: Computer engineering.
PS: Oh, great! I’ve talked to quite a few parents with engineering students. Isn’t that funny?
PS: Is this your current address?
FTOM: Yes, all our contact information is the same.
PS: Is this your current email address?
PS: I don’t see an employer listed for you.
FTOM: I’m self-employed.
PS: I’ve heard that from a lot of parents I’ve talked to. Isn’t that funny?
FTOM, now leaning head against the wall and deeply regretting having answered the phone: Mm.
PS: You know, our parent organization provides so many services here on campus that are not paid for by tuition, like escorts to walk students home at night from the library to their dorms and our on-campus health center. Has your daugh….uh, son, used any of these services.
FTOM: Yes, he has. [He is well acquainted with the health center from last year’s painful biking misadventures.]
PS: Then you know how important they are. I mean, you wouldn’t want your son walking down Hillsborough Street by himself at night – NOT that the campus isn’t safe, of course, but you know, Hillsborough Street isn’t the best…. [I sense PS has now broken a sweat and is veering from the script and into babble, thrown by my polite resistance to engaging in a real conversation with her.]
PS: So, has your son joined any clubs?
FTOM, now fearing the script is designed as a giant loop from which the only escape is $$: Listen, I don’t want to waste your time or my time, so if this is really just a fundraising call, we’re not giving any money beyond the tuition we’re already paying. [Oh, other than those large chunks of change to cover room, meal plan, books and a plethora of exorbitant fees for everything under the sun.]
PS: Oh, I understand, lots of parents say that, but any amount makes a difference. Even $125 will help fund….
FTOM: Listen, thanks for the call and have a good night. CLICK.
I expect this is not the end of the university’s fundraising calls, all of which I will be compelled to reluctantly answer on the slim chance that one of them may be something other than a fundraising call. Perhaps the university should just get it over with and send someone over to break my kneecaps with a baseball bat.
Historical footnote: According to Wikipedia, after inventing the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell considered it “an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.” Smart man.