Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Monday through Friday we receive phone calls with nobody on the other end. They're all scam companies making several thousand calls simultaneously. When one person
"Hope I interrupted your
picks up, the other calls are immediately terminated. This used to be known as "harassment." Now it's claimed to be "freedom of speech" -- ironic, since 99% of the time they never speak -- and, therefore, doesn't pertain to the federal government's "Do Not Call" website. When the 1% do get through, it's always a recording of a woman offering to lower our electric, phone or gas bills. She always tells us to push 3 to opt out of future calls, which, I've read, only increases the number of calls. Man, when it comes to irony, these guys make Gawker look like Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

If our phone displays an unidentified number, it goes to the answering machine. Ditto "Out of area" or unfamiliar name. These crooks have tried to pull the occasional fast one. A call ID's as FOOD BANK NY -- again, going straight to the answering machine -- was an offer to give our home a free security system in exchange for putting the company's sign on our lawn. The latter would be particularly useless to us, because our co-op's garden is too crowded with foxgloves and the like already. 

Honest to God, right as I finished the last paragraph, I received a call on my cell phone from "Heather from credit services," letting me know there was "no problem with my account but" -- well, I don't know what, because I hung up. It's bad enough that they call on the landline, but the cell phone is worse because there's no way I can block them. (I have an old school flip phone which probably looked way impressive in 1997.) Our landline can block only 30 numbers at a time, so I'm constantly deleting old numbers to add new ones. Consider it a hobby.

Those calls are bad enough, but at least I can kind of avoid them. What I've been facing this summer, though -- and every summer for the last several years -- are earnest young people working for earnest young causes. They're all different, yet the pitch is always done the same way. A man and woman stand about 15 yards apart, facing each other as if recreating the climax of a 1940s western. They're fresh-faced, wear bright clean t-shirts advertising their cause, and always hold petitions. And they always plant themselves on the busiest streets or outside grocery stores where you can't help but run into them.

At least it keeps the tourists away.
There have been times when I've crossed the street to avoid them, just to make a statement. I don't know what the statement is, but I'm sure it's a pretty good one. But this becomes difficult on 86th Street, where various construction jobs, especially for the Second Avenue Subway, makes even just walking on your side of the street an adventure. 

Their pitches are meant to guilt-trip you into signing their petitions. "Hello, can you spare five minutes to help save the planet?" (I always get a kick out of answering, "No!"). Or, "Can you help save Planned Parenthood?" If I deigned to answer them with more than one word in the negative, I would say, "There's about as much chance of Planned Parenthood going under as Dunkin Donuts." But they want to believe the worse, so who am I to begrudge their little dreams? When you pass them by without stopping, they squeak, "Have a wonderful day!" with just a hint of Fuck you, mister. Because, you know, they care so much.

Other times I've seen both the men and women wearing pink t-shirts reading I AM A GIRL. Uh, no you're not, bub. I've Googled that phrase and came up with "Plan's campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls' rights and lift millions out of poverty." Well, that's a worthy thing, but guys wearing those t-shirts makes us think it's about folks with severe identity crises.

Because there's nothing like a house party
to save the world.
These people hogging the streets are innocent enough to be all starry-eyed about what they're doing and how it's going to change the world. Bless their hearts, they believe that petitions actually get kids through high schools, out of slums and into good jobs. And if they think Islamic governments really quake in their boots at the sight of pieces of paper signed by residents of the Upper East Side -- well, this is cuter than a group of baby pandas drinking milk out of bottles while wearing diapers.

Here's a good way to promote girls' rights: teach your daughters to be strong and independent. Be a good parent. Listen to them. And while you're at it, tell them not to get in my way when I'm carrying three bags of groceries. 


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