Thursday, February 2, 2017


It's enough to make me want to drop my landline.

We get them all the time, nearly every day: telemarketers. And while those that are set up in Canada comply with the CRTC rules regarding do-not-disturb policies, remove us from their calling lists, and we never hear from them again (until they change their name and start the process all over again), there are the overseas telemarketers who constantly call, trying to ply whatever scam it is their employer has concocted.

Like the duct-cleaning services caller.

From the get-go, they are dishonest: "Hello, my name is Jason..."—seriously, he sounds like a Jason about as much as I sound like a Choi Tae-ha. You would seem more sincere if he introduced himself as Pavan. Or Sandeep.

I realize that I sound a bit racist when I say this, and maybe the caller's name really is Jason, just as the other voices with an Indian or Pakistani accent, who have called me, are really named Peter, Michael, Colin, and Mark.

By now, I've heard the spiel: Jason is with a duct-cleaning service, aptly named Duct-Cleaning Services, and his company is having a special for households in my neighbourhood. I've let Jason give his entire sales pitch, have played with him all the way, agreed to have his company suck the crap out of my ducts, right up until he asks for my credit card.

"Why do you want my credit-card number now?" I ask. "I prefer to provide it when the services are rendered. If you like, I can give the number when your crew arrives."

"We ask for your number to ensure that you're committed to having the service done, okaaay?" Jason calmly explains, ending his statement in the form of a question, drawing out the last word, his voice rising in pitch as he stretches it.

"I have no assurances that once I give you my credit-card information that you'll actually arrive, okaaay?" I mock.

This is when I hear the tension in Jason's voice. He takes a deep breath and says, "Of course we'll come, okaaay? Now, please, may I have your credit-card number?"

"Nah, forget it," I say, and hang up.

I try to get more creative when another Jason calls. "Duck-cleaning services?" I ask, bewildered. "I don't have any ducks. I live in the city, not on a farm. And why would you want to clean ducks? Don't they groom themselves?"

Silence, on the other end, before a laugh. "Ah, no no, sir. I said ducts, not ducks."

"I told you, this isn't a farm. I have no ducks." I hang up.

Other times: "I have no ducts," I lie, "I have electric heating. Or water. Or a wood-burning stove in my little shack. Or whatever." (I say all of those options in the same call, just to confuse Jason.)

Sometimes, Jason hangs up without a word at that response.

I also get calls from Jason, this time claiming that he's with Microsoft. "I want to help you with your Windows computer and a problem that we've detected, okaaay?" Jason is stubborn on these calls, refusing to simply go away.

"I don't use Microsoft," I lie, "I use Linux. Or Apple. Or whatever." (I say all of those options in the same call, just to confuse Jason.)

A pause. "Sir, this is about your Windows computer, okaaay? You have a problem that is affecting your computer, okaay? But I can help you, okaaay?"

I let him walk me through procedures. I tap on my keyboard and click with my mouse, but my computer is turned off.

"You should see the Remote Desktop option, okaaay?"


"Please click it, okaaay?"


"Okay," I say.

Silence on the other end. Then, "Are you sure you clicked it?"

"Yes," I say. "Here, I'll click it again." I hold my phone close to the mouse and I double-click it.

"Are you sure you're connected to the Internet?" Jason asks.

"Internet? What's the Internet?"

Jason goes silent. I hang up.

I've run out of ideas. I've told Jason that I don't own a computer, that I don't trust them, that they are a means for Big Brother to watch you, that computers are the work of the Devil. I have feigned anger and frustration when Jason calls. "Not another problem with my computer! That's it! I'm throwing it out! I'm never buying another Microsoft computer again!"

I hang up.

(Remember the satisfaction we used to get out of slamming the phone handset down onto the cradle? It's not the same when you press the OFF button.)

Jason is getting to me. His persistence in phoning, trying to solve my non-existent computer problems or trying to sell me duct-cleaning services has made me tired. My creativity for dealing with Jason has run dry. And so, lately, I've tried another tactic with Jason, when I answer the phone.


"Hello, may I please speak to Mr. or Mrs. Brown?" (There is no Mrs. Brown.)

"This is he."

"Hello, Mr. Brown, how are you today?"


The scream is a long, deafening, blood-curdling screech. As Jason asks me how I am, I suck in as much air as my lungs can hold. I let it all out, at great volume, holding the wail until my lungs are depleted, until the sound I utter is lifeless, like a gravelly moan.

Doing it once, forgetting that DD15 was in the house, I scared the shit out of her. She came running, believing that I was in great peril.

Jason is silent. His ear, no doubt is ringing, he is caught off-guard, stunned by the horror on the other end of the line.

"Okaaay?" I ask, before hanging up.

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