Sunday, December 28, 2008

Phone Numbers

I don’t know if you’ve ever been a telemarketer before, but I know I have. See I used to make call after call, working at this telemarketing place in Huntington W.V.
Hello my name is Scott McClanahan for the West Virginia Fraternal Order of police.
Hello my name is Scott McClanahan for the Fraternal Order of police.
Hello my name is Scott McClanahan for the Fraternal Order of Police.
Hello my name is.
And you always had to do it in this deep voice so you could fool people into thinking you were a real state trooper, and not just some punk ass kid.

And it was a strange place to work and it was full of all these strange people. Like I remember the first day I worked there, I sat next to this guy named Matt. And he was this old guy probably about 45-50 years old, and he had a family of four. He supported them on his seven dollars an hour. And he was just this aww shucks guy, but once he got on the phone he was like a bulldog. I remember sitting beside him as he shouted at this poor old woman: “You will give. My best friend was killed in the line of duty last year. You WILL GIVE!”
Of course, we were just pretending to be police officers.
And she finally ended up giving 150 dollars.
And he had all kinds of tricks like shouting—“Hey Sarge. I’ll see you out at the range in about 15 minutes.”
And then the next phone call he even started talking in this strange accent and the person gave him 75 dollars.
And then he looked over and said: “That’s why they call me the best.”
Then B-Dawg, the manager, shouted “And tonight’s top caller and winner of 100 dollars is you know who? Matt.”
And then later that evening on our break, he said: “Yeah I always take the family to a nice restaurant each week on this. We always go to Denny’s on Saturday night and have a good time.”
And he meant this with no irony whatsoever.
Denny’s was a nice restaurant to him.

And so back from break I kept on calling…”Hello my name is Scott McClanahan with the West Virginia Fraternal order of police.”
And all of the sudden there was this asshole on the phone from a rich neighborhood in California shouting: “Hey you shit ass. What are you making, like minimum wage? I want to know how much of this goes to the police.”
And so I started my rebuttal, “Well sir because of the high costs of production.”
And he cut me off.
“Yeah only about 5 percent goes,” He said like he read it in a paper somewhere. “This is nothing but a scam.”
Matt just smiled like a kind father, pointed to my keyboard, and said, “Hit that button.” That button was F-4.
So I hit F-4 and I asked what that would do.
And he said: “It’ll call him back every five minutes for the next five hours.”
And that’s just what happened.
And the dumb fucker didn’t even take the phone off the hook, but answered each time cussing and carrying on and getting ready to have a heart attack as his number bounced from caller to caller throughout the office.

And so over the next couple of weeks I tried telling people about how wonderful it was being a telemarketer. I tried telling people how strange it was to sit calling somebody all the way across the country even though here I was in little piss ant WV. And when they picked up the phone—I was always taught to say the first name. This was so they’d think I was someone who knew them.
So I said: “Hey Jerry” and a little girls voice said: “NO—do you want to talk with him?”
“May I ask who’s calling?”
”It’s Scott McClanahan.”
And then on the other end I heard this little girl voice that said: “DAAADDD? Scott McClanahan’s calling.”
And here I was having my name shouted a thousand miles away.

And sometimes I wondered if I’d even come across another Scott McClanahan aged 21 in another part of the country. And maybe we were the same person, but we were living different realities. And if I ever met myself I wondered…
What would he say?
What would I say?
Would he give me money?

And these were the type of things I thought about walking home at night through the dark alleys of Huntington, even though friends told me it was a bad idea and I should walk the main road. I walked slow through the evening dark and passed women standing around smoking cigarettes.
“Hey,” one said all sexy like she knew me.
“Hey,” I said thinking what a nice woman.
I never had such a pretty woman dressed in sexy clothes come right out and said to me.
Maybe she thought I was cute.
It made me feel good about myself.

And so after a couple of months of calling people it started wearing on me. See we had to meet quotas each week at the telemarketing place and even though I was a top level caller I was running into some bad luck.
Hello my name is...
Hello my name is Scott McClanahan.
And there were other things too—like the name of the company changed every other week, paychecks were late a week at a time, and one guy was constantly listening to a scanner. I guess if the cops were coming they could get the massive call computers out the door and down the freight elevators before the coppers showed up.
I was having such bad luck calling one night I even told one of the managers that I was sorry, but my girlfriends’ mother had died a day before and I just wasn’t myself.
I mean I was lying now.
I was a liar.

So when I came home that night Kim was all over me.
“I mean why would you say my Mom died?”
“I know. I know. I panicked. I thought they were going to fire me.”
“Fire you? Scott, it’s a telemarketer job that pays $7.00 dollars an hour. Most people are there to earn money so they can get high. I mean they have work release prisoners working there. Besides that--you hate it. So why don’t you just quit?”

And I was thinking about it. I was tired of walking home through the dark and beating people out of money and them not knowing where it was going. I was tired of waving at the women in the pretty clothes and not having them wave back. So I made a plan to leave, but then the next night my luck started changing.

I mean I started going “hello” and before I could even get it out they gave me 75 dollars.
“Hello my name is…”and the caller gave me 150.
“Hello my name is…” and they gave me 25.
And so I sent out at least 3 or 4 info packets for future donations.
I mean I was in the zone.
Matt even gave me a high five.
And then B-Dawg threw me a t-shirt because I was the top caller for the night—“hell yeah.”
Maybe I wasn’t quitting.

But then it happened. The phone clicked and the info popped into my computer screen—65 year old. White male. Georgia. He gave 30 dollars last year.
“Hello,” he said real quiet on the other end. And so I went through my whole spiel.
I told him about the FOP.
I told him thanks for his past support.
I asked him if the FOP could count on him again this year.
It was quiet again.
And then he finally said: “Well sir, I’m sorry. I’d really like too. But I just don’t know if I can.”
So I immediately went into my first rebuttal.
“Well sir we appreciate your past support of 30 dollars but please realize…”
And then he said: “No no. I understand what you’re saying. I always love to help out the troopers, but I don’t know if I can.”

And then there was silence.
Then I heard crying.

Then he said, “I lost my daughter… three days ago… in a car crash.”

And so I started looking through my rebuttals but I didn’t have one for a guy who had lost his daughter.
So I just said: “O I’m sorry sir. “
And he started talking so that I couldn’t even say anything else. “From what we can tell the road was wet and she was going too fast and hit a ditch.”
And then he was quiet again and said: “They said she lost control and wrecked. And my little girl died.”
And then it was quiet and I could hear him crying harder on the other end.

So I improvised: “Well sir I’m sorry to hear about your loss but maybe our 25 dollar level would make you feel better as a donation to the FOP in your daughters’ memory.”

And he said: “But that’s just the thing. I don’t know if I can.”

And so I looked over at the manager B-dawg and he was running his finger across his throat—in a throat slash motion which meant: “Cut the phone call. Cut it.”

So I said quick: “Well sir why don’t I just send you an info packet and you can make the decision yourself? OK?”

But he wouldn’t have any of it.
He whispered: “No don’t go. Please don’t go. It’s good to talk to someone. I’ve just been stuck in this house and I’m so lonely. Please don’t go. I’m so lonely.”

And I didn’t say anything
and then I heard CLICK.
The call was cut.

I looked over at Brian, the manager, and he had cut the call himself. He walked over to me and said, “I’m sorry you had one of those fucking criers. Like we care. And shit sometimes those old fuckers just talk and talk and talk for hours about how this happened to this person and how that happened to this person.”
And then he said how sometimes you can talk for 10 minutes and they won’t give ya a nickel. “Lonely people babbling.”
And then the next call started ringing into my computer and I went back to work saying, “Hello my name is.”
“Hello my name is.”
“Hello my name is.”

And so that night I walked home passing the sexy girl in the alley who was smoking cigarettes. And for some reason this time she didn’t look pretty anymore. She looked cut up and scared and her eyes looked like werewolf eyes. And I still tried waving Hi at her like a big dork. I still thought it was strange you didn’t say hello to people in a city when you passed them.
Why is that?
And the woman didn’t even look at me but just kept her head down and turned away from me and just shook her head like I was a werewolf too. And so I walked all the way back to my apartment watching the lights from the cars zipping down 3rd avenue like stars. And so I unlocked the door, and locked it behind me and I sat down beside the telephone in my tiny apartment, hoping the phone would ring—just like hopefully somebody will call 252-0430 right now, and then maybe I won’t be so lonely anymore.

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