The phone rings shrilly from the small, dark table beside me, piercing the quiet peacefulness of the early morning hours and causing me to jump nearly out of my skin. I sit frozen, heart pounding, as I listen to it ring once... twice... three times. It is ominous, that sound, and I wonder if I dare lift the handset to find out who is waiting for me at the other end. The phone rings a fourth time, an urgency in its tone, and as I glance over to the call display screen, I notice that whoever the caller is hails from the same area code as mine. This promising little detail gives me a brief moment of hope, and I reach out and tentatively press the talk button as I raise the phone slowly to my ear.
Nothing. There is silence on the other end, save for a few crackles of static air.
Hello? I say it again, louder and more forcefully this time, in case the caller hadn't heard my first timid greeting.
There is a click and a response, and I recognize my grave error in an instant. "Oh, hello, ma'am!" an unfamiliar voice with a foreign accent intones cheerfully. "I am calling from the *** Air Duct Cleaning Company!".
Aaargh. Foiled again.
I'm not the only person who has been getting forty-seven bazillion calls a week from air duct cleaning companies and is about to lose her ever-loving mind, am I? Where on earth have all of these companies come from in recent months, and why, oh why are they so desperate to clean our ducts? I might laugh at the absurdity of it all if the callers weren't becoming downright rude to me whenever I refuse their services yet again.
I am generally a very pleasant and polite person on the phone, and I will usually lend an ear for a moment or two to a sales caller who is trying his or her hardest to win me over. I've listened attentively to political candidates, to people who would like me to complete a survey, to people who want me to help send children to the circus, even to people who wish to deliver some samples of free meat to my door (seriously??) before I nicely let them know that I'm not interested. But the gentle "I'm not interested" approach doesn't seem to work with these annoyingly persistent air duct cleaners.
Things have become so bad that typically, I just don't answer the phone anymore. Sometimes, though, I get caught up in a rare moment where I throw caution to the wind and decide to go ahead and say "hello". The second I find out it's yet another air duct cleaning company, I feel compelled to practically shout the words, "I'm not interested! Take me off your call list -- I do NOT want to be contacted again." And then I try to hang up. If you can believe it, I've had air duct call people yell at me at this point in the conversation. One man, who seemed especially passionate about clean ducts, shouted "It only costs $100! What kind of a lady are you, anyway, if you don't want your air ducts cleaned for only $100?".
I'll tell you what kind of lady I am, air duct cleaning man. A crazy lady who has been driven right around the bend by the relentless daily phone calls from an evil consortium of air duct cleaners just like yourself who have no respect for leaving people in peace. Consider this fair warning: If you call me again, I can guarantee that I'll tell you exactly what I think of your high-powered, truck-mounted vacuum. And it won't be very "lady"-like.
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