When you go out, take along sunscreen and a warm jacket.
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor columnist. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia, is available on Amazon.
“Ring.” When Eloise Simplekins picked up her phone, a robot voice said: “Hello. This is Jan. Congratulations! You qualify for …. Please press ‘one’ now to speak to a customer representative. Press ‘nine’ now if you wish to be removed from the qualification list.”
“Fiddlesticks!” said Eloise, and clicked her phone off. It was the sixth robo call this week. She had tried hanging up, she had tried pressing “nine,” but a salesperson always came on the line anyway. She had pressed “one” and told the person who answered to take her off their list. The person didn’t answer Eloise’s request. All Eloise heard was a click and a dial tone.
Eloise Simpelkins is plain—beginning with her name and continuing with her squat chunky figure, her thick unruly hair, her flat face, her squinty eyes, and her pug nose. But she is very smart.
Years ago Eloise became a pre-cleaning lady for the women of La Mancha, that rich part of town where the streets are winding and the house numbers are hand painted on Spanish tile. It embarrassed the women of La Mancha to have their cleaning ladies see poopy toilets in their husbands’ bathrooms, so Eloise became their pre-cleaning lady. But she became much more. These women ached to reveal their foibles to someone. Eloise was there every week and seemed discreet. She became their confidant, and the women rewarded her handsomely. She invested wisely and became a wealthy woman.
Robot phone calls irked Eloise, and after she became rich they irked her even more. When she couldn’t convince the “you qualify for…” robot voice organizations to quit calling her, Eloise turned to Hadley Wilkins for help.
Readers will remember Hadley “Cyberman” Wilkins. He’s the electronic engineer who helped develop cell phone technology.
“Hadley,” she said. “I need your help.”
“Say on, oh Wise One.”
“I get six to eight robot calls a week,” she said. “If I hang up, they just call back. I press the button and talk to a live operator but they still won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Hadley, I want you seek out the private phone numbers of the executives who run these robo-call outfits. I’m going to give them a taste of their own medicine.”
“On it,” said Hadley.
Randall Egregious, the vice-president for operations at Techaly Communications, Inc., was relaxing in his den when the unlisted number on his cell phone rang. The screen said “Mara Belle.” Mara Belle Function was a Techaly executive. Egregious clicked on.
“Are you being pestered by robot telephone calls?” a robot voice asked. “If you get robot calls seven days a week, please press one. If you get robot calls…” Egregious clicked the phone off, but the robo- voice continued talking: “If you get five or fewer robot calls a week, please press two, if you get fewer than three robot calls a week, please press star. To repeat this message, please spell out “help,” on your keypad. ” Egregious hurled the phone across the room. It slammed into the brick fire place and fell to the floor. The robot voice continued to speak: “If you are angry and frustrated and want to destroy your cell phone, please press the “tone” button.” Egregious picked up the cell phone, ran outside, and threw it as far as he could.
He came back inside and turned on the television. Instead of his favorite channel, the screen showed a television test pattern. From the television speaker the robot voice intoned the same message.
Egregious ran to his car and sped to his office. He called the company’s technology director at his home.
“George, this is Randall Egregious. I’m at the office. How do I shut down the robot-call apparatus?”
“You can’t. Don’t you remember? You ordered us to create closed-circuit hardware and software that would, in your own words, ‘make robot calls forever.’”
Egregious clicked off and ran down the hall to the fire safety cabinet. He yanked it open, grabbed a fire ax, ran back and smashed all the robot-call machines.
Then he scribbled, “I quit, Randall,” on a scrap of paper and taped it to the CEO’s office door.
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book of humor columns, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia, is available on Amazon. You can also visit his website at www.daydreaming.co
Colder than a witches’ up here. Clear blue sky, not a cloud. Cold enough to freeze Ginger’s pee as soon as it hits the grass (well not quite).
Dr. Larry Day is a retired foreign correspondent turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase on Amazon.
.In Argentina people call each other at midnight on Christmas and New Year’s eves. They chat very briefly and then call someone else. Back in the day when there were no cell phones the telephone exchanges sometimes became overloaded.
Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available on Amazon.
When I was a teenager, I was klutz. My klutziness—with everything from gadgets to girls—was a source of merriment for my friends, and despair for me. I shared my anguish in an interview with my kindly old Bishop.
He gave me some advice: “The Lord makes imperfect people with the hope that they will help other imperfect people with their imperfections.” That advice didn’t mean much to me at the time, but it does now.
It got me a job.
I was at a local hardware store when I met the headhunter who set up my job interview. I had gone to the store to return a faulty flashlight. The flashlight, it turns out, worked fine. Apparently I had put the batteries in wrong.
The salesman, Mr. Morales, turned the batteries around, replaced the cap, and flicked the switch. The light came on.
“It’s working now,” he said, and handed me the flashlight. He smiled, but he didn’t give me “the look.” That’s why I always look for Mr. Morales when I return merchandise at that hardware store.
Every time I hand faulty gadgets to other salespeople, they make the darn things work in an instant.
“You had the fragjibber in backwards,” they say.
Then they give me “the look.” You know what I mean, that surreptitious supercilious raising of the eyebrows that says, “If this guy is brain dead, shouldn’t he be on a respirator?”
It was while I was thanking Mr. Morales that the headhunter, Sandra Chang, came up and started talking to me. She asked me what I did for a living. I told her that I was retired and working my head off at odd jobs to make ends meet. After we had chatted a while, Ms. Chang asked if I would be interested in being a consultant. I said, “Sure I would.”
When she called some weeks later, she had set up an interview with Apogee Engineering. I’d never heard of the outfit, and Ms. Chang was pretty vague about what they do to keep their stockholders happy. She was also vague about which of my myriad talents Apogee Engineering was interested in. She said they’d explain in the interview.
Ms. Chang briefed me well. She said that first they’d go over my resume, and told me what they’d be looking for. She was right on target. She said that after the routine stuff, they’d want to ask me some different questions. She told me to be sure I answered all their questions truthfully.
“No problem,” I said. “My life’s an open book. I’m a professor emeritus from a small university, and I teach part time at a large university. I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs. I don’t smoke and I don’t chew. I’m a very happily married man.
On the appointed day I went to Apogee Engineering. The interview was going great. They seemed completely satisfied with my answers to the routine resume questions. Then the assistant to president cleared his throat.
“Professor, as Ms. Chang may have told you, the project we’re considering you for is very important to Apogee Engineering. Because of that, you’ve been the subject of a rather extensive background check. Would you mind confirming some of our findings?”
“Not at all,” I said. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know.” Then I said to myself, “Bring it on.” I was secure in the fact that I have lived a solidly upstanding, if somewhat prosaic, life.
“Professor,” said the assistant, “a couple of weeks ago the local computer store sent someone out to your house. Why did you call them?”
“I inadvertently put a CD Rom disk into the B-drive slot instead of the CD Rom slot on my computer,” I said. “It got stuck, and I couldn’t get it out.
“I see,” he said. Then he went on.
“The folks at Triple A report that you have made extensive use of their emergency road service. In fact, you called last them last week. Can you tell us what happened?”
I paused. “Where was this guy going with this stuff?” I thought. “Oh well, what the heck,”
“I was driving to work and a car splashed mud on my windshield. When I turned on the automatic windshield washer, it squirted oil all over my windshield. I couldn’t see a thing, and I ran into a curb and blew out a tire.”
“And how did oil get into the reservoir of the windshield wiper?” asked the assistant to the president of Apogee Engineering.
“Lie,” whispered a little voice inside me. “Lie your socks off.” But I didn’t.
“A couple of days earlier the oil light came on, so I put in some oil. I must have poured oil into the wrong hole. All those darn caps under the hood look the same.”
I wondered if he was going to give me “the look,” but he didn’t.
“You’ve returned nine appliances to local stores in the last few weeks. How many of those appliances were actually faulty?”
“These guys are setting me up,” I thought. “They’re going to give me the old heave ho. Well I’ll save them the trouble.”
“All nine appliances worked perfectly when the store personnel adjusted them, I said with quiet dignity. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be on my way.” I stood up.
“Professor,” said the assistant to the president, “please sit down.”
“You people are trying to humiliate me,” I said.
“On the contrary, we’re trying to hire you,” he said. “We’ve been looking all over the country for someone like you. You’re bright. You’re successful. You’re a solid citizen. And you’ve been blessed with a gift. World class athletes 2
are a breed apart. They run the 100-yard dash in 9.3 seconds. They bat .375 year after year. They shoot in the low sixties in high pressure golf tournaments.
“What does that have to do with me?” I asked.
“You are an extremely rare phenomenon. Industrial companies all over the world hire Apogee Engineering and pay us millions of dollars to help them idiot-proof their products.”
“So you’re looking to hire a blithering idiot,” I said bitterly.
“On the contrary,” he said. “We’re looking to hire a world class reverse mechanical engineering genius, and you are he. You’re one in a billion. If a consumer product doesn’t baffle you, it won’t baffle anyone. Please come to work for us and help make consumer products safer for people all over the world.”
So I did. -30-