Bullies

Shop Girl by Kitty Kaufman

king crabby I got a call yesterday. It was from a man with a southern accent who identified himself as Will and he said he was from the yellow pages. I don't know why he was calling because I cut him off saying I unlisted because of calls I was getting from them to buy ad space for Corporate Edge. That I am on at least three do-not-call lists does not matter of course and naturally Will did not care.

Here is what Will said: "I can remove your listing. Let me know when you're ready and I'll give you a confirmation number." With my pen and paper handy, I said, "Okay, I'm ready" and this is exactly what he told me: The letter "I" the letter "D" and the number ten and the letter "T." And then he hung up. Of course the caller ID was blocked.

If you go to http://www.yellowpages.com which is AT&T's yellow pages, you can find a number for customer service and if you stay on and press the right buttons, you get to a real person.

I reached Lorraine. As we introduced ourselves, I said: "I want this call monitored and I want you to record it." "Oh," she said very politely, "We don't record our calls." Actually, it's not the first time I've asked for a call to be monitored but it might only be the second and I can't remember when the other time was but I'm sure it was the same kind of thing. So calmly, at least calmly for me, I related what happened and as Will did, I asked her to write down my confirmation as I read it to her. There was a moment of silence and she gasped a little and said, "Wow, that's nasty."

As it turns out there are solicitors from overseas, she told me, who say they are from the real yellow pages when they are not. "Our colleagues always give their first and last name with their phone number so you can call them back." This was not an overseas call. I do want to tell Will to hope for his sake that he doesn't run into me in person any time soon.

Lorraine was astonishing. Although it was uncalled for, she apologized and soon I was feeling better. I thought about how little it takes to make a customer. (If you want to call her she is at the yellowpages.com, she pointed out, and not aol or yahoo or google's yellow pages.) She asked me if I wanted my listing removed and of course I said no because well, she was nice.

All of which brings me to the subject of bullies. They are everywhere. It starts early: those bullies you remember from when you were younger are still around and not only in high school. Little kids are bullied all the time and not just with "your mother wears combat boots" type stuff either.

Bullies have taken over. They are your health insurance company. They're on television screaming so incessantly that you have to turn it off. They bully from the lower right corner: last night one was so big it was blocking the program. On cable, messages butt in whenever they want carrying breaking news like what's on next. Now there was something the writers strike should have added to their demands but I suppose they were getting bullied enough by their producers.

There's a lot we can commiserate about on the matter of bullies. They demand money for candidates. They're at your credit card company and health insurer talking to you as if you were ten. And they never say "thank you for being our customer." They run over your feet in the grocery store pointedly looking the other way as if they didn't know the thing they rolled over with a cart full of water and detergent was you. Obviously, they are also deaf and blind.

But mostly they are on the road. It is nearly impossible to get anywhere and this is not because there is too much traffic although there is much too much traffic. They drive gigantic vehicles, which get three miles to the gallon and maybe this is why their owners are so aggressive, smoking and chatting and texting while all you want to do is get to the grocery store so they can run over your feet.

© April 5, 2008
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