Saturday, June 10, 2006

Very Affordable Answering Service

Our son likes to answer the telephone. Not only do I enjoy listening to him answer — in his cute little, 4-year-old, but educated way—, I'm not above taking advantage of it . . . a little.

He easily learned, "Who's calling, please?" and to tell us whom it is. (Also, he is now learning to not be quite so candid when he answers and I'm indisposed. "He's in the bathroom; he needs privacy" [or more vivid descriptions] are being replaced by, "He's not available right now.")

Anyway, when telemarketers call, Benjamin can come in quite handy. He is fully in the habit of asking who it is. And, stickler that he can be, he'll keep asking until he understands sufficiently to repeat to my wife or me what the caller has said.

I haven't had the heart, yet, to have him lie to them. It's not that I feel that guilty about fibbing to the solicitor. It just seems sad to have an innocent child do your dirty work. I've thought a number of times of telling Benjamin to tell the friendly new caller all  about our trip to Disney world, about how his train set works, or about what happened in our last game of Candyland. Benjamin has become remarkably long-winded in his descriptions and storytelling of late (don't know where he gets that from), so I'm sure he'd have a lot  of interesting things to say. But, again, I don't want to exploit his good-natured interest in sharing with others, nor do I want to have to unteach this strange phone etiquette.

Nevertheless, I savor some of Benjamin's natural phone interactions with telemarketers. Sometimes businesses call and representatives either can't hear Benjamin (perhaps because of a bad connection somewhere between here and Bangalore); or they mistake his cute little voice for that of a 2 year old; or maybe they just don’t want to give the upper hand to a child. Whatever the reason, they insist on speaking to Benjamin in a slow, loud, condescending voice: "I need to talk to your mommy. Please get your mommy."

Meanwhile he's been trying to nicely ask, "Who's calling, please?" He answers their request politely, but firmly, "My mom's at work; my dad's here. I need to know who's calling, please."

"Can I talk to your daddy?"

Benjamin now becomes, louder and slower, realizing he's dealing with someone not quite at his level, "WHO'S CALLING, PLEASE?"

After a few exchanges back and forth, the caller finally identifies her/himself, "Well, … MY . . . NAME . . . IS 'MARY.'"

Of course, I don't know "Mary," so I must whisper to Benjamin, "Ask them, 'From where?'"

Usually they revert to "I need to talk to your daddy" a few more times. Then they give in, "OK . . . I'm from 'Cap - i - tol One.' Will you be able to say that?"

"Dada," he turns to me, "It's Mary from Capitol One. She wants to talk to you."

"Thank you," I politely respond. Then and only then is the helpful representative permitted to speak with me.

'How do I know what the caller is saying to him?' you ask. I'm listening on speakerphone, of course. But far be it from me  to rudely interrupt the cordial conversation my son is trying to have.

Why do I thus allow telemarketers to waste even more of our time by going through all of this? I guess I take a secret formerly-secret pleasure in the whole thing, especially with the ones who talk to him like he's 1-1/2 years old. Yeah, I know, it's a sad state of affairs. I'm far too easily amused and have too much time on my hands act like I have too much time on my hands.

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