Thursday, July 3, 2014
The Phone is Calling
Last year when the city replaced some of the pipes supplying water to our neighborhood, everyone got a robo-call announcing the date and which hours the water would be shut off. That should have been my first clue - the city does not call each individual house and ask to personally speak with the owner by name.
"Spraying for what?" I inquired.
"Insects". Wow, this must be serious, I thought. In the years I've lived here the city has never come to my neighborhood to spray for insects. What sort of insects? Yes, we have mosquitoes. The entire province has mosquitoes. We have always had mosquitoes - and flies and gnats and bugs of every sort, including tics that bring Lyme Disease. Has West Nile Virus recently surfaced here?
"We are coming to spray in your sector. The spraying will take place on July 14th" is what stuck in my brain. By air? Instead I envisoned a big truck passing on each street, spraying, house by house.
"We have pets," I said. (Should they be kept indoors? Should I stay indoors?) "What sort of chemicals will be used?' Oh, not to worry, the voice on the phone assured me. "It's biologic. It's all natural." Me, I wanted to know specifics, like what might be its effect on the pets, or my vegetables out back. Was it safe to breathe in? I was having trouble understanding her French, she spoke rapidly and used terms I wasn't familiar with. She passed the phone to someone who spoke English, who assured me my pets and veggies would come to no harm.
Bees are insects. Might it affect the bees? I wondered. "It's biologic", the second voice repeated, the tone less authoritative and more soothing, adding: "Wouldn't it be nice to have a bug-free lawn, not to have spiders on the porch?", etc. (How did he know about the spiders on the porch?!) And then, almost as an afterthought, "It will cost $47. The effect will be good for a year."
Seems I mistook a telemarketing call for an urgent city announcement. "Spraying my sector" is different from "spraying IN my sector". And they wouldn't be spraying "house to house" for six days, they would spray (if invited) (and paid $47 first) only once, within a six-day time frame.
Maybe it was not just the words, but the tone in which this "service" was presented, as if it were inevitable. "We are coming to spray in your sector on July 14th" - like an official announcement. "A biological spray." The minute he mentioned "lawn", I knew. These lawn help-keeper-uppers crawl out of the woodwork all spring and summer, offering to come cut your grass, clear your shrubs, landscape your garden, spray for insects. Their area code told me the call came from Montreal, an hour and a half away, but this didn't register at first. They're not even local lawn help-keeper-uppers! (The local ones also call, but usually they're more direct and don't sound quite so 'official', like a Mandatory Bug-Eliminator Patrol. They just stuff flyers in the mailbox or have it included in our PubliSacs.)
The telemarketer calls I really find incredible are the ones where they call you and announce you've just won a prize, but not really..
"Congratulations! You've won a trip to the Bahamas!"
-- Great. Send me the tickets.
"First we need to see if you qualify".
-- But you just said I won. How could I have won if I didn't qualify?
"We need to verify if you are eligible. What is your name, please?"
-- I am the person listed under this telephone number. that you just called."
"What is your telephone number?"
-- You just called me. Don't you have my number in front of you?
'Well, if you qualify, you have a chance to win a free trip to the Bahamas. Do you own a credit card?"
-- Did I win something or not?
My phone calls me several times a week with these type offers - lawn service, new car deals, are you happy with your TV cable service, would you like to subscribe to Le Nouvelliste? etc. Sometimes I pretend I don't understand French. Sometimes (if they speak very fast) I really don't understand their French. As I' once worked in a call center, I can sympathize being paid bottom-of-the-ladder wages being required to call lists of random numbers at dinner time trying to get someone to take a lengthy survey or to sell them something. As well as the pressure to make a quota. Amazing that in this day and age they are still using the same old, tired methods with the same annoying approaches, getting the same predictable results.
I can't believe I didn't recognize a lawn-service call from the get-go. My antenna must need tuning.