Honolulu Lite
Charles Memminger

‘Don’t Call’ list
ignored by tormentors

The federal "Do Not Call Registry" apparently acts something like Hawaii's "gas cap" law. Since I put my name on the "don't call" list, annoying, unsolicited sales calls have increased about 300 percent, pretty much the way gas prices have soared since lawmakers moved to "protect" us from high fuel costs.

Because of low interest rates, most of the cold calls come from mysterious finance companies such as the Yak and Camel Premier Mortgage Co. or the New Jersey Parolees Benevolent Financial Group.

I get more phone calls from people trying to lend me money than you can shake a stick at. (I keep a stout stick handy just to keep track.)

The weird thing all the calls have in common is that while the finance companies apparently are in United States, the actual calling is outsourced to parts of the world where English is a third or fourth language.

My usual methods of dealing with cold-callers -- keeping them on the line by playing guitar (badly), reciting "Paul Revere's Ride" backward ("Revere Paul of ride midnight the of hear shall you and children my Listen") or allowing them to enjoy the different tones all the toilets in the house make when flushed -- don't work with these foreign financial shills. They probably are paid for every call they make, so volume is key to their livelihood. I mean, when you are making one-tenth of a rupee per call, you can't sit around listening to Paul Revere's Ride backward, no matter how riveting it is.

The calls usually originate in places like India's Ladakh province, a remote mountainous area where villagers are generally ill-equipped to sell an adjustable rate 30-year mortgage to complete strangers in another country for only 18 percent over the prime rate.

Sarcasm has replaced guitar playing and backward recitation for me, since it tends to keep the tormentors on the line longer, presumably taking rupees out of their children's mouths.

"Mr. Carlis Hemmingdinger? Calling you, I am, from the Yak and Camel Mortgage Group ..."

Me: "Thank God you called! I am dying to borrow money from a complete stranger in another country who can't even pronounce my name!"

Once they fall for this flattery, I lay it on: "Listen, Gunga Din, I no likey you call me, you savvy?"

But by then, I'm talking to myself for the third time that morning.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com

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