Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rage, Rage Against the Dying Of the No-Call List

I am not really much of a telephone person.

This is why I let my cell phone frequently go uncharged and why it's not glued to my hand as it is with so many women my age. I hate to talk on the phone; I don't want to be reached when I'm working, driving, dining, getting my Modern Family on, grocery shopping, or exercising; the sound of a ringing phone, even when it's my favorite song and not the ancient sound of a ringer bell, destroys my peace of mind. Thank you very much.

So I've always rejoiced in the no-call list. Sure, charities get through. And because I've foolishly agreed to take phone surveys in the past, those sometimes creep in, too. And then there's that whole loophole of businesses who already count you as customers. But the home phone rings a whole lot less than it used to, and my blood pressure is probably lower because of it.

Though last night, after two back-to-back telemarketing calls that absolutely, positively should not have gotten through, but which I had to take because they were local numbers and you just never know, I really thought I was going to bust a blood vessel and stroke out right there at the dining room table.

I was not nice to these people. I was cooking and eating, which, sadly, counts as my afternoon downtime; they were violating what I understand to be the restrictions of the no-call list. I did not set a good example of manners for my kid. And I don't really give a rat's behind.

I know people have to make a living, and cold calling is one way to do so. I keep this mind, that it's not really the fault of the person on the other end of the phone, and try as much as I can to be nice to them. Except for the charity group Kentucky Professional Firefighters, who are really just a bunch of bullies who neither extend nor accept common courtesy.

But I'm done. Done, I tell you. The next time someone calls me to ask me to renew my subscription to Highlights for Children, or sell me on a fabulous new insurance plan for my credit card, or ask me to rank my satisfaction with my cable provider on a scale of 1 to 10 in 20 different service categories, I am going to have a little fun with them.

I'm not going to just let the phone ring and screen my calls. No, sir. So get ready, telemarketers.

If you call me while I am eating dinner, I will eat. Loudly. As Jason can tell you, I am an epic chewer. I have TMJ dysfunction and I'm not afraid to use it. I will grab the loudest food I can find, some Munchos, baby carrots, or possibly Hawaiian kettle chips, and I will chew and crackle and pop loudly in your ear. You will think you have reached a person Jazzercizing atop the world's biggest wad of crispy cellophane.

"I'm sorry Ma'am, is this a bad time?"

"Not at all!" I will say, whilst chewing with my mouth open and demonstrating the terror 2 decades of nocturnal tooth-grinding can wreak on an aging jaw. "I was just eating dinner! Keep going with your special offer!"

Or maybe you will call me after I have worked out and drunk a gallon or so of Smart Water. When it's time to take the longest, most satisfying pee of my life, I will be sure to take the phone into the bathroom with me, where I will make sure it's quite obvious what I'm up to. At the end I will be sure to flush; don't worry. And if the moment is right, I will say, "Can you excuse me for just a moment while I number 2?" Will you still be interested in my radio listening habits?

Usually when I pick up the phone when you call, I apologize to you.

"I'm sorry, I'm really not interested."

"I'm sorry, but I was just on my way out the door."

"Sorry, but my husband and I are just fresh out of charity at the moment."

But you know what? I'm kind of tired of being sorry when you're the one who's calling me. I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be apologizing for not wanting to spend $40 a month adding bush and shrub fertilizing treatments to my existing lawncare contract, when all I really want is for you to come every so often and spray for dandelions and clover. I'm tired of apologizing to you when I don't have any bags of unwanted clothes or toys prepared to set out for Amvets by Friday morning because I just rustled up about 8 bags last week. I'm tired of apologizing to you when you call me using a local number that tricks me into picking up, trying to get me to subscribe, add, or donate. When I want to do any of these things, and sometimes I will decide to give money or goods or a service contract to you all of my own accord, I will call you. And if you call me during what's normally accepted to be an American human's dinner hour, or after primetime TV starts, or on weekend mornings when I haven't finished my second cup yet, any words of apology coming out of anyone's mouth should be yours. Because you have interrupted me and intruded yourself vocally into my home.

In the meantime, consider yourself warned. I will not go easy into that "Hello."

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Ten years ago, we had so much room.

When we first moved into our house, I was frequently overwhelmed. When the last box was unpacked and I had not put anything except our off-season clothes in the two "extra" bedrooms of our three-bedroom home, I nearly cried. I walked into those empty rooms and wondered what in the world I was going to fill them with until the kids came along.

Exactly one year later, with a large belly and swollen feet, I painted the walls of the smallest extra bedroom  and prepared for the crib, dresser, and bookcase to come. That room filled up fast.

Before that baby girl I was carrying was even born, my mom and dad offered us the bed I had slept in during visits home in college, which they had bought for my 19th birthday in what I honestly think was an attempt to lure me back home. They wanted it to be their granddaughter's big-girl bed. It went into the larger room with my old dresser and bed-side table from home. Before Ainsley had slept a single night in her crib, her big-girl room was furnished and ready for her.

In ten years' time, we've filled every closet, every corner, every cabinet, every shelf. We've painted every room except the kitchen, the color of which never has offended us. The walls and tabletops are full of our pictures, the bookcases full of our books, the knick-knacks and toys here and there our memories.

And now it's time to move on.

For a couple of years now, Jason has been telling me it's time to go. It's a great time to buy, he says. We can get a good house for our money. I've dodged it, telling him that I'm perfectly happy in our little character-less bilelvel just like every other character-less bilevel on the street. It might be a boring little house, but it's MY boring little house. I tell him the truth when I say that I couldn't care less about having a nicer house in a nicer neighborhood. And then I say I will know when it's time to move on.

The day THAT house goes for sale, I say, pointing to one of a dozen or so dreamhouses I pass in my travels, that will be the day I decide to move. I want to find the perfect house first.

But there is no such thing as a perfect house. And as Jason's commute has gotten longer and longer over the years, as he's gone from consulting to full-time downtown to full-time well north of the 'Nati, and as we've started chaueffering the kid from different activities in different parts of our world, I've realized the time is right.

And I'm equal parts excited and terrified.

One day, on a whim, we stopped in at an open house for a surprisingly affordable home in a neighborhoood we've always wanted to live in. And one week later we were meeting with a real estate agent. We are not impulsive people at all, but the speed with which we decided to put that For Sale sign in our yard would make your head spin.

It certainly did ours.

In one frantic week, we did months, perhaps years, worth of de-cluttering and home repairs. Ten years worth of accumulated detritus was sorted, bagged, given away, thrown away. A handful of personal items were put into storage; the rest we decided we could live without. It was more emotionally and physically exhausting than I imagined cleaning out and starting a new chapter to be. But our house is simpler, cleaner. Things that have been on the to-do list for almost a decade are finally done.

It makes me realize why I chose that house to begin with. Without all the clutter, you can see all the things that made us, as a young couple, choose that particular house. The large southwest-facing front windows that let late-afternoon sunlight come into the living room and chase the blues away, even on winter days. The French doors that open onto the deck from the master bedroom; I always envisioned long early-morning breakfasts right outside those doors. They didn't happen, but they might still. The built-in bookcases in the family room that highlight the greatest material love of my life: my books. I have yet to meet a person who didn't have a moment during the selling process of, "If only I had kept this place looking this good all the time, I might not want to move."

It was, and is, a good house with a lot of memories. It was here that I welcomed my baby home. It was here that I found solace and comfort during chemo and radiation. It was here that Scout roamed the halls and warmed herself in the sunlight. It was here where my dad spent his last Christmas Day, where Kathie once spent a long, happy weekend, where we met with Jason's family to sort through pictures, laugh, cry, and make funeral arrangements.

A lot of living has gone on in that simple little house in the cul-de-sac. We're still months away from leaving it (who knows; we may not be able to sell it) but so much of what made it ours has been neutralized to make it appeal to another family. A family who will have their own ups and downs and joys and tragedies inside its walls.

It's still our house, but it's not really our home anymore.

By the time we sell, the house we have our eye on may not be available anymore. But I'm not really afraid. I know now what it takes to make a home--time, family, love, and memories. As long as I have those, and maybe a front porch, I can be happy wherever we next put down our roots.