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Nina In New York: Telemarketers' Jobs About To Get Significantly More Dangerous

A young professional's take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

I have to admit. I've had a soft spot for Chuck Schumer ever since he paid a visit to my middle school when I was twelve and did or said something I no longer remember specifically but which I generally recall as being funny. There's a lesson in there somewhere about blindly influencing a future generation of voters, I suppose.

Anyway, this weekend, good old Chuckie "Man of the People" Schumer brought to our attention a very terrible bill proposed by Congress, which would allow telemarketers to call people's cell phones. The "Mobile Information Call Act," which might as well be named the "Eff All of You and Give Me My Money Act," would stomp all over current legislation which protects consumers from such nuisances and invasions of privacy. Because, you know, who needs that?

I have never been one to ignore an incoming call from an unknown number. Most of my girlfriends—especially those who date or have dated in recent years—are admirably disciplined on this front. No strange numbers will be acknowledged without an initial screen. Never shall they be caught unawares by an unwanted caller or an awkward phone encounter for which they were not properly prepared.

I, on the other hand, prefer to live on the edge and let my curiosity get the better of me. When I see the usual numbers pop up on my caller ID from my mother, husband, or best friend, I admit that I occasionally screen. Listen, they're known quantities. I typically know exactly how the conversation will go, and 90 percent of the time that's cool. But that other 10 percent, I'm just not in the mood. Or I know I won't have the time. Or I'm right in the middle of my favorite Seinfeld rerun and I'm confident our conversation about a potential sweater purchase can wait. But when that "UNKNOWN CALLER" flashes on my screen or a number I've never seen before, I can't help myself! I want to know who this mystery dialer is! What if I've won something or someone is hurt? What if it's a long lost friend or relative I haven't seen in years? What if my identity was stolen and someone is calling fake-me about my recent helicopter purchase? I would kick myself if I missed those!

And were I to answer such a call, hopeful or excited or nervous or fearful of what may await me at the other end of the line, only to be greeted by a brief pause and then a telemarketing representative mispronouncing my name and aggressively trying to sell me something I don't want, like a new credit card or phone plan or car insurance. Well. Let's just say I'd hate to be the poor schmuck whose job it is to dial my number.

Come to think of it, my life has been blissfully telemarketing free since I ditched my landline in favor of only a cell phone lo these many years. I don't miss it, and I'd be very curious to see the sales figures from the companies that have historically relied on these types of sales. I have a tough time imagining that cold calls to people's homes ever resulted in very many dollars.

Perhaps it's just time to move on—to unsolicited emails! Those I can live with, and I speak from experience, as I am the recipient of no fewer than thirty to fifty a day. See? The individual and the corporation can compromise, and nobody has to get hurt. Except for a telemarketer, if one ever has the misfortune of finding my cell number on his or her list. I tell you now, I cannot be held responsible for what I might say should that happen. My good buddy Chuck Schumer obviously already knows that.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I'm always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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