June 3rd, 2002


Hi, you don't really want to talk to me, do you?

god I hate cold-calling. I spent all morning trying to update the mailing list for the Western Worker-Coop Conference. Because I couldn’t make calls last week, I got the "non-priority" list. Really it’s the list of organizations who’ve never attended or whose existence is just a rumor.

Few have phone numbers so the information operator has become my new best friend. If the businesses even have contact names they’re no good anymore. Nothing makes me feel like a bigger idiot than calling someone who has no idea what I’m talking about and usually isn’t interested anyway.

"Hello XXXXXXX Printing"
"Hi, my name is Gordon. I’m calling from the Western Worker-Coop Conference . . ."
"The what?"
"Western Worker-Coop Conference. We hold a yearly conference for worker-cooperatives . . ."
"I’m confused. Let me give you my boss."

Now there’s a bad sign.

I’ve always hated calling people I don’t know. Even calling phone trees for political events drives me nuts because you know half of them just put their name on the list in the spirit of a moment or out of guilt. I find myself hoping for disconnected numbers and answering machines when really I know I should be having the opposite reaction.

Luckily, I’ve only once had to earn money by cold calling. My only temp job ever was working for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. I had to call every nursing home in California and fill out a questionnaire about their services, features and staff-"client" ratios. ("Do you have Wanderguard?") The interesting feature of that was that all the homes that CANHR would blast yearly for their horrible treatment of the elderly were the nicest, immediately dropping everything to answer all the questions. Don’t they know that only temps do these types of calls? Being nice to me won’t help you, Buddy.

Though it does remind me of the funniest crank call I ever heard. My friend who worked full-time at CANHR started it by calling up a friend at some other non-profit, pretending to be a rich donor and asking a lot of inappropriate and personal questions. Her friend then started calling CANHR, disguising his voice as an old person and yelling things like:

"They’ve locked me in a closet. They feed me dog food. Come save me."
"Where are you calling from?"
"I don’t know. The drugs confuse me. They took my glasses."

Even though my CANHR friend suspected a crank, she still had to take it seriously just in case.*

Oh, those wacky days before caller ID.

*I actually many worse true stories and I only temped there for two weeks.
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