I still have a landline phone with my name & number listed in the phone book. The number of telemarketing calls I received was overwhelming. I didn’t want to answer the phone anymore and when I did answer, it certainly wasn’t with a personable tone. The worst calls weren’t from telemarketers; they were calls about the security of my computer. An urgent foreign voice would tell me to go sit at my computer and be led through the necessary repairs. Those calls always seemed to arrive at 7am on a Saturday and the people were not nice.
I no longer receive those calls. How did that happen? I got chickens.
I suddenly had an advantage. Someone with a somewhat limited proficiency in English can sometimes easily mistake similar sounding words, especially if a native English speaker is using slang and making translation questionable. For example, I could be shortening “my computer” into the somewhat plausible “my compute.” With a little imagination, some slurring, and just the right emphasis on an m which isn’t actually in the word, it becomes “my coop”!
“Ma’am, there is a security problem with your computer. Are you sitting at your computer?”
“No, I am not. Should I go to my coop?”
“Yes, right away.”
“Okay. I’m at my coop. What now? Do I open it?”
“Yes, open it and turn it on.”
“Okay. Are you sure? I was in there earlier and I think there were bugs.”
“Yes, ma’am, don’t worry. We will take care of that.”
“Oh good! I was worried there would be too many for the chickens to eat. They do love crickets, but not spiders. I think there are spiders in my coop. Can you take care of that type of bug?”
“Yes, ma’am, we are taking care of the security of your computer.”
“Thank you very much! You know, I have been so worried about security for my coop. You never know what might try to get chickens at night: raccoons, skunks, opossums, owls. We have coyotes in our neighborhood, so I’m very worried about those. Will you help me with security during the day too? We have a lot of hawks.”
On and on we’d go. They would usually transfer me to someone else. After all, they wanted something and I assume it’s not often they find someone so interested in their help. I would keep them on the phone as long as I could. My record was 8 minutes with 3 transfers. Most of the calls ended with one of them saying, “You’re crazy” and hanging up on me. My favorite ended after the person tried to explain how “sick” meant “crazy.”
Less exciting examples are calls about installing a security system.
“No, we don’t need one. We have a rooster. Don’t send a technician because he will be attacked by our rooster.”
“I understand, but a rooster can’t call 911 if there is a fire.”
“Not right now, but he’s learning. We’ve already taught them to do all sorts of tricks. They can peck the queen of hearts from a deck of cards, peck the number of dots on a 1×1 foam die, and can play fetch. They’re extremely intelligent animals and make good pets as well as good security systems.”
I miss all of the calls, which is part of the reason a call last night was so exciting. It was a political survey. I thought, “This could be fun!” The woman asked several questions for which I couldn’t think of a way to talk about my chickens. She politely asked if I trusted any of the following people or organizations in their views of energy and the environment: the Pope – no. The EPA – no. The University of Texas – yes. NASA – no. I wonder how many respondents answered that they did not trust the Pope’s environmental views but did trust UT’s. After our call, I thought I should probably have answered more thoughtfully. Her last question was about my occupation: employed out of the home, unemployed, looking for work, etc. Ah! My opportunity! “I stay at home with my chickens. I take care of them all day, so it’s really a full time job.”
I didn’t expect that for the next 5 minutes we’d talk about chickens! Her friend has chickens as pets, cooks oatmeal for them in the winter, lets them sit on her shoulder, and has more pictures on her phone of her chickens than she does of her children! Sound familiar? 🙂 Her friend’s chickens don’t do any tricks, so I ended by asking her to let her friend know how easy it is to train them (chickens, not children).