Sunday, October 03, 2010

Hello There in Tucson: Part II

(continued from previous post)

In 2000, Tucson was probably the call center capital of the United States, if not the world. Many of those companies had set up shop in the airport area. During the week, I rode the bus surrounded by legions of call center employees. Out of curiosity, I asked a few of them if telemarketers ever left messages on answering machines. No, they did not. “Telemarketers can’t sell anything to answering machines,” one woman explained.

Our second caller, the woman with the giggles, called once for sure—possibly twice. I know she didn’t dial a wrong number because she asked for OHM by name. Well, maybe she was a volunteer calling from her home on behalf of a local charity. That could explain the children chattering in the background.

The first caller was more persistent. Every couple of weeks, for over two months, she left the same repeated one-word message on the answering machine during the day. I nicknamed her Ms. Hello Hello.

If she wasn’t a shy or nervous newbie telemarketer, then who was this person with the soft, almost musical voice and very limited vocabulary? More important, how did she get my unlisted phone number? Every time I found a message from her, I punched *69, hoping to get her phone number. All I got were extra charges on my phone bills and a recorded message that announced: “The last number called cannot be reached.”

One friend suggested that I change my phone number. A coworker thought I should complain to the phone company. Complain about what? The phone company’s CSR would have laughed at me. The greeting “Hello, hello” wasn’t threatening by any stretch of the imagination. However, by the end of April, I was sure that this woman thought she was playing games with someone. I just didn’t know if it was with us.

I couldn’t think of anyone we’d offended recently. Maybe someone purposely gave Ms. Hello Hello a wrong number. Maybe she wrote the right number down wrong. Or maybe she thought she was calling the person who had phone number before I did.

The calls were annoying, but they didn’t freak me out. I didn’t want to change my phone number, but I wasn’t looking forward to listening to her messages forever. I figured if I kept punching *69 after I heard her voice, I would eventually get a phone number.

And I did.

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