Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Government Grants & You!

For the past several weeks, I have been receiving phonecalls from a number with a Washington DC area code (202-311-2618) informing me that I have been selected for a government grant. The amount varies slightly, but is generally in the neighborhood of $10,000. The caller follows a general script:

Hello, you have been selected to receive a $10,000 government grant. I bet you are asking yourself how you were awarded this money; correct? (Here they pause for you to respond in the affirmative)

Every year, the United States government sets aside money to be awarded to citizens who pay their taxes on time. This money can be used for education, home repairs, to pay down debts or even to take a vacation. For the government record, how are you planning on using the money?

The first time I received this call, I informed the gentleman on the other end of the line that I had been eyeing a black-market fully-armed predator drone and I planned to utilize it in a quickly escalating feud with my next-door neighbor. He requested that I be placed on a brief hold, but I had to hang up as I was getting another call.

The second time I received this call, the pitch was the same but the delivery was much different. Instead of a self-assured male voice, I heard a meek and shaky feminine one. It just so happened that during the interim time between these two calls, my Sunday school class was discussing a book about how to show grace in unique ways and one of the featured stories involved a woman who ministered to telemarketers. She reminded us that telemarketers were people just like us with hopes, fears, a history and a future and while they might be annoying, they deserved grace just as much as we did.

So, in hearing this young woman’s fragile voice, those words began to echo in my head. Instead of informing her that I planned to utilize the money to fund my social networking site for human traffickers, I politely played along. After several minutes, I even began to imagine a backstory for Sara. She had become ostracized by her step-family after her mother’s untimely death and now shared a one bedroom walk-up in a decomposing area of our nation’s capital. She had been given the number of this telemarketing firm by her roommate and although she would never initiate a conversation with a complete stranger, she now found herself forced to cold-call random citizens and convince them that the Federal government had been tracking them down in an attempt to distribute money it cannot afford to spend.

 I even went so far as to imagine my own infant daughter, nervous and intimidated on her first day as she slipped on the headset and clicked the next 10-digit number almost guaranteed to provide her with verbal abuse. So when Sara finished her entire spiel, I politely thanked her for taking the time to call me but regretted that I did not wish to participate. I then requested that I be removed from her company’s call list.

Upon hearing this, meek and naive Sara transformed into grizzled and jaded Marge. Gone was the demure countenance that evoked sympathy and patience. One-bedroom walk-up Sara was no more; quickly replaced by a woman whose narrow avoidance of a manslaughter charge in Topeka spurned her eastward migration. The volume of her voice increased exponentially and I could hear the years of chain smoking nipping at the edges of her range:


I am proud to say that I did not return the sentiment and suggest a new location for her headset (mostly because when I called the number back I was informed that it had been disconnected) but I couldn’t believe it. My coworkers were beside themselves, even suggesting that the “naïve newbie” was nothing more than a vocal ruse designed to evoke sympathy and keep suckers on the line.

I can only speculate that it was a phishing scam and at some point they would request bank routing information in order to award the “grant.”  Are there really that many people who hear that pitch and think to themselves, “This turn of events is so fortuitous it has to be true!” Either way, you need some serious chutzpah to make an unsolicited call to someone and then yell at them for wasting your time. I may have a new target for my predator drone once my government grant comes in….

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Toddler Talk

I used to roll my eyes when I heard parents desperately beseeching their children to “use their words.” I naively thought that my own children would possess the wherewithal to verbalize their requests in a dignified manner. Not that I have children, I find myself using that phrase constantly. It is difficult to describe the frustration of having a wailing child make a beeping noise while pointing at the sky. Especially when you find out they simply wanted some goldfish crackers. My son has his own vocabulary. A sampling appears below:

Dyedoor - This loosely translated to dinosaur but is applicable to any unknown carnivore with displayed teeth.
Hiyah – This is an affirmative response to an inquiry.
Tee – This refers to a television or computer monitor.
Babbaww – This gender-neutral designation is reserved for grandparents.
Mahpad – This refers to any electronic tablet within his field of vision and implies immediate ownership.
Ahfrye – This either refers to a breaded or fried entrée but can also mean Chick-Fil-A
Ting – This is a request for someone to sing to him, usually a ploy to prolong the bedtime process.
Eehhur – He has sustained an injury

Toddlers are uniquely frustrating in that they will speak perfectly vivid King’s English one moment while resorting to grunts and noises the next. Within a span of 45 minutes my son clearly requested that I “sit down on the slide” and then proceeded to answer the next several inquiries about his day with fart noises. Our son sometimes prefers a series of high-pitched screeches emitted at random intervals. The cumulative effect is that if someone were to eavesdrop on our home it would sound as if we were attempting to reason with a bird of prey.

Son, it is time to put our pajamas on.


Sometimes he will just scream until he can be reasonably certain that he has triggered a migraine in either himself or a neighbor. Once finished, he will briefly make eye contact before beginning again. This has to be torturous on his throat and every now and then he goes hoarse from it. Once I just looked at him and resolved to see how long he would continue until he got tired of it. I still do not know the answer to that question.

There is one word that is always crystal clear: NO. I read in one of the parenting books that if you child begins saying “no” before saying “yes” you have not provided them a safe and proper environment. I suppose the idea is that your home should be so incompatible with mischief that you spend your days encouraging their behavior instead of discouraging it.  That may have merit if you are attempting to raise two year-olds in an abandoned shipyard, but I maintain that any toddler worth their salt can find an effective way to injure themselves even in the most kid-friendly settings.

I have yet to meet a parent who devotes their entire day to encouraging a toddler’s chosen behavior. Mostly because their toddler wouldn’t survive. It is difficult to avoid negative language when danger is involved, “I like your passion with that cheese-grater Timmy, and it speaks volumes that you are the first person to re-purpose it as a place to defecate!”  I suppose the people this parenting book refer to (who must reside in “toddlertopias”) just occasionally glance up from their novels and say, “Way to take the initiative sweetie!”  

In my best moments, I sympathize with the foreign concept of attempting to verbalize one’s desires and emotions in a language that is difficult to grasp. At other times, I am almost convinced that he is doing it on purpose. No reasonable person of any age can really believe that pantomiming a horseback ride while screeching conveys a need for ice water.