The Funtasticks

A telemarketer called last week. He said, “I am calling to tell you about a funtastic new offer from–” and I hung up. Any product that can be described as “funtastic” is not a product I want in my home.

“Our funtastic life insurance policy will guarantee your family is provided for–” No.

“The anti-lock brakes on the 2002 Toyota Camry are funtastic, ensuring–” No.

“When hemorrhoids flare up, reach for funtastic–” No.

I don’t understand how telemarketers stay in business. No one I know has ever bought anything from one, and indeed I am doubtful they have ever sold anything to anyone. I’m guessing their pact with Satan pays a few dividends, but enough to keep bread on the table? The Satan I know doesn’t usually subsidize such unprofitable ventures.

My friend Tanny Tantan (names have been changed) reports a new development in telemarketer evil: They called his house at dinnertime on a Sunday.

Now, dinnertime phone calls from telemarketers have been de rigueur for centuries. During the Renaissance, the toothless, inbred nobles couldn’t sit down to a feast of gristly chicken and peasant stew without a knock at the castle door from someone wishing to sell syphilis insurance, or whatever. At least they didn’t have telephones back then, although you can be sure Leonardo Da Vinci was in the process of inventing one when he died of terminal filth.

So we’re used to having dinner interrupted. But on a Sunday? That’s a new low. Not that I’m likely to buy anything anyway, but if a telemarketer called at dinnertime on a Sunday, I wouldn’t buy even if he were selling immortality for a nickel. In fact, the only way to win me over at dinnertime on a Sunday would be if they were offering to come over and make me dinner, for free.

Which brings us to an idea my brother Jeff and I had. We were eating lunch at a local restaurant which, to avoid legal troubles, we will refer to as Shmapplebee’s. Some time had passed since the last time we’d seen our server — our “server was down,” you might say, if you’re a nerd — so we had time to come up with what we consider a fool-proof business plan: pizza telemarketing.

The way it would work is that a pizza establishment would send a driver out into a particular neighborhood, stocked up with a few of the most-requested pizzas. Then the restaurant would call phone numbers in that neighborhood and say, “Hello, this is (name of pizza establishment). It is 6 o’clock. (Oh, I forgot to mention: It is 6 o’clock.) Our driver can have a fresh, hot pizza to your door in less than five minutes. Would you like to buy one?”

I don’t know about you, but there have been many times when I have been a) too lazy to cook something, and 2) too hungry to go on living. Ordering pizza is an option, but then you have to wait 30 minutes before it shows up. If someone ever called at one of those moments and offered to bring me pizza in less than five minutes, I’d jump at the chance, except for being too lazy/hungry to jump.

I mean, if telemarketers are going to continue existing — and it would appear they are, voodoo curses against them notwithstanding — they might as well do something useful. People might actually need pizza at 6 p.m.; no one ever needs more subscriptions to more magazines. So why don’t they quit trying to sell us things and do something to improve our quality of life? They should practice random acts of telephone kindness, calling people and just saying things like:

“Your boss doesn’t appreciate you, but the rest of us sure do.”

“Did you see ‘Friends’ last night? It was really funny.”

“You look good in that shirt.”

“Why don’t you lie down for a nap?”

We would thank them for their kindness, hang up the phone, and life would be just bootylicious. I mean, funtastic. Sorry.

The paragraph about the Renaissance was meant to play on the irony that for such an "enlightened" age, the people were still pretty gross and unhygienic. I don't think it worked.

The inside joke is that "Shmapplebee's" is what I call Applebee's all the time anyway. There is no good reason for this. At first, I spelled it "Shmappleby's," thinking the real place was spelled with a Y instead of two E's. Late Tuesday night, I realized my mistake and had to call the copy desk to have them change it. If Applebee's is spelled with two E's, Shmapplebee's should be, too. I feel strange making urgent phone calls late at night to copy editors to tell them how a fake restaurant should be spelled, but it's all part of being obsessive-compulsive, and I've gotten used to it.

Speaking of copy editors, I'm guessing it was one of them who "fixed" the "mistake" where I listed two points as point a) and point 2). They changed it to 1) and 2). Someone also mysteriously put a "C" in the restaurant, making it "Schmapplebee's," which is especially ironic, considering the care I took to spell it correctly. Most days, I'm amazed our newspaper even comes out.