Every day now, I get at least one or two phone calls from companies that want to sell me 'stuff'. Oh, they often begin the phone call with, 'I'm not trying to sell you anything...', to which I always think, 'Oh, yeah, then who's paying your wages?'
I try not to insult these poor telephone people. After all, it's not their fault they've got such a terrible job. Imagine having to sit in a tele-marketing room all day with dozens of others, all punching numbers into phones, all reciting the same, tedious mantra.
I try not to insult them, but I'm sure my annoyance comes through. I usually cut them off by saying, 'Not interested, thanks,' and quickly hanging up. The quick hang-up is usually to prevent the poor tele-marketer's counter attack. Sometimes they even sound annoyed that you're not interested in their amazing offer. 'Oh, so you're not interested in learning how you can take thousands of dollars off your mortgage,' they say in a shitty tone.
This is when I remember Jerry Seinfeld, and smile. There was that episode when Jerry gets one of these calls and he says politely, 'I'm sorry, but I'm busy right now. If you give me your number, I can call you back at home.... Oh, you don't like people ringing you when you're home? Now you know how I feel.'
Still, when the charities call, I count my blessings and don't hang up.
Then there's the other 'scourge'. The 'chain e-mail'. Usually they're syrupy sweet, corny, cliched and frustrating. Some - under the guise of wisdom or altruism - are downright offensive. They're the ones that promise stuff:
"If you pass this e-mail on to six other people, ten great things will happen to you...
...money will come to you...
...luck will come to you...
They remind me of those pernicious chain letters that used to come in the mail, hardly legible after repeated photocopying. Remember how they told of unspeakable family tragedies that befell people who didn't keep the chain going? And how those same tragedies or financial ruin were reversed once the victim fished the letter out of the bin, made 50 copies and sent it to all their unsuspecting friends and relatives? It's a source of endless fascination to me that anybody is taken in by that stuff!
Sometimes I get a forwarded email that makes me stop and think. These are usually long-winded monologues about the preciousness of life and those around us. I read it, start feeling nostalgic about the past, feeling all warm and fuzzy about my loved ones. Yeah, the sentiments are often true, and it IS good not to take life for granted. I get that, and I guess it's a good thing to be reminded. But then why do I always feel a little manipulated? Why do I always feel like I'm a member of the great cyberspace congregation and someone's giving me a sermon. One I didn't ask for.
The problem with these kinds of messages, is that they're often full of generalisations, and they paint a picture of the past as perfect and of the present as hopeless. Frankly, I don't have any time for this. Why can't we be happy and positive about the great things we enjoy in life today? If we don't focus on what's good (and there's plenty of it), how can we expect young people not to feel hopeless about the future of the planet?
Perhaps it's time to start my own e-mail chain. The good news mail. Ten reasons to rejoice that we're living now instead of the fifties or sixties or some other decade when hundreds of Australians died every year of preventable and/or curable diseases. Ten reasons to turn off the computer and spend some time reading - or writing - a book instead. And what about forwarding great art (see, the inclusion of the above Klimt was not gratuitous). That's always uplifting, as is poetry or a good quote.
And humour is always welcome. Send me a funny photo, or a joke, and the quality of my day improves.