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Unsolicited Phone Calls: How You Could Unwittingly Change the World

Photo: Gavin Stewart

Amidst a crying baby, a noisy dryer, and the steam from my tea kettle, I barely made out the sound of my ringing cordless phone. The caller ID flashed “unknown caller – unknown number.” I should have let it be.

Knowing that I sometimes get important cell phone calls from friends and relatives that don ’t show up properly on my caller ID, I answered it anyway. A fast-talking older woman with a twangy accent sped through a script of about 250 words in less than a minute. I vaguely caught the words “energy crisis,” “Lieberman,” and “state ’s rights” amongst the chatter. At the end of her breathy spiel, she stopped and asked me, “Would you like us to add your name to the letter going out to your Senator?”

Huh?

Flabbergasted, I wondered how on Earth anybody could agree to such a strange method of political action. I have always considered myself a fairly informed citizen. I read my regular updates from my state and local representatives, drafting personal letters or emails once or twice a year, when it seems appropriate and necessary. I enjoy the “town hall” transcripts from my legislature, and I take time to talk with my 9-year-old daughter about the complexities of our unique Nebraskan unicameral system.

This really did take the cake, however. I replied cheerfully that, “I appreciate your offer, but I already use the opportunity to communicate directly with my government representatives with my own letters and phone calls. Thanks, anyway.” She didn ’t have an answer, but wished me a happy holiday weekend and suggested that I enjoy the weather.

I still don ’t have a clue what the phone call was about. Whoever spearheaded the phone campaign had one tactic on their mind – to blast through a telemarketing script with the recklessness of a runaway semi-trailer in the hopes that loaded language and fear mongering would get me to agree on any term.

I don ’t work that way. Neither should you. And since phone calls from “non-profits” and PAC ’s don ’t fall under traditional Do Not Call registry guidelines, I suggest a few options for keeping yourself off of aimless “world-changing” petitions and form letters:

Let the caller ramble. It ’s a perfect opportunity to grab that last load of laundry out of the dryer and snag a pen and paper. When they are finished with their passionate plea for change, ask them some basic questions, specifically: What organization they represent What legislative bill or action they are addressing Their formal stance on said bill or action Where you can find out more information (bill status, drafters, lobbyists, etc.) on the issues Politely end the call and spend a day or two doing your OWN research on the topic; If it prompts you to take action, find a group that closely represents your opinions on the matter, and align yourself with them, or simply contact your representative via the government website (email) or phone them.

By taking the matters into your own hands, you are guaranteeing two things:

Your views will not be misrepresented. You will usually get a personal (albeit form-letter) response mailed directly to you regarding the issue at hand. You will have the satisfaction of knowing where things stand, and you can follow up accordingly.

And while I ’ve since figured out that the lady was probably referring to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2007, I ’m not sure if the letter she called about was “for” or “against” the cause. In matters of finance, politics, and anything else of the utmost importance, it is usually best to be prudent and very, very involved.

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