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Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

I picked up the phone on the first ring.

“Hello.”

“Hello, I’m calling from the Colorado Law Enforcement Department for Barry Smith. Is this Barry?”

I felt my heart leap into my throat. What had I done? What did I know? How much did THEY know? And about what? Did someone squeal? Do people still use the word “squeal?” And why did I answer the phone without seeing who it was?

I don’t think I’ve answered the phone without checking the caller ID since about 2006, and even then I considered it a thrill-seeking activity. But at that moment I was expecting a call from my wife, and I was so sure that this was her that I picked up without taking precautions.

“Yes …” I replied, wondering silently whether or not I was going to have to start flushing things down the toilet.

“Are you a dad, Barry?” the caller asked.

Huh?

“Uh, no …” I replied.

“Well, you sure sound like one!”

What a strange thing to say. I had, at this point in our conversation, said only “hello,” “yes” and “uh, no.” Were any of these particularly dad-like expressions? If I’d answered the phone with “Get off your lazy ass and cut the goddam yard,” then I’d have been able to follow his logic. Also, because I thought it was my wife on the other end, my initial “Hello” was kind of a baby-talk “Hewww-ooOOO.” Kind of embarrassing, actually.

But who knows – maybe that’s the way this guy’s dad talks.

“Uh … okay,” I said.

“Don’t worry, Barry, that’s a good thing. Now, Barry, I’m calling, Barry, because …”

What followed was a slick, fast-talking sales pitch. It was a phone solicitation! Duh! Deep breath.

How could I have been so paranoid? Like the cops are actually gonna phone in a bust:

“OK, now kick your front door in and yell ‘Freeze!’ Good. Now tell yourself to lie face down with your hands behind your head. Tell yourself to do it NOW! Call yourself a scumbag. If you can manage to kick yourself between the legs, that would be helpful. You’re doing great. Now grab your hair in the back of your head and start to smash your fact into … hang on, I need to take this other call.”

No, it was a telemarketer, and I must admit that I was so overwhelmed with relief that I missed most of his pitch, except for the fact that every third word was my name.

“… you see, Barry, this way, Barry, the police, Barry, can spend more time in schools, Barry, keeping kids off drugs, Barry …”

This guy spoke to me with such familiarity that you’d think I just agreed to give him one of my kidneys.

I tuned back in about right here: “… and for a thirty-five dollar donation, Barry, you get a gift, Barry, a sticker. It’s a sheriff’s badge, Barry, you stick it on your rear windshield and it lets the officers out there know that you support them, Barry.”

Now that my heartbeat had returned to its resting rate, I was able to focus on resenting this intimidation. So, you’re insinuating that the next time I get caught speeding, this small donation allows me to perhaps get a warning rather than a ticket? Hey, if I give, say, $75, could I get a “You Don’t Seem All That Drunk To Me” sticker? And how much for a really BIG sticker? Like one that can be clearly seen from long distances and at high speeds? That way we can just skip the whole lights, sirens, hands-where-I-can-see-’em rigmarole.

And do actual cops know that you’re using such a nudge-nudge, wink-wink reverse bribery approach in their name?

I attempted to express all of this to my salesman, but was unable to get a word in edgewise. The guy clearly didn’t call for a philosophical discussion of society’s need for external control. Nope, he was calling for his sales commission. And, apparently, so he could say the word “Barry” 45 times per minute.

I told him I wasn’t interested.

He skipped down to the part of his script he’s supposed to read when people say they aren’t interested, the part that nimbly likens your lack of interest to dealing heroin to pre-schoolers.

I repeated that I was not interested – but thanks for the heart attack.

He said “Thanks, Barry” and hung up the phone at the same time.

It sounded like this: “Thanks Ba–“


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