Excerpted from "She Who Laughs Last." Used with permission.

After we bought our home, I realized that all those papers we signed at closing were not legal documents at all. No, they must have been phone lists. Nearly every evening we get calls from telemarketers.

The scripts go something like this: "Hello. Allow me to introduce myself and the reason I'm calling." (Legally they have to say something like that.)

I know these are just people trying to make a living, but I'm trying to eat my pot roast, not comparison shop for insurance at the dinner table.

I have friends who hang up on them. Others who blow whistles in their ears. But I can't do that. I prefer a more subtle approach. I start by asking lots of questions before the telemarketer has a chance to finish his introductory speech. For instance, the other night someone called about installing a security system in my home.

"I just want you to know that for a limited time we are offering free installation," the young man said.

"Free?" I asked.

"That's right. We have service representatives in your area right now, and they would be glad to come out and explain the system to you."

"What system?"

"Why, the one we are selling and offering to install for free," he answered. "How do you know I haven't had one installed already?" I asked, making my voice thick with suspicion.

"I...er...I don't," he said. "Do you?"

"Why would I tell you that?"

"Because I just want to know if you have one or not--to see if you would be interested in buying one from us."

"How do I know you aren't some cat burglar calling every house in the neighborhood to see who has an alarm system and who doesn't? And as soon as I go to sleep you're going to sneak in and steal everything I own. How do I know that?"


"You say representatives are in my neighborhood right now?"


"How many?"

"A couple, maybe."

"What are they driving?"

"I...ah...I'm not sure."

"If you seriously believe I'm going to be interested in security--and assuming you aren't a cat burglar--then why would you think I'd let a total stranger into my house? What sort of security business are you in anyway?"

"Well...these are home security systems that--"

"How did you get this number?"

"I...er...I'm not sure. It was here when I got here."

"When I say 'The fat man walks alone,' does that mean anything to you?"

"Not really."

"Who's Abbie Hoffman?"

"I don't know."

"Where's Jimmy Hoffa?"

"I don't know."

"Was anyone on the grassy knoll?"

"What grassy knoll?"

"And you claim you're in the security business!"

"Look, ma'am, perhaps we're not the security service for you," he said. "As a matter of fact, I'm taking your name off the list right now."

"Just what kind of list do you have there, young man?"

"Just a list...a list," his voice cracked on the second list. "But I'm destroying it right now. As we speak. Hear that?" And I could hear the sound of paper being ripped. "All gone. I'm sorry I bothered you."

I softened my voice just a little and said, "Hey, I appreciate that. And just between you and me, if anyone asks, this conversation never happened, okay?"


Then, with a shout of panic I screamed out, "Oh, my goodness!"

"What? What?"

"Someone in a dark blue van just drove by," I told him, whispering. "Are your men in a blue van?"


I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it sure beats letting your blood pressure boil so that you choke on your pot roast. Besides, it entertains the kids. (And, believe me, that's not easy to do.)

Has anyone ever called to sell you burial plots? My, but they're fun people to talk with.

"I know this isn't a very pleasant topic to address," the young man who called said, "but what is even worse is the idea of leaving this entire burden to fall upon your family."

"What do they look like?"

After a long pause he finally asked, "I'm sorry, what do what look like?"

"The plots. The burial plots."

"Ah...well, I'm not sure. Like any other plot, I guess."

"Well, are they grassy?"

"Maybe. Probably.

"Then who mows them?

"You know, I don't know. I can have a representative come by and explain everything. We have some in the neighborhood right now, and I'm sure he'll have pictures and samples and stuff."

"Do you sell plot covers?"


"Yeah. I don't want my plot to get all muddy and nasty. I'd like to keep it covered and dry. You know, in case people should come to visit after church, and they're wearing good shoes."

"I've never had anyone ask about covers before," he said. "But I can check on it for you."

"That's okay. Let me ask you this: If I buy a plot now, can I use it--I mean before I die. You know, to have picnics, family reunions, things like that?"

"I'm not sure. It's just a plot--in a cemetery. And I don't think it's very big."

"How far apart do the stakes have to be in a game of horseshoes?"

"I don't think the plots are that big."

"Then maybe I should buy several--end-to-end, though and not side-by-side." I added.

"I think I can do that." But he didn't sound too sure.

"Do these plots come with a guarantee?"


"Yeah. Like if I buy a beautiful, grassy, sunny spot and I die, how do I know you won't bury me somewhere else, like next to a toxic waste dump, or something?"

"We don't bury people, ma'am. We just sell the plots."

"Do you sell a lot of plots?"

"I think we sell a lot of plots."

"How many plots in a lot?"

"I don't know. A lot."

"Maybe not."

"Uh...listen," he sounded more frustrated than ever. "I can send some representatives right over, and they can answer all your questions."

"About those representatives..."


"They don't like, you know, hurry things along, do they?"

"If you are implying that they--"

"Oh my goodness!" I shouted.

"What? What?"

"Someone in a dark blue van just drove by," I told him, whispering. "Are your men in a blue van?"


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