~~~ please HOVER on the photos for captions ~~~


May 6th, 2007

When I started at the ad magazine, I did outbound calling, where the object was to identify items which had sold (company revenue, and a slice of it for me!) or, failing that, get the client to renew his ad.  Not surprisingly, most of the time I got voicemail, and often the client hadn’t read the manual:

[Prerecorded VM lady] “The party you have dialed,…”
[Clueless client] “Hi, you’ve reached Jane and John!  Leave a message!”
[VM lady] “… is not available.”

Then there’s the Sprint lady.  I’m not sure what flew up her nose, but the recorded voice from Sprint just SNARLS out the digits: “The number you have dialed, 5! 0! 8! 9! 4! 6!…”  Jeez, chill, SprintHilda.

Others make full use of a free-form outgoing message.  There’s one guy out there with a 2-minute prayer on his OGM, and while I don’t doubt the sincerity of his multiple blessings on callers, I wish he’d cut to the chase and leave the Holy Trinity out of it.

My favorite OGM, even though I fell for it every time, was the Ferris Bueller wannabe.  His pickup was complete with the sleepy “Hello?”, the precisely timed pauses, several uncannily appropriate responses and then the kicker: “Don’tcha just hate when voicemails do that?”

Occasionally I’d reach a warm body, and the reactions ranged from hangups to lonely people telling their life stories.  I’ve switched to inbound calls now, but we reps are all in the same room, and at any given moment we can usually hear an outbound rep protesting, “No, I’m from The Classifieds.  The Classifieds?  The Classifieds Magazine.  No – ma’am – you placed an ad with us?  No, I work at The Classifieds…”

The brevity award goes to a client who picked up and shouted, “NOT SOLD!”  (I hadn’t counted on caller ID.)  Well all righty then!  At least those two words and a hangup boosted my calls-per-hour stats, partially compensating for Father Frank’s interminable blessings.

Doing inbound, I get warm bodies all the time now, with the exception of a few persistent faxes.  The easiest way for us to access a client’s account is by his phone number.  One would think that it’d be easy to get a number from a client, and one would be wrong.  Much of the problem is unconscious – they know the number, so they blurt it as quickly as possible, letting their volume fall off during the last 4 digits.  Hispanic callers can be a challenge (I took French), but so funny: “Fie oh ay, tree nye sebbeng…”  Some callers act stunned when I ask for their number and release it with excruciating concentration, as though they’re giving birth.  Quite a few start with 1 (“1-978-…”), and way too many leave off the area code.  Then when I ask for the area code, almost without fail they give me their… zip code.

The strangest phone number phenomenon is regional.  We’re all convinced they’re putting something in the water in Fall River (excuse me: “Fah Rivvah”).  For some reason, almost every caller from that general area gives an aberrant reading on his number (“508-55-
56-78-9”).  Usually the area code is intact, but we’ve had pauses in those, too.  It’s frustrating because at least half of the calls come in from cellphones, so when one of those FahRivvahrites gives a 2-digit exchange, I always think the cellphone blanked on a digit.

If you’re with me so far, once we get into the client’s account, the real fun begins.  The ads can paint a picture:

Ford Taurus, $800.  Lost lic, nd $ for DUI case.
LG DOG HOUSE.  2×4 construc.  Shingled rf, wht vinyl siding.  Built to last.  Brand new.  Our dog won’t use it.  $125.  [The dog in question was an adult Golden, and she absolutely refused to enter the dog house.  I felt so bad for our client – he obviously built it with love and care.  No good deed goes unpunished :> ]

Other ads just scream “Deal of the Century”:

Pile of cast iron steam radiators.  Best offer.
WOLF TRAP, sz 4X.  Works, but great for cabin or game rm.  [Hey kids!  C’mon down!]

Mea culpa

I know, I know, let he [sic] who is without sin cast the first stone.  We definitely mess up sometimes, and what comes out of our mouths often isn’t quite what was intended.  Overheard in the teleservices room:

“Your ad will run through the end of this evening.”  [We’re a weekly publication; she meant to say the end of this month.]
“Did you shave the dragon before you ate him?”  [Yup, a bearded dragon.  The client had joked that he wasn’t sold, they had him for dinner.]
“Snowmoboarding boots”
“…and you know why?  Because I don’t give a rat’s Hello, may I speak to John?…”

And we’ve been known to fatfinger the input.  Gems found while proofreading:

Ono-smoker.  [Hey, leave your opinions at the door!  This typo is related to my infamous “pooprtunity”.]
Humidors in the “Construction Trucks & Equipment” category… with an incorrect phone number.
1976 Pontiac in “Special Events”.  [Maybe it was, for one lucky couple on prom night.]
Xneox.  [Xenon?  Anyway, this looks like what a Dr. Seuss character says when he sneezes.]
Health quar.  [This error got the guy a free renewal.  When you’re selling puppies, “health quarantine” gives a far different impression than “health guarantee”.]
FORD UP NOSE.  [Chevy in ear?  Dodge Ram up butt?  This is my all-time favorite heading, and it actually made it to print.  It helps to know that we abbreviate “pickup” as PU, and that the ad was in the “Truck Parts & Accessories” section, but it kills me anyway.]

Caller quotes

You wanna buy it?  [So funny I forgot to laugh.]
Can I change the price?  [Hey, it’s your ad.  You can change anything but the actual item you’re selling.]
We have to lower the price every time we renew, right?  [Um, no.  We have rules, but not cruel ones.]
[“So your heading is ‘2001 SUBARU FORESTER L’.  How do you want to describe it?”]  “2001 Subaru Forester L…”  [Glad you cleared that up for us.]
I picked up a copy of Horsepower [our biweekly color mag limited to items with engines], and the ad for my canoe isn’t in it.
[“That change will be reflected in the May 1 issue.”]  When will that come out?

Wretched excess

Htd turn signal.  [I don’t know about you, but I never had one freeze up.]

It’s a New England thing

Vivita lens.  [Will it fit my Minolter?]
5-draw file cab w/petitions.  [So is there a partition I can sign mandating the correct spelling of “drawer”?]

Dept. of Redundancy Dept.

Hanging chandelier & wall sconces.  [As opposed to the floor models.]
Sitting armchair.  [I hate the stand-up kind.]
Outdoor shed.  [Good, because I don’t have space for it in my living room.]
Baby bassinet.  [The adult ones are so unwieldy.]
ABS brakes.  [And here I was thinking you meant ABS headlights.]

Say what?

In our copious free time between calls, heh, we enter ads which have been sent by fax, e-mail, snail-mail and the web.  In our clients’ own words:

2005 STS chrome tires have gd tread left.  [Them chrome tires is scarce as hens’ teeth, but dang, they’s purty.]
2 pr alum crotches.  [I’ve never even seen one.]
[Boat with] Porti-Party.
Pecan ducks.
Rod island railing.  [We have a winnah!  Take that, “rod iron” and “rot iron”.]
8″ Fisher plow.  [Shall we file that under Tonka Truck Accessories?]
2 cain armchairs.  [But I’m not abel to sit in them.]
Uses std 115 house plug.  [Remind me not to have you rewire my house.]
The 2 banks are in immacuble shape.  [Incredulate!]
Almost roadworthy.  Drive now, restore later!  [Repent at leisure, behind bars!]
BLOW-UP DOLL. …slightly used.  [This is icky on so many levels.  I have to wonder, though: does she have an aluminum crotch?]
1 owner, used 3 times.  [You just keep on usin’ me… until you use me up.]
2 owners, always garaged.  [May I put you on hold while I call the authorities?]
The stroller was used for my twins who were born in 2004 so it is new.  [Where’d you park your DeLorean?]


OK, so maybe I do know where SprintHilda got her attitude.

dear Kristin

April 8th, 2007

I don’t suppose this is the Sunday paper you’re reading.  In fact, if Heaven exists, I doubt that you guys go through that weekly ritual of getting ink all over your fingers and toast crumbs in your sheets.

On the other hand, I suspect your media connection transcends Wi-Fi.  I think you’re in my head as I write this, amused as I spill coffee and tears on this longhand draft.  You have, if you will, On-High-Fi, and you’ve been tuned to the Yesrie channel since, ironically, Good Friday.

Most of the family gathered Friday night for a double birthday celebration, honoring your dad and Marilyn, and while it wasn’t Hearthstone, the event bore most of the hallmarks of our childhood holiday parties.  We cousins, a quorum of five, ran in a pack, talking about our parents and grazing the bountiful buffet.  (One member of the youngest generation was blissfully connected to his iPod for the entire evening.)  Marilyn’s daughter Dianne had arranged the whole thing, and she did a gorgeous job.  By the way, I was vastly amused to be back at the Knights of Columbus hall within a week!  (Not only had the dance floor survived the punishment it took last Saturday, it had moved to the front end of the room – perhaps in a desperate escape attempt.)

Loren – and I’ll deal with him later – was not in attendance.  He was sorely missed, but it’s generally conceded that Seattle is a long commute.  David and Brad arrived at le moment juste – in the parking lot, in time to be fully visible as their increasingly suspicious uncle pulled in.  David valiantly fibbed that they were looking for a good restaurant, but it was apparent to everyone that Willow Street is not normally the epicenter of fine dining in Westborough.  (On the other hand, local chef John made Friday the exception.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself in the chronology.  I arrived about 10 minutes past the appointed hour, characteristically anxious about joining a room full of people.  Thankfully, your eagle-eyed sisters spotted me and rushed to my rescue.  Stephanie!  Gretchen!  Each is now the best possible version of themselves.  These are funny, smart, warm women, and they’ve raised the next generation in kind.

I tapped Mom on the shoulder to register my presence and get the 411 on party strategy.  The guests of honor weren’t expected for a half hour, our hostess was pointed out, and I was instructed to remove the shoulder pads in my jacket.  (Thanks, Mom!  A little louder, so they can hear you in Seattle!)  I checked in with Dianne, bought some liquid courage and parked the offending jacket with my pocketbook.

Steph and I stood together, watching the last-minute preparations.  It was then that I learned of your death, Kristin.  While we as a family had been left to imagine what adventures you’d had in your years apart from us all, I can tell you that I always hoped we’d reunite.  I knew that if we did, you’d get hugs first, an unbiased ear second, and questions a lot later.

There was more and more physical distance between us as we grew up.  My first memories of you still carry potent emotions.  To me as an eight- or nine-year old, the sight of a todder in leg braces was difficult to resolve.  You shed them soon enough, and I believed the grown-ups when they assured me that you’d known nothing else.  You were a happy kid, and we were lucky to be born into a century when doctors knew how to realign limbs.  Still, little kids understand more than we think they do, and I was quite sure you must have noticed that no one else was sporting hardware.

The pack of us cousins got into all kinds of benign trouble on holidays, but I don’t remember you as a particular instigator.  If anything, I as the eldest got us started, with the able assistance of my sidekick, Steph.  We all flouted parental instructions (and common sense) by running around on the rotting floor of the barn’s second story.  Stephanie and I even snuck into the Mees’ pasture so she could ride their horses bareback!  (I was chicken, but I egged her on.)  I admired your beauty and, in your early teens, your killer wit.  And that was the last I saw of you – Pennsylvania – and I had to be content with infrequent reports filtered through the parents.

I hope it was quick.  I hope it was a successful escape.  I hope that you’d known love (apart from the familial kind), that you had lived the life you needed to, this time around, and that it was time to go.  I hope that there was some sense of… balance, regarding the particular day that fate stepped in.  And I don’t think I have to hope, I’m sure I know, that you had a huge welcoming committee when you crossed over.


The party reportage is spotty here, but I’m selfishly keeping some of the good stuff close to my vest.  I just need to give the shout-out to which I alluded earlier:

Loren, your little brother is a tattletale.  Braddy spilled the beans, and you are SO BUSTED for being a lurker here!  I’m absolutely astonished and thrilled.  Sorry that the entire month of March went undocumented.  I just have a rule that if there’s nothing to say, I won’t log on and say it :>  Think of it this way: I’ve spared you all from the tortures of a 5th grader’s diary (“Got up. Went to school. It rained on the way home. Had dinner”).  I have been collecting savory excerpts from classified ads, and just as soon as our weather decides to get with the program, I hope to stalk some nature shots with the trusty S2IS.  In the meantime, although I told Brad to remind you that the blog has a comments feature, I’m telling you now that you don’t have to say a word.  Put it through the grapevine, though, whenever you come east!  I hear Steph puts on a mean cookout, so I think we cousins and our families need to descend on her and see for ourselves.

I swore I wouldn’t do pictures in this entry, but that was then and this is now.  At the party, Mom read me the riot act on my penchant for taking funny candids as opposed to flattering portraits.  Doesn’t she know by now that no parental decree goes unchallenged?

the birthday boy

For (both of) you readers who are not part of the family: it was NOT a candid. He was mugging, and I rose to the bait :>

rockin’ the ‘boro

April 1st, 2007

best part? There'll be more of these!
© David Addison Small 2007

I’m breaking the blessed silence around here to spread my joy that The Black Cats, The Refrigerators and Fast Passing Revue are back.  They played Westborough last night, and anyone who was anyone (or who, like me, wished they’d been a part of the original scene) was there and rocked OUT.

The kitschy venue was the Knights of Columbus hall, where Dave Small debuted at the tender age of 13.  We arrived about ½ hour late (my bad: needed to pick up a 2-gig card for my camera) and had to elbow our way in, and not because of the throwback-to-the-sixties admission price of 5 bucks.  Westborough natives heard it through the grapevine and made it their business to be there, driving from Boston, Spencer, Rutland and probably further afield.  I think the K of C might need to replace their dance floor after this 4-hour reunion.

Some of it was funny (the number of men wearing baseball caps) and some was bittersweet.  One guy is battling cancer, and another lost his wife over the holidays (yet managed to put together, in one week’s time, an incredible memorial service for her which people are still talking about).  There were delightful children there, starting with the cool character at the admissions desk (who referred me to the bartender for a pair of scissors so I could break into the new camera card’s packaging).  There were teens manning the food table, and they were neither mortified nor sullen; they were, in fact, groovin’ to the music.  Roger’s son Thomas did himself proud onstage for an entire set.  And then there was Dave Kenney’s daughter, who’s a 36-year-old in a young teen’s body – I wish I’d had her gift of weathering (good-natured) sarcasm and immediately returning fire with dead aim.  Plus, she can dance :-)

The reason excuse for the concert was the release (this week!) of Dave Small’s new CD, on the indie label Black Cat Crossing Productions.  We were treated to live performances of a couple of those tracks!  Between sets, the studio exec also shanghaied Jef and me to his SUV so we could hear the CD versions of those songs – clean as a whistle without losing Dave’s raw power.  I can’t wait for our copy.

The good news: Once the bartender performed surgery on my memory card packaging, I captured a few numbers on video.  The bad news: 2 gigs get me a whopping four songs.  AVI format is a hawg, people.  One 3-minute song?  360 meg.  I’ve converted them to MPEG, but they’re still honkin’ huge files (40-60M).  Maybe you could check your email (or write a few) while each song loads :>  Low monitor resolution will help – not with the load time, but with the viewing.  Our screen res is 1200×1600, so the MPEGs are about 2½x3¼”.  I now conclude this whine with the mention of ambient light, or, more accurately, the lack thereof.  It consisted of tungsten sconces and a couple of blue spots, so keyboardists and drummers were not featured in my deathless videos.  I could not see them through the viewfinder, although I swung desperately in those directions a couple of times.

The Black Cats (one current band comprised of some core Westborough-crowd musicians) were up first.  Luckily, although I missed the beginning while Samurai Bartender liberated my card, I got the song Dave Kenney seemed proudest of: “Hideaway“.

Chip Smith (who, as I understand it, was responsible for talking Dave Kenney into doing the Vincent’s gig in November) sang “Too Tired” and then regaled us with a local version of “Gangster of Love.”

The first time my memory card filled up, I deleted 2 songs so I’d have space for Fast Passing’s set.  Donna did an amazing job on “Sporting Life”, but I had chosen the worst vantage point in the room, and the blue lights were doing unspeakable things to her face.  Assuming that she’d be performing for a while, I deleted that video – and she stepped down for the night.  (Donna, I’m sorry – but I think you’d agree that my footage needed to be destroyed.  Immediately.)

There was a general shuffle and, amid cries of “Too many guitars onstage!”, The Refrigerators jockeyed for position and did a set.  I managed to film the song that got air time on ‘BCN.  That’s Dave Small introducing it, with Henry Nigro singing backup.  May I just say that of all the men I’m not married to, Henry is possibly the most charismatic?  I hasten to add that the others in the room are high-scoring runners-up, for sure.  But Hen3ry (and he knows why I’m spelling it that way) is lit from within, and if we could harness that energy we wouldn’t have all this foolishness about petroleum resources.  We could light the world.  On the other hand (and I’m sorry I only got one verse before the memory card choked), Henry would probably say, “Time Won’t Let Me.”

mo binders, mo beefs!

February 25th, 2007

Surprise! Yet another Big Why collection, but how could I resist?  I captured all of these yesterday, and I wasn’t even in full-on sign stalking mode.

Let’s get my Francophilistic snobbery out of the way first.  Formage is a French word, but I doubt that the Big Why is charging $11.99 to view the manufacturing process of shaping cowbells.

et il faut dire 'La Clarine' ou 'Les Clarines'; décidez!

Antooch – wasn’t that in Seeria, but really close to Toorkey?

antooch sounds like a pesticide

Apparently S-tivus is celebrated for weeks.  “You hongry, Jeb?” “Lookie here, Jethro!  Beefs is on sale!”

again, you don't see this kind of sale pricing every day

Wait, did you catch the fine print?  I just can’t decide which option to choose.

I want fillers AND mo binders

I paid for my groceries and headed for the car, happily gratified at having bagged not only two Purdue roasters for the price of one but three more signs for the price of a few sidelong glances.  I only backed up the Big Why’s exit traffic for a few seconds as I braked, rolled down the window and captured the side of a truck:

and no grafecks proofreadar to ignerent

the Big Why celebrates S-tivus

February 11th, 2007

I almost didn’t take this shot.  My inner TBS Funny Hotline advised that one missing apostrophe was a smile, not a guffaw – but then I saw the fine print.  S-happy signs definitely qualify for belly laughs bellies laughs.

maybe they're about to lay off the Supplies department

Apparently this week they’re only selling one chicken breast.  Also, Big Why store brands aren’t just classi, they’re…

but as soon as they DO last, all bets are off

What a deal!  Regular price $6.79, but look!  It’s on sale for $6.79!

I'm not sure I want to ched anything, but if I did, I'd want an extra sharp chedder


I apologize once again for my extended absence.  My current excuse is that I fell victim to Jef’s giant mutant ninja cold, and for three days my nose has apparently been packed with jalapeño purée.  Fortunately, I enjoy sneezing – but not in marathon format, and not when I have to fight Jef for possession of the Kleenex box.  Yesterday, having downed the emergency dose of Sudafed I keep in my wallet, I made that trip to the Big Why to stock up.  Eyes running and head aching when I bent down in the cold remedies section, I was disappointed to find only “Sudafed PE”… but it had painkillers and sinus stuff in it, so I bought it – better than nothing, I thought.  I took a dose, and – it was probably better than nothing, but it was definitely the DROWSY formula.

After I woke up, I read the box more carefully.  Of course!  No pseudoephedrine.  It’s pseudoSudafed.  Luckily, Stop & Shop has a pharmacist available on Sundays, so I scored my 24 doses of the real thing – after considerable paperwork.  It didn’t really inconvenience me, but it has to be a pain for the pharmacist; she asked for my license, then flipped through about a month’s worth of Sudafed customers’ signatures, filled out a new line for me and asked for my signature.  It was only about a 4-Kleenex wait, and while I doubt that I fit the meth-lab profile, I’m glad they’re screening the buyers.  I wonder how much Purell those pharmacists go through, though – she handled the license with my grubby germs all over it, and I used her pen.


And tomorrow I start my new new job – I’ve switched from outbound calling to inbound!  Same classified-ads magazine, but this time I’m saying “How may I help you?” instead of thinking, “Sorry to disrupt your day.”  I get to write the ads as well as renew them.  Fun!