I answered the phone this morning only to , you won’t believe it , find out that I’ve won two and a half million dollars and a brand new Mercedes ! The man on the phone said his name was Neil Andersen . He had a strong accent , maybe from India , so the name didn’t seem to fit the voice ; but stranger things have happened . Neil Andersen seemed to be a very trustworthy name . I suppose that’s what it was meant to sound like and that’s what I was supposed to think .
Al Martinez , in Dancing Under the Moon , writes : “I am not one of those who lives on the edge . I do not skydive , scuba dive , wrestle grizzly bears , frequent cowboy bars or reach for anything in my back pocket when a cop is around . ” I go along with that sentiment ; but sometimes a guy has to stand up for himself and live on the edge , so , this would be my day to do so , if only just a bit .
” So , what company are you with ? ” I asked . Phone solicitors like to mumble for a moment and rush over that detail , I’ve noticed lately . They want to maybe sound like it’s a government or a public agency , just simply calling to help you out , make you aware of all the benefits you deserve .
” Winners International , ” he repeated , a little slower this time . ” Have you ever won such a big prize before ? ” he asked .
” Hey , Neil , ” I wanted to say , ” I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck , you know . ” Instead , I answered , like a dumbfounded Alice in Wonderland : ” No. Wow . Never . How much did I win ?”
And so it went , our little conversation , over the phone for the next ten minutes or so . I played dumb . I’m pretty good at that .
” Do you still drive ? ” he asked , thereby revealing who his target audience is .
” Oh , sure ! ” , I said .
” Do you do business with check or cash ? ” he asked .
” Check . ”
” We require a two-hundred and fifty dollar registration fee for you to get the prize . ”
Well , Neil Andersen from Winners International had already said that my prize would arrive today even though he was about to ask me to send a check . Seemed like a contradiction, an obvious time conflict . Neil , baby , are you with me ? Pay attention ! I didn’t point the problem out to him , maybe because I was so excited to have won , out of the blue , two million dollars and a new Mercedes . I made a point of asking him , again , just how much money I had won . ” Wow ! ” , I said , ” It’s too good to be true ! ” He didn’t get the irony , I guess.
He asked me if I was familiar with the Internal Revenue Service . I said yes . He wanted me to know that they congratulated me , also , on winning the prize . I thought , wow ! , the IRS cares , after all , follows these things , and even goes to the trouble of congratulating me ! They have never congratulated me before for anything . Wow ! He told me to write a check for $250 . Make it out to Ralph Sill , and he gave me an address . Asked me to repeat the address back to him . I did . I had written the address down on a stick-em note . It was an address in Neosho , Misery . That’s how Neil said it : Misery . I think it’s a state somewhere near Ohio . I repeated the address back to him with the same pronunciation .
” Are you writing the check ? ” he asked . Oh , he was anxious ; smelled blood , I guess. I told him that I was so excited to have won the prize and that I was writing with one hand while holding the phone , so it was taking awhile . He reassured me ; said I should take my time . Nice man . Ada decided , about this point in the game , to listen in on the other phone . Neil was giving step by step instructions , just to be sure that the sucker on the line would send the dough to the right place , eg. sign the check ; put the check in the envelope .
I said , having tired of the game , ” So , this is the address I should give to the police and the fraud department ? ”
There was a brief hesitation before he started the profanity . ” And , what was your name again ? ” I asked . ” Neil ? ” More cursing . Kind of a primitive unsophisticated bit of profanity , too . I would have expected something a bit more polished and practiced . I think he was sorry that he’d spent so much time on the phone with me ; thought he’d had another old person hooked ; but still . He needs to practice his cursing in order to make it more weighty ; so it has more of a punch . His was just a childish bit of drivel and ineffective . I taught middle school students for several years . Neil Andersen should take a few notes from them . That’d be a start .
” Thank you very much for your time , ” I said , amid the spew of sludge from the evil mouth of an evil man . I know , I know , everybody’s got to make a living , and I shouldn’t be so judgmental .
” I enjoyed it , ” I said . Evidently he didn’t ; not so much . That realization was a good enough prize for me for today , even though I don’t think that I’ll be getting the two million . I won’t wait for the Mercedes , either , I guess . That’d be too much reward for one day .
Ada was the one who taught me , by her example , to get these phone parasites into conversations . She’s able to string them out until they finally hang up on her . Strings of small daily victories .One day the phone parasites will put us on a ” no-call” list . You think ?