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Snappy rejoinders on the roll
Back in the days before the delightful — but not quite infallible — no-call list, I used to pride myself on how I handled the occasional telephone solicitation.I used to be one of those phone jockeys. I never had to work the dreaded “out-bound” side — cold-calling unsuspecting folks who’d rather hear from Beelzebub himself than somebody hawking something worthless — but I was a slave to the “in-bound” headset.Yes, I was an operator-standing-by, taking orders for Ginsu knives and the Pocket Fisherman and other worthless crud nobody should want to buy, but did. So I had a little sympathy for those poor saps intruding on my home time.Figuring they’re paid by the hour, I’d usually listen to their spiel to cut down on the number of calls they’d have to make to earn what I knew to be a measly per-hour pittance.But my patience would have a limit, and I eventually would have to put an end to the sales pitch.Familiar as I was with the routine, I knew every phone jockey had a list of responses for just about everything the potential customer could say. Only by saying something so outlandish or oddball or nonsensical it couldn’t be found on the response list is the quickest way to fluster a phoner and put an abrupt end to the intrusion.For example: During the great phone wars, when all the carriers would jockey for customers, I’d listen to the sales pitch, then politely say, “Oh, I’m sorry. This is for long-distance phone service? I don’t have a phone.”Or to a home-improvement pitchman: “We don’t own this house. We’re what you might call ‘squatters.’”And the old fallback (said with a perfect, non-accented Midwestern drawl): “I’m sorry, I don’t speak English,” a line I’d have to utter time and again only after answering questions only an English-speaker could understand.What does this have to do with commuting by bike?I’m glad you asked.Occasionally, I’ll be Just Riding Around and some loudmouth will lean out a car window and yell something.My knee-jerk response is to yell back, and generally I’m not praising the person’s diction or keen sense of observation. In fact, by usual response is a two-word phrase that can be euphemized as something a man and a woman do when they love each other very, very much, followed by “you” or “off.”But that’s all sorts of wrong, and I know it.Once, several years ago, a small daycare bus turned out in front of me and almost made me into a nice asphalt stain. The driver saw me just before the moment of impact and slammed on the brakes. I started to let fly with what was to be a blue streak capable of making a sailor cry when I looked up and saw tiny innocent faces staring out the tiny windows.“Johnny, what did you learn at daycare today?”“All sorts of funny, new words, daddy.”Cursing in response to yelled comments or boneheaded maneuvers is wrong, too, because it lets the other person know their attempt to bother you, worked.And in this time of road rage and strained interpersonal relationships, letting fly with a “$%& YOU!” doesn’t leave a lot of negotiable wiggle room. Hurled at a beery or simply hot-tempered fellow can lead to the kind of physical encounters I’ve spent the bulk of my life avoiding. I’m not getting my behind beat because some guy yelled at me to get a car.Which brings us back to the phone solicitors.I’m trying to deal with those who yell things in similar fashion. I have a hard time saying nothing, but I don’t want to be inflammatory. I figure if I can say something nonsensical or even funny, I can get the cathartic benefit without getting a fist poked in my nose.For most of December, I merely wished folks “Merry Festivus.”To suggestions I should “GET OFF THE ROAD” or “GET ON THE &%ING SIDEWALK, #$$&^@” or “MOVE YOUR &%ING FAT #$$,” I usually respond with “Bless you” or an enthusiastic “Thanks!” or even a peace sign and big wave.But I’m at a loss about how to respond to what has to be the most annoying — and common — thing shouted my way when I’m on two wheels. It was far more common years ago, but has made a comeback now that he has, too: “WAY TO GO, LANCE!” It’s insipid, uninspired and just downright pointless.If anybody has any suggestions how to respond to that one, I’m all ears.