FAQ #19

Question: Do you have a good way of getting rid of telemarketers?
Answer: You know, I used to be plagued by those little devils. They would call me morning, noon, and evening, especially around dinner, and dinner to me is sacrosanct. Therefore I began to employ several methods to discourage telemarketers from ever bothering me again. I believe I must have been taken off several lists, since fewer of these obnoxious horseflies have been calling in the last year. Of course, I have asked to be put on the Do Not Call registry, so that may have had something to do with the reduction of calls, too.

  1. My favorite technique is to play "hard of hearing." I begin by answering the caller's "Is this Mr. Edward Anderson?" with a tentative, though loud "YESSSS?....," and then I let the telemarketer go through his opening spiel. When the poor sod is done, I say rather loudly, "EXCUSE ME, MY HEARING AID IS ON THE FRITZ.  COULD YOU PLEASE REPEAT WHAT YOU JUST SAID?" If the bugger persists (and sometimes he will), I interrupt him several times the second time through with the likes of "WHAT WAS THAT?", "I'M SORRY, I DIDN'T GET THAT!", or "COULD YOU PLEASE SPEAK LOUDER?"
  2. Another technique I find effective is to ask a lot of questions. When "Chris" calls (as in "Good morning, Mr.-uh-Anderson, this is Chris calling for..."), I interrupt with, "Chris, will you please excuse me while I get a piece of paper and pencil. (Pause for background rummaging and humming or tuneless whistling). Now, uh, Chris, would you please spell your full name for me?" Usually Chris will cooperate. Then I proceed to the spelling of the company's name, the location of its headquarters, how long it's been in business, how long Chris has worked for the company, how the company's stock is doing, whether the company is listed with the BBB, etc., etc., until Chris (or Kris) hangs up.
  3. I enjoy telemarketers who start off with a bright and cheery, "And how are you today, sir?" I let them know, of course. "I'm glad you asked," I say. "You know, I live all by myself except for my Sea Monkeys®, and hardly anyone stops by or calls me anymore. You know...by the way, what's your name? Chris, is it? Well, it's great to hear from you Chris. People just don't take the time to call to see how their neighbors are doing anymore. Too busy, I guess. Anyway, I've been having this sharp pain in my right side that makes it hard for me to take a deep breath, and I'm afraid it might be my liver, but my doctor says it's just my imagination...." Of course, I do not let the telemarketer interrupt me with his pitch as I complain about the fungal infection of my toenails, how much gas costs, how if I still smoked I couldn't smoke in the diner anymore, etc., etc.
  4. Sometimes I respond to an opening line with, "Excuse me, Chris, but I have information that will change your life!"--the very same opening I use with door-to-door missionaries, fund raisers, band boosters, etc. Then I launch into my low-keyed, yet disturbingly insistent invitation to join the Acolytes of the Temple of the Gaseous Vertebrate. Only rarely can I make it all the way to asking Chris for his home address and the addresses of ten of his friends so that I can mail them some "interesting" brochures before he rings off.
  5. I encourage some telemarketers until the very end, making frequent, reassuring comments throughout their pitch like "Wow, Chris, that's fabulous!" or "Whoa, that's remarkable!" or "How fascinating!" Then when they zero in for the closing, I ask, "I'm afraid I'm little short of cash right now, Chris. Say, can you lend me the money?"
  6. I also find that most telemarketers are not terribly interested in hearing about the Martian visitation to Centerboro in 1955, even though it is The Truth™.
  7. Finally, here's one that Mrs. Underdunk uses, but which I find lacking in finesse. After the introductions, she simply repeats "No" at a tempo of 120 to 144, randomly varying the pitch and volume of each "No" until the marketer hangs up. Of course, you could simply screen your calls with an answering machine which is what I do during dinner.

Question: Why do you suppose Mr. Brooks created such an effeminate character in Leo?
Answer: Many of you have asked this question, and I must admit I'm stymied by it. Perhaps he thought that the irony of the King of Beasts as a "dandy" would appeal to the juvenile sense of humor, such as it is. Other than that, you've got me.

Question: How much like the real Centerboro people are Kurt Wiese's illustrations in the Freddy books?
Answer: As I have already said, Mr. Wiese never visited Centerboro to the best of my knowledge. I believe he developed some of his renditions from descriptions given to him by Mr. Brooks or from family and newspaper photographs sent to him by Brooks and others. The rest he pulled out of the air. Sometimes his illustrations are very accurate. If you compare the picture he drew of Mr. Bean for Chapter 3 of Freddy the Politician to the actual photograph of William I have included in FAQ #17 and elsewhere, you'll see that Wiese's illustration is fairly consistent with reality. However, his depictions of me and Herb Garble are cartoonish caricatures mostly, although sometimes he approaches verisimilitude in his portrayal of me. Mr. Camphor, whose picture appeared in the Centerboro paper many times, is accurately drawn. Mr. Weezer, rarely in the public eye, is not. I could go through all the Freddy characters in like manner, but rather than waste my time, let this suffice: based on my research, only about 8% of the illustrations are accurate to any significant degree.

Question: In the Freddy books we read how Mr. Bean peels off large amounts of cash from a wad of bills he has in his pocket. Were the Beans well-off?
Answer: In Politician, Mr. Bean withdraws $4845.92 in what are, let us suppose, 1939 dollars from the First National Bank of Centerboro. This is, according to the story, all the money he had on deposit with Mr. Weezer. In 1999 dollars, this would be exactly equivalent to an incredible $57,941.86--quite a tidy sum. (If you don't believe me, go to the CPI Calculation Machine and do the figuring yourself.) Do you have that much in savings? I certainly do not. I don't know if the real William was that well-off or not, but he always did carry around a big wad of bills, and he and Mrs. Bean did travel overseas. Remember, too, that Mr. Brooks and the Beans were great friends, and Brooks no doubt must have been at least generally acquainted with their finances. I believe, therefore, that Brooks did render a pretty realistic financial profile of the Beans.

Short Answers to Infrequently Asked Questions

  • Right now "Mr. Eha's Place" takes up between 4 and 5 megabytes. And I don't know how many words it contains. Why don't you count them? (Note: By the time it closed up shop on July 1, 2006, Mr. Eha's Place occupied 21MB.)
  • To D. C.--Because I like Canada, that's why!
  • The scar on Miss Belette's wrist is V-shaped. Why do you ask? And I do plan to conduct a second interview with her.
  • Occasionally I deviate from my eating plans. Recently, for example, I have been experimenting with freeze-dried food in anticipation of the Martian invasion. Freeze-dried scrambled eggs are awful, I can tell you, and they will not figure in my Year 2000 Eating Plan.
  • I really do not have any more unpublished Freddy manuscripts that I know of. Only if someone submits a synopsis and brief review to me of such a manuscript will any more appear here.
  • The best scenic view of Centerboro was and still is from the hill behind the old Trumbull place. It's not a good place to go after dark anymore, though, because that's where the teen-aged hooligans assemble to "party," I believe they call it.
  • It is true that the lunatic Benjamin Bean had been a clockmaker at one time. And you are quite right: it's Freddy, not Uncle Ben, who comes up with the design for the clockwork boy in the book.
  • Philemon Prendegast was a Centerboro J.P. at the same time Henry Snedeker was the constable in the late '20s and early '30s. I hope this helps your genealogical research, Mr. Prendegast.
  • All right, M.W., I'll give you one of the contradictions that will appear in "Curiosities, Mysteries, and Contradictions in the Freddy Books" (to be published here when I get around to it). In North Pole, it is stated that Jinx taught Freddy how to read. Yet in Politician, Jinx himself tells John Quincy Adams that "...[Freddy's] the only animal on the farm that can read or write." I think that all the Freddyites already know of this one.
  • Dear P.L.: I have it on good account that the annual Perseid meteor shower (due August 11) is a result of a botched Martian attempt to steer the Swift-Tuttle comet into the Earth just to see what would happen. This occurred, of course, before the Martians began to fully appreciate the entertainment value of the human species.

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