Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Silence of the Ma'ms

The Silence of the M'ams

I heard something good on the national news the other night--some, if not all, of the Ma'ms are soon going to be silenced! "Ma'ms," to be distinguished from "lambs," who are generally emblematic of innocence itself, are anything but innocent and deserve silencing, in fact if you ask me it's been a long time coming, this silencing legislation the GPIC (Good People In Congress) have decided to enact. Long ago, various members of my family, including myself, began receiving phone calls from this or that banking conglomerant or credit card group reminding us of exactly how much we owed on this or that loan-- commercial, educational or other--detailing to the cent and to the day exactly how much and how long we were, or had been, or would be overdue by said amount, and asking us if we wouldn't like immediately to schedule a payment on same.....????

The conversation was always polite enough--indeed it always ended with a "Ma'm" on the other end, as in: "...we realize you are in dire circumstances Ma'm, and you were laid off, how unfortunate M'am, and we do realize you are now on a pension Ma'm, and that your means are extremely limited M'am, and M'am we do realize you have raised nine children, but when you first agreed to the conditions of this loan, M'am, surely you did re-a-lize that re-spon-si-bi-li-ty upon which you were entering M'am, did you not M'am? (silence--the best tactic).....M'am?... MA'M???????" (click) This is how we came to call them "Ma'ms," the polite but agonizingly persistent and forgetful (they call again the next day as though they never, ever talked to you just the day before, and you have to explain all over again!!) progenitors and perpetuators and advancers and continuators of these calls, represented by the poor M'am employees with the Southern or Indian accents hired to do the big bosses' dirty work.....Now it's routine: "Oh, that call? No, just ignore it. Let it ring. I'm sure it's just a Ma'm..."

And now NBC's Brian Williams has made me feel as though I must have had a senior moment and forgotten I had signed up for a Ma'm support group (MA? Twelve steps to not hanging up on Ma'ms?), because here he is on the 6:30 news asking me: "You know those annoying, life-interrupting calls we all get day in and day out from agencies--usually from the credit card industry or a bank--reminding us it is URGENT we call them back??".....? (Yes, yes I answer inwardly, fervently wringing my hands and glancing at my cell phone..........) And then....

He says the M'ams are to be silenced! (This is almost BETTER than the movie!) Someone in the legislature has written a law and now it is to be enacted! Some good person noticed that it was annoying and disturbing and distracting people too much and maybe even offending their Bill of Rights or breaking some Constitutional Amendment that until now M'ams thought did not apply to them. Well! We'll just see about that!

Yes indeedy! Of course I will not believe it until my cell phone--set with the special ring for M'ams--ceases to ring, but I am hopeful! Yes, I am.


Meanwhile I have just noticed that a little meanness brings out the worse in everybody--even in a saintly sort of person such as myself. Call it a little too many M'ams for too long....something like that.

Anyway, thirteen days ago (as of this writing) I was charged $3870.00 for unpaid, overdue charges on my PHONE bill and was summarily (if erroneously) disconnected. You will realize of course, if you read about the M'ams (above), I rarely if ever even use the phone, much less ring up an unpaid bill on it. How then did I even know I was disconnected?--because they do leave on the 911 access, you see, and a dial tone that gets you to it. It is true I would never have known at all that I was disconnected except for the fact that I receive my internet access over it.

Internet--whole different story. Hate phone, loooove internet. You write on it, not talk. Ma'ms may be instantly deleted if and when they get your email address.

So that morning, thirteen days ago, I found I had no internet! This sent the blood pounding in my ears and my breath coming in stops and starts and long exhaustive, anxious sighs! After all, I had 62 moves on 62 games waiting on chessworld for me to make a move, and no holiday assigned! My rating was going to plummet like a hawk as my opponents watched my games time-out, one after another, while they merrily claimed wins on me, and time ticked on. I was disconnected??? This couldn't be happening to me!!

It was true I would have to speak to a M'am about this, but after all my granddaughters, aged nine and twelve and probably expecting at least a little internet access after swimming and tennis, were about to arrive for a week's stay. I got myself in proactive mode (hard for me since mothers of nine are generally reactive to the nth degree) and called to find out what the problem was--wasn't it true I always have my bank automatically send them $20 a month whatever the balance? So I called the M'am. That is when I found out I owed the $3780--approximately one third of my annual income--for "some long-distance calls in April, M'am," and got to really huffing and puffing with anxiety and disbelief. Was I the victim of fraud? What else could be the explanation? But no, it turned out quite unexpectedly. The phone company was in the wrong!

Here is what happened. I spent last winter with one of my daughters to share the heating bill, closed down the house, turned off all the ultilities, including the phone, for a period of five months. Arrived back April 1st and found I must have left my modem (through which I get high speech internet access) at my daughter's house (I called, she couldn't find it either). So I called the phone company, changed my billing address back to normal, and asked them to send me another modem. It should arrive in three days they said, why not use dial-up until it does?--they gave me a dial-up number. Alas, the modem did NOT arrive in three days. I had to make a call and be a M'am myself and ask them for it again--it arrived about twenty days after that first call. I got my fast internet again and all went well for a month or two--then again my internet would not connect! This time it was my computer's logic board--again I used dial-up with the number they had given me for about ten days. During this whole time I did not receive a bill, even though I had changed my address back! But that's okay--I was sending $20 a month anyway just to cover whatever, right?

To make a long story short, the number they had given me for dial-up was not a free number--it was a long-distance number! $3870 worth of long distance calls I was making, apparently, just to get that temporary slow dial-up access to the internet--and of course I had used this (supposedly) free dial-up number non-stop. Well, the phone company M'ams bent over backwards to apologize. None of that $3870 bill was my fault (I knew that), and in fact, when the dust settled they actually owed me $7.00--that sounded about right too. They would terminate the whole account and start up the new one right away. How would that be Ma'm? Would that be better?

That was six days ago. And yesterday--five days in waiting for reconnection it hit me--I'm still not connected to the internet--and I'm getting used to it!! Enough of this!! I called up the phone company!

*I* was the M'am!

I asked why I wasn't connected yet, and detailed the exact duration of the interrupted service to the second. They pleaded (if in a ma'mish way) with me! They said it was something technical, and described it to me in detail. I listened, I drummed my fingers, and I said okay: I was polite. I did not say M'am--but I will not say I was not tempted to do so......

Today, I called again. Again--just as though I had never, ever heard about all the technical difficulties they were experiencing--I asked why was I not yet connected to the internet???

And I almost added "M'am"

I silenced myself though. It must have been my conscience. One must silence the M'ams after all, because after all, one act of meanness (or a thousand) does not--or ought not to--engender another. Not if the world is ever to be straightened out. No indeed--all the Ma'ms must be silenced. For if paradise is the place we would find the world to be if only we followed beauty's guide, surely we are straight on course. What could be more beautiful than the silence of the M'ams?