“Stop calling me!”
The woman’s voice was a thunderstorm.
“I haven’t called you,” I said timidly.
“Yes, you have!”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Yes, you have.”
I really hadn’t called her. Well, that’s not true. I called her once. After she left me a voice message. A voice message that told me this:
“Hello, my name is Felicia. Call me back and tell me why you are calling me. Unless you are a telemarketer. Then don’t call me back. And I’m going to block you. So you better stop calling me. Or else.”
What could I do with such a voice message? Other than to call Felicia back. And explain that, in fact, I haven’t been calling her. Which is what I told Felicia when I called back.
“Yes, you have been calling me.”
“Are you sure you have the right number?” I asked.
“Yes, I just counted.”
“Well, I’m really sorry, but I haven’t been calling you. So I’m not sure what the problem is.”
“I’m going to block you!” She threatened.
“That seems like a good idea,” I offered.
“I’ll do it!”
“Yes, I think you should.”
Then she hung up. All on a Tuesday night.
Did you know that I was, in fact, a telemarketer? In a former life? Well, kind of. I was an insurance agent. During college. Working for my father. The family business.
We would get a stack of leads from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. People who wanted information about long-term care insurance. Dad forked out lots of money for fresh leads. I usually got the leftovers. The calls went something like this:
“Hello, my name is Sam Tanner with Blue Cross and Blue Shield. I understand you have some questions about long-term care insurance?”
People would respond in any number of ways. Then I would say something like this:
“Well, I’m going to be in your area next week. Would you like me to stop by and provide some information?”
If things went well, the person would say yes. If things went really well, they’d sign an application for a policy during my visit. Then they’d write a check. I’d leave their house feeling like a million bucks. Then, if Blue Cross accepted their application, I’d make a pretty outrageous commission.
I don’t have any shame about selling long-term care insurance. Do you have any idea how expensive nursing homes and assisted living facilities are? Even the richest people can go broke after short stays in these places. It’s heartbreaking to see elderly folks lose everything they have. Or to see them have no choice in the sorts of facility they go to. Did you know that 1 out of 2 people require some form of long-term care at some point in their lives? A good policy protects against that. I still see the act of selling long-term care insurance as providing a much needed service.
Things have changed since I sold these policies back in the early 2000’s. Agents are much more regulated. You can’t make the kind of money Dad and I used to make. And companies like Blue Cross are much more leery about handing out the kinds of policies they used to. Why? They lost a fortune when people starting cashing in.
My father actually purchased one of the policies he sold back then. He used that as part of his sales pitch. I bought it, so why shouldn’t you? Dad is in his seventies now. And he’s cashing in. He’ll be moving into a senior apartment at the end of the month. And Blue Cross is going to cover all of it. I really am glad Dad has that option at this point of his life.
All of this is to say that Felicia’s call has not been the first time I’ve been accused of telemarketing. It was one of the strangest, though.
I haven’t heard from my good friend Felicia since I called her back.
I’m always surprised by people who seem to be itching for a fight. I’m never itching for a fight. One way to describe me is non-confrontational. But that phrase feels a little dismissive. Yes, I don’t like confrontation. But I’m not afraid of it. I’ve just found that, in the course of my life, lashing out at people usually harms us both. And it always seems better to be intentionally peaceful in my interactions with others. That seems like something that is so hard for people to do. To be kind to each other.
There’s a line from a Todd Snider song I often think of. The song is Too Soon to Tell. It’s a great song. Look it up. The line goes like this: “I wish I could show you how you hurt me in a way that didn’t hurt you too.”
I’ve always been sensitive. And perceptive. I really feel it when people lash out at each other. Feel it when I lash out at others, too. Physically, yes. But emotionally as well. Psychologically.
I’m all about not lashing out at people. Not hurting them. There’s something of the sermon in the mount in this outlook. Something of a game of card houses, too. Check out the first chapter of this amazing book if you haven’t already.
So I didn’t feel the need to lash back at Felicia. Even though she was coming in hot. And when I do feel the urge to react violently to people? Or when I’m hurt by the ways they’ve lashed out at me? I think real hard about where that violence is coming from. And I try to make sense of how to move forward peacefully. I don’t always do this well. In fact, my life is a story of doing this really poorly. But I still try to do it. Be peaceful.
I’ve found this to be a challenging way to life. Non-violence is challenging, folks. But I also think it is the key to growing up.