My cellphone has been ringing a lot lately and the numbers on the screen are out-of-state numbers I don’t recognize, so I don’t answer.

Typically, if the caller doesn’t leave a message, I figure it’s a telemarketer.

The other night, the phone rang at 8 p.m. Because it was a Maine number, I answered, against my better judgment.

I hear a lot of chatter in the background, and a male voice identifies himself as being from our new cable television company.

He offers me a package with more channels than what we get, which is, like, 24.

“I can get you 125 channels!” he says.


I tell him, politely, “No thanks. We don’t want 125 channels. We’re happy with what we have.”

What we have is basic cable, for which we pay a little more than $37 a month.

“Thirty-seven dollars!” he exclaims. “For $11 more, I can get you a whole bunch of channels!”

He’s eager. I can hear excitement building in his voice, and I’m sorry to have to deflate his enthusiasm.

“You don’t understand. TV is not a big priority for us. We watch the news and we read books.”

There’s a pause. By this time, I’m nearly giggling. I know he is trying so hard, he wants to make a sale and he has no idea where I’m coming from.


“Books?” he shouts. “I can get you book-related channels. The Hallmark channel!”

I decline. He insists that if I don’t choose a package, our cable could be cut off when the new company officially takes over from the old.

“Well,” I say, “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

I’m playing with him a little. I’m tired, amused that he thinks everyone loves TV and wants more of it. Meanwhile, my husband is sitting across the room, insisting I hang up.

“You’re being too nice to him!”

I try another tack.


“I don’t do any business over the phone,” I tell my caller. “The Maine Attorney General’s Office recommends we don’t do money transactions over the phone. Can you send me something in writing and then I’ll respond?”

Now he’s getting antsy, frustrated.

“Look,” I say. “TV is not a big deal to us. I know you may never have heard this from anybody before, but truly, you really shouldn’t waste your time on us because we’re not that interested in television. You’re a good salesman and you should use your talent on someone more promising.”

I picture this poor guy, probably in his twenties, sitting in a room of dozens of telemarketers, just trying to make a living like everyone else. How can I be rude or hang up on him?

I picture his wife and kids, waiting at home. Maybe he works two jobs or three, or goes to school days and works nights, trying to convince tired, older people like us to buy more TV channels. I’m going to be respectful and just keep saying I’m not interested and then hopefully at some point, he’ll give up and realize I’m a lost cause.

Come to think of it, I feel pretty sorry for myself, too.


Several years ago when I bought the $50 package with more channels, the price kept increasing. When it got to about $70, I put my foot down. I called and canceled that package and asked for the cheapest, most basic one, which was about $18.

I didn’t miss those numerous channels a bit. In fact, I think watching fewer news shows lowered my stress level.

Over the years, the $18 fee increased incrementally until it reached the current $37-plus which I’m thinking is getting perilously close to being not worth it.

My friend, Dave, has an antenna on his roof and gets several channels. He doesn’t pay a penny for cable. Remember when we were kids and had an antenna on the roof and our fathers were constantly climbing up there to fix them?

It wasn’t so bad. We got to watch Walter Cronkite on the news and the “Jackie Gleason Show” on Saturday nights. There was “I Love Lucy,” “Rawhide,” “Secret Agent” and Julia Child doing her French cooking thing. And around midnight, all the channels went black and we went to bed.

Now television is a 24-hour thing, where there are more news channels than we can keep track of, minute-to-minute rehashing of what happened all over the world in the previous hour and so many shows with gun violence that I wonder if people understand the difference between TV fiction and reality.


And I guess that’s what I was trying to tell that man who called from the cable company. There’s the fantasy world we view from our living room sofas and the real world, where we plant gardens, swim in the ocean and climb mountains to view the scenery and inhale the fresh air.

The former costs an arm and a leg and the latter virtually nothing — except for maybe a little exercise.

And that, my telemarketer friend, can’t be accomplished from an arm chair.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 29 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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