Post Traumatic Electioneering Syndrome

Does the sound of the telephone ringing make you flinch?  Do you look at Caller ID with dread, or log into your voicemail with resignation?  If so, you may be suffering from Post Traumatic Electioneering Syndrome (PTES).  Okay, I made that up, but if PTES is not a recognized psychological disorder, it should be.

Have you ever exercised your right to vote?  Have you ever answered a political survey?  Have you ever donated to a candidate, signed a petition or attended a town hall meeting?  Do you have a telephone?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, you probably know where this piece is going.

Modern political campaigns may be the single most common cause of stress related disorders in American homes today.  Phones start ringing as early as groups can legally place calls, and they continue until the last possible legal second in the evening.  If you answer one of these calls, you are treated to a few moments of silence, and a few clicks as the system redirects you to a recording or a live person. For your sake, I hope it is the recording.

You might think a live person would be better than a recording.  Recordings will order you to push one for something, two for something else, five for something you never heard of before and pound-sign, hash-tag to you Tweeter folks,  to start the list again.  Hoping to speak to a live person, you may run through the list a couple of times before hanging up in disgust.  What you will not find is a way to have your name and number taken off their list.

Should you speak to a live person, may God help you. The rush of nauseatingly polite oratory that will be used in an attempt to over power you is unbelievable.  If you can get a word in edgewise at some point, they will answer anything you say with, “I certainly understand, but could I have just another moment of your time?”  Before you can respond either way, the person is off again.

The caller will be doing his or her best to convince you that you are the only person standing between their candidate, cause or position and success.  Your donation will keep the other side from winning, provide housing for the homeless and assure that the sun will rise the next day.  With the last ounce of the caller’s breath, he or she will say, “So! Can we count on your support in a small donation of only $150.00?”

Sometimes, I wonder if it would disappoint the solicitor if you said yes without argument.  Every one of them seems to be primed to start the bargaining process as soon as you say a word.  They will bargain.  They will cajole.  They will plead. What they will not do is take no for an answer.  At least they will not take no for an answer until you have made it clear, possibly by hanging up, that you really mean NO!

Whatever you do, do not waste your time asking them to remove your name from their list.  And, do not try to scare them with the No Call List.  The No Call List does not apply to political campaigns, not for profits and many others who make their living placing calls to your home from 8:01 in the morning until 8:59 in the evening.  In fact, there seem to be more exceptions to the No Call List than businesses that must abide by it.

One strategy to make this time of the year less traumatic might be to find a way to fight back.  In the past, buying a device that would send a fax machine tone through your phone was possible, making the computer, or a caller, think it reached a fax line.  Unfortunately, it seems those devices are no longer available, and modern computer technology or programming seems to ignore fax tones.  They just keep calling.

Some have tried other ways to have a little fun at the solicitor’s expense.  One of my daughters was fully prepared when an unsolicited call came in one day.  She answered the phone and when the caller asked for her by name, she immediately demanded to know who was calling, and how the caller had gotten her number.  She was so forceful it caused the caller to stumble in his response, and she went in for the kill.  She told him she was in the witness protection program and she needed to report him to her FBI handler.  She was rewarded by the sound of the connection being broken.

A friend once answered the phone in Spanish and when the caller asked for her, the friend replied, “No habla.” The caller immediately broke into fluent Spanish.  My friend, having exhausted her Spanish vocabulary, broke the connection. If you want to try the foreign language approach, make certain the language is one the other party is not likely to speak.  How do you say, I don’t speak English, in Navajo or Swahili?

As your telephone rings off the wall or vibrates off your desk, you can hang onto one piece of good news.  The election is less than three weeks away.  Once it is over, things will be back to normal.  You will only need to worry about bill collectors, charitable organizations and wrong numbers until the 2016 presidential campaign starts next spring.

© S. E. Jackson

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