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A vendor with an agenda


It’s true, I have found, that the agony of telephonic sales lasts long after the call has ended

Picture: Paballo Thekiso

I’ll bet you probably believe that there is nobody worse than a pushy telemarketer, but you may be wrong.

People who sell products or services over the phone have an incredibly hard job. Having to cold-contact a potential client and then, in just five minutes, try to convince someone that they can trust you and that what you are promoting is worth their investment, is not something I think I could do.

And though I do have sympathy for telemarketers, I confess that I lack the patience to listen to their spiel, especially that formulaic greeting: “Good morning sir, how are you doing,” they ask; and when you – by pure reflex or habit – ask how they are, the answer is always the same, “I am doing very well, sir, and thank you for asking.”

Once they’ve said that, one of the most irritating songs I know starts to play in my head – Hallo, goeie môre, hoe gaan dit, by Maritza.

And hours after they’ve ended the call, that earworm with its polka-beat keeps on playing in my head.

It’s true, I have found, that the agony of telephonic sales lasts long after the call has ended.

However, I have learned that there is something worse than having a telemarketer uninten­tionally put an earworm in your head; and that “something worse” is being accosted by a “worm-vendor”.

You see, while telemarketers do not mean to put Maritza’s tune in your head, the worm-vendor does it unconsciously but relentlessly.

The other day I came across a worm-vendor in the mall’s parking garage. He was whistling a tune, and every note of the tune was at the highest pitch his pursed lips could produce. I headed for the glass doors desperately trying to escape the ultrasonic assault, but he was walking in a line parallel to me whistling.

By the time I got to the elevator he had succeeded in embedding his tune in my head, and there it stayed for the rest of the afternoon.

When we were growing up, my brother was one of the most dedicated worm-vendors on the planet. He would get a tune in his head, and every now and again – it used to happen at least once a day – he would, at the top of his voice, belt out his favourite portion of the song, loud enough to securely lodge the earworm in my head. And no matter what tune I had been thinking of, or tried to think of, or how I tried to forget his aural assault, his earworm would continue to casually munch away at my brain.

It’s as if worm-vendors force you to be part of their plans, no matter what your original plans were. It borders on the abusive – musical assault! But lately, I’ve noticed that worm-vendors have diversified and expanded their operations.

Who hasn’t already experienced having a driver, unconsciously but relentlessly, hogging the middle of the road, travelling at almost zero kilometres per hour, leaving you unable to overtake? Or clogged aisles in a supermarket, unconsciously but relentlessly, blocked by a vendor with another agenda. Even on escalators, worm-vendors will ignore the fact that someone behind them may be in a rush. The flavour they’re selling is “inconsiderate”.

I get the impression that in society today the overwhelming mindset is that “I” am the only one that matters no matter what “I” do.

It’s even as if more and more people are developing the attitude, “I’ll make you respect me” or “I’ll show you who’s boss.”

For example, our nation’s go-to form of protest these days is by a show of force, where roads are blocked off, tyres are burned and there’s general mayhem.

And while this acting out is supposed to catch the attention of and inconvenience those in power, it always happens that those most affected, most inconvenienced and alarmingly most harmed are the people who had nothing to do with creating the intolerable problem in the first place.

But worm vendors don’t seem to care; they will make it your problem. It really bothers me how the worm has turned.