If we promise to vote, can we persuade the politicians to leave us alone at dinnertime? 

Home but Not Alone

I supposed from my years of exposure to our political rituals that I was immune to surprise and annoyance, but life has a way of turning our expectations upside down. This past month's Republican primary did just that. When I listened to my telephone messages in the last two days before the primary, there on the tape were the familiar voices of Rep. Tom Bliley and Gov. Jim Gilmore telling me how they wished I would vote in the contest for Bliley's seat in Congress. The governor was, he said, supporting Eric Cantor for Congress because he was "an honest conservative" whom he had known for 20 years, and who had stood by his side in his successful effort to phase out the car tax (actually I don't notice any decrease). Rep. Bliley's message, unfortunately for its effectiveness, had been cut off at the beginning when he must have introduced himself, so I got only the second half, but it was clear he was supporting Mr. Cantor. The two politicos' messages were also underlined by a third anonymous recorded voice - and a third call — telling me how important it was for me to get out and vote for Cantor, who grew up in Henrico County and was "one of our own," and that "we here in Henrico can make all the difference." (We actually live in the city.)

Now, if either Bliley or Gilmore had telephoned me in person I might have been at least interested and maybe even impressed. But these messages were obviously recorded.

I know I am not alone in resenting the constant ringing of our phone — usually at dinnertime — by companies that want to sell us everything from a different phone service (which they sometimes supply whether or not we consent), to magazines, to stocks, to insurance for long-term care. (How do they get our demographics?) The worst of these are previously recorded, and sometimes there is silence — which I have read means that some computer somewhere is just recording whether or not we answer our phone. Unless they are burglars, what they can do with that information escapes me.

Please don't tell me that I can refuse to answer when the phone rings, or that I should take the phone off the hook while we eat. We have family and friends we need and want to hear from, and often caller ID doesn't tell us that we are again a victim of people, companies or causes that want our money and our support. The listing unavailable on ID can mean a cell phone, or as was in the case of one of our friends, an important call from Australia. Seeing the unavailable notice, my friend picked up the phone and without listening to anything, immediately hung it up. The phone rang again and he repeated his hang-up. This probably cost his Australian friend plenty in connection charges.

If we decide to leave the receiver off, this ploy may provide a few moments of relief while we eat, but, alas, if we have a message service that takes answers even when we are on the phone, the messages are there when we check our message box.

Considering this annoying development in Virginia politics, what can we expect when the national campaign gets going?

Will I, fork in hand, pick up the phone to hear Al Gore's voice telling me how prosperous I am and that voting for him will ensure that the stock market continues to go up? Or saying that because I am "of a certain age" I ought to be concerned about Medicare?

Or perhaps George W.'s voice will ask me whether or not I am compassionate - if I am, I should seriously consider voting for him. Being solidly for the death penalty, swiftly administered, does not keep one from being compassionate.

I'll not be flattered by these calls. Maybe I'll even look for a third candidate to support.

Rozanne Epps is an assistant editor at Style Weekly.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Style Weekly.


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