One heck of a tangle

February 6, 1998

So I’m taking my weekly shower, and I notice that the shampoo and conditioner – both the same brand made by the same company – have a toll-free number you can call during regular business hours or an address you can write to if you have questions or comments. Here’s the strange thing, though: each one has a different number AND a different address. One’s in New Jersey, and one’s in Illinois. Now, anyone taking the time to call in a comment would, unquestionably, make sure that they had the right number depending on whether they wanted to comment on the shampoo or the conditioner. But what about someone in an emergency situation? Let’s say you get up late, you’re rushing around, and you pour shampoo in your hair without wetting it first (for those of you who didn’t know you were supposed to wet your hair first, I strongly recommend the instructions printed right above the customer service information). Of course, the offices in either state probably wouldn’t be open yet, so you’d have to proceed immediately to some other source of assistance. But let’s say you live on the west coast, and you’re really late. You call the shampoo office in New Jersey, explain the situation and…oh no! In your panic, you actually poured CONDITIONER in your hair without even shampooing first! Chaos! To make it worse, the unhelpful person is now transferring you to the conditioner offices in Illinois. You’ve been moved back an entire time zone and the conditioner people haven’t arrived yet! Hair emergencies of this degree are rare, but let’s face it, it could happen! At this point there’s only one course of action: call the police, ask for the styling department, and hope that trained professionals will arrive before it’s too late.

Enjoy this week’s squeaky clean offerings.


Announcing the new Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge device (BOOK).

The BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It’s so easy to use even a child can operate it. Just lift its cover!

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere — even sitting in an armchair by the fire — yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc. Here’s how it works…

Each BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. These pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder, which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence. Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs in half. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now BOOKs with more information simply use more pages. This makes them thicker and harder to carry, and has drawn some criticism from the mobile computing crowd.

Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet. The BOOK may be taken up at any time and used by merely opening it. The BOOK never crashes and never needs rebooting, though like other display devices it can become unusable if dropped overboard. The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open the BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session – even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous bookmarkers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. Only the number of pages in the BOOK limits the number.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (Pencils).

Portable, durable, and affordable, the BOOK is being hailed as the entertainment wave of the future. The BOOK’s appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform. Look for a flood of new titles soon.


Dealing With Telemarketers

  1. If they want to loan you money, tell them you just filed for bankruptcy and you could sure use some money.

  2. If they start out with, "How are you today?" say, "Why do you want to know?" Alternately, you can tell them, "I’m so glad you asked, because no one these days seems to care, and I have all these problems; my sciatica is acting up, my eyelashes are sore, my dog just died…"When they try to get to the sell, just keep talking about your "problems."

  3. If they say they’re Joe Doe from the XYZ Company, ask them to spell their name. Then ask them to spell the company name. Then ask them where it is located. Continue asking them personal questions or questions about their company for as long as necessary.

  4. This one works better if you’re male: Telemarketer: "Hi, my name is Judy and I’m with Canter & Siegel services… " You: Hang on a second. [a few seconds’ pause] Okay, [in really husky voice] "What are you wearing?" Telemarketer: [Click.]

  5. Cry out, in well-simulated tones of pleasure and surprise, "Judy! Is that you? Oh, my GOD! Judy, how have you BEEN?" Hopefully, this will give Judy a few brief moments of terror as she tries to figure out where the hell she could know you from.

  6. Say "No", over and over. Be sure to vary the sound of each one, and keep an even tempo even as they’re trying to speak. This is the most fun if you can keep going until they hang up.

  7. If MCI calls trying to get you to sign up with their Family and Friends plan, reply, in as sinister a voice as you can muster, "I don’t have any friends…would you be my friend?"

  8. If they clean rugs: "Can you get out blood? Can you get out GOAT blood? How about HUMAN blood?" Alternate: "Sorry, my floor is made of stone."

  9. Let the person go through their spiel, providing minimal but necessary feedback in the form of an occasional "Uh-huh", "Really" or "How fascinating". Finally, when they ask you to buy, ask them to marry you. When they get all flustered, tell them you couldn’t just give out your credit card number to a complete stranger.

  10. Tell them you work for the same company they work for. Example: Telemarketer: "This is Bill from WaterTronics." You: "WaterTronics! Hey, I work for them too. Where are you calling from?" Telemarketer: "Uh…Dallas, Texas." You: "Great, they have a group there too? How’s business/the weather?!?" Telemarketer: "Sorry, we can’t sell to employees." You: "Oh, Okay. Bye!"

  11. Answer the phone. As soon as you realize it is a telemarketer, set the receiver down, Shout or scream "Oh my God!!!" and then hang up.

  12. (Jerry Seinfeld version) Tell the telemarketer you’re busy at the moment and if they give you their phone number, you’ll call them back. Telemarketer will say "We’re not allowed to give out our number". You say, "I guess you don’t want anyone bothering you at work, right?". Telemarketer will agree. You say "Now you know how I feel!" Hang-up.

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