Traffic Lessons

Perhaps the most important lesson from driving in traffic is “Don’t live your life like a driver in traffic”.  I remember an old joke that if you wake up looking like the picture on your driver’s license you should go back to bed.  If you start acting like the stressed and impatient person that is typically behind the wheel in traffic, you should probably go back to bed, or at least stay away from people.crazy-traffic-laws

Traffic is Illogical

While sitting on interstate 95 coming home from Northern VA on Father’s Day we entered a work zone.  The signs said the left two lanes were closed ahead so we got into the far right lane.  For the next half hour we proceeded ever so slowly as cars in the two lanes to our left passed us by.  How is this possible?  How is it that the lanes that are closed ahead are moving and our lane, the one that is open, is not?

The answer my friend, is blowing… by me.  As with many scenarios in life, the spoils go to the pushy aggressive people.  The drivers that are pushy and aggressive move up, force their way over and keep on going.  The drivers who saw the sign and took the more passive route (getting over early) also take a passive stance when the pushy drivers make the move to get over, and they let it happen.  Logic (and passiveness) has no place in traffic.

Traffic is Selfish

As we got closer to an exit that we knew would allow us to get out of the traffic and finish our journey home on the back roads, we got a little antsy.  But, not as antsy as the people flying down the shoulder to get to the exit.  With over a mile to go until the off ramp, numerous drivers took it upon themselves to drive down the shoulder and expedite their exit.  Some put on their flashers and went slow enough that they could react to anyone who decided to pull off; but others decided the shoulder was the open road and ripped down the side of the interstate with no regard to safety.

I like to think at least some of these drivers were reacting to a dire need.  Perhaps there was an elderly family member in the car who needed to use the bathroom.  Perhaps there was a baby that needed a bottle heated.  But it is hard to believe the twenty or so vehicles that breezed by (more as we got closer to the exit) were all doing so due to an emergency.  I find it more likely that they were being selfish – putting themselves over the rest of us sitting in traffic.

Traffic is Annoying

It is hard to be patient when sitting in traffic for long periods.  It can get to the best of us.  And especially if the cause of the traffic is illogical or due to selfish drivers around you.  Patience is a virtue but the interstates are not exactly the most virtuous environments.  Perhaps dealing with this annoyance is a life lesson.  You can’t do anything about it – you are typically “stuck in traffic”.

I think it is common to want your kids to have a better life than you.  We as parents typically want to the most for our kids and we want them to succeed.  When it comes to grades or sports or yardwork (a dad can dream), we want our kids to be aggressive, to do and get done.  To achieve.  So do we want them to be the pushy drivers?  Do we want them shooting down the shoulder?  Or do we want them to be courteous, plan ahead and follow the rules (and as such, be more passive)??

I believe ideally we want them to have the ability to identify when to be aggressive and when to be patent.  If no one in the car is about to bust a blatter, then you don’t need to fly down the shoulder toward the exit.  But if you feel you need to stand your ground or even make a land grab, you can advance down one of the lanes destined for closure and hope someone lets you merge in.  Test the “give and take”, the charity of others – with appropriate expectations (there is a whole set of life lessons by themselves around expectations).

So next time you are in traffic take the time to talk to your kids about what is going on around you.  Talk about patience and dealing with the various personalities you are or may be interacting with.  Discuss decisions and approaches and dealing with situations where they need to decide whether to be aggressive or relaxed.  Conversation is a good thing, regardless of the surroundings or topic. And what better use of being stuck in traffic than to chat?

A Few Good (Sports) Parents

I write a lot about kids sports.  Perhaps it is because we spend a lot of our non-work, waking hours with games, practices, clinics and all other manner of supporting our kids’ athletic endeavours.  I am not complaining, I love watching the boys play their sports.  But, just in case you were wondering why that topic is so prevalent, now you know.Vball Hittin

In the world of travel soccer, at least in the circles that we have been involved in, it seems the parents really get into the games.  It is not uncommon to hear parents coaching from the sidelines or cheering loudly or even jeering the ref or other team.  Sometimes it gets out of hand.  Personally I blame those annoying parents from the other team.  :)

So you can only imagine how stunned I was at my oldest son’s volleyball tournament this past weekend when a parent from the other team approached me and complimented my son’s play!  A father from one of the visiting teams that we have played a few times this season said that my oldest has really improved- that he had watched him play earlier in the season and noticed that he was playing a lot better.  He added “make sure he keeps at it”, stating that he showed a lot of promise.

He backed up his compliments with his own credentials.  He said he tried out for his college team but at 6’1” he wasn’t the height the coach was looking for (commenting on the height of my son and how he could learn to improve and be quicker).  We talked for a bit and it was a very pleasant conversation.  Again, I was stunned!

Granted, my son had been playing exceptionally well that morning.  He was aggressive at the net and attacking the ball like he owned it.  It was great to see.  He has improved and stepped up to fulfill his role as “the tall one”, playing middle – hitting and blocking.  But again, for a parent on the other team to make a comment shocked me.  I can’t imagine that happening with travel soccer.

Thinking about it, there are a couple of differences.  For one, boys volleyball at the early teen level is not nearly as popular (aka crowded) as soccer.  And neither my son’s team nor the visiting team are the top teams for their club and age group.  So it is not nearly as competitive or intense as national level teams or what we have seen in travel soccer.  Perhaps that is why the parents feel more open?  Granted, there are some parents of the other teams that are obnoxious but for the most part, they seem fairly tolerable, some almost nice at times.

So, while we gear up for Spring soccer and continued volleyball it is promising that there is hope.  There are a few good parents out there.  They do exist.  Every parent from the other team is not the enemy.  There are bad apples, but there are good ones too.  Focus on them, the constructive ones, not the ones who can’t contain their emotions and keep themselves from sharing their innate wisdom with us all.  Block them out, be a good role model and enjoy watching your kids play their game.

Accepting No

A couple weeks ago my oldest and I were leaving the volleyball club.  It was a Sunday evening and there was a couple open courts on our way out toward the exit.  He asked if we could stop for a milkshake on the way home.  I told him we could, and then, recalling his tournament the day before and his less than stellar serving, I told him that we could stop if he could successfully server three out of five attempts.

IMG_9742He reluctantly accepted my offer and set his stuff down.  He took position, went through his routine and then… served it straight into the net.  He looked at me with a little ire in his eyes and complained that the net was at men’s height, not down where his age group plays.  I pointed to the court next to us where the net was lower but also reminded him that he served all JV season on the men’s height net.  He looked around and opted not to change courts.

He lined up for another and… served it into the net.  He said “I’m done”, retrieved his ball and shoved it into his bag.  I urged him to try again but he said no, he was done and he was not interested in the milkshake any more.  He looked down a few courts as I tried to get him to continue trying and responded again with a “No, I am done.”

At this point I could have pushed it.  I could have forced him to keep trying but I could tell something was bothering him.  There were other people around, games a few courts away, some of them involving some other Juniors coaches.  I decided it was not the place to make a scene.

As we walked to the car he, in a very frustrated tone, explained that he didn’t know what was going on with his serve, that it had been bad for a couple weeks.  I told him that I realized that and wanted to help, that practice would help him break out of the slump. He protested further, getting more frustrated, and so I dropped it.  My points had been made as had his.

When I picked him up from practice the following week I had a chance to watch the last few minutes when they were practicing, yes, you guessed it, serving!  He made all but one of the serves I watched.  Afterward I told him his serves were looking good.  He responded “I didn’t miss any until you showed up”.  My bad.  Guess I am the jinx :)

Looking back I am glad that I didn’t push him more to practice Sunday night.  We have tried hard to make this his thing and not to pressure too much so that he turns on it.  He was obviously cognizant about the people around him and frustrated with his slump.  He didn’t need that emphasized.  He worked it out on his own and still seems interested in playing.  That is the real winner – him continuing to play – it has done so much for him.

And he still got that milkshake.  Guess I am a softy.



If you follow pro football this season you may know the New England Patriots performed some trickery during the playoffs.  Against the Ravens, they confused the Baltimore defense by declaring certain unassuming players eligible to go down field.  This resulted in players whom the Ravens were not covering making big plays.  If you are a Patriots fan you find this to be genius.  If you are not, you find this borderline cheating – completely against the norm and taking advantage of the other team’s confusion.  Bottom line is that it is not illegal (yet) and it is very inventive (and I am not a Patriots fan).  But how you see it depends on your perspective.

Many times we see kids acting up or making a fuss and we begin to judge.  We judge the child as a brat or even the parents as being unable to control their children.  It is easy to do.  If a child breaks the norm then we consider the to be part of the “rules breakers”.  But perhaps their parents see their actions as being creative or free or “You think this is bad??”.

During the AFC playoff game tonight there was an car commercial (Audi?) with a kid standing next to a pool contemplating  jumping in.  He got the slow head shake from the lifeguard as if to say “Don’t even think about it”.  Commercial kid’s thoughts run through his future of crime and punishment for this act, and then he jumps in.  The next scene has him being picked up by his mother who smiles, asks if he did it again and then pats him on the head approvingly when he responds “yep”.  Most of us would see this boy as being a law breaker, a brat, but commercial mom seems to approve.  She probably thinks it is funny and creative.

During the end of the soccer season our youngest and his team played in a local tournament.  Since his club was hosting the tourney, I volunteered to help run scores (at the end of the game you get the score from the ref and then take it back to the tournament director to be posted).  While waiting for a game to end I was listening to the parents for both teams.  The players were pushing and shoving a fair amount and it was hard to tell if either was gaining an advantage.  The parents on both sides were seeing it from their perspective – the other team’s kids were mauling their little angels!!!  As a third party I could see they were both right (about the mauling, not the angels).  I know we do it too.  We react to aggressiveness against our kids and tend to overlook some of the aggressiveness given by them.  I know my boys are no angels but they are at least better than that other kids who just pushed them!!

Much of this is human nature.  We are innocent, everyone else guilty.  It can drive you crazy when you notice it but at the very same time, hardly anyone notices it in themselves.   It can cause stress and wasted emotional energy.  It can get ugly and lead to turmoil.  And typically things simply spiral out of control from a difference in perspective.

So the next time you find yourself being critical of another parent and their “brat’, at least take time to look at your own handling of your kids when others might see and think the same.  As an old sales audiobook taught me, go to the balcony, look down on a situation from a third party point of view and try to become less emotionally engaged.  Sure, the child might be acting up, they might be pushing the limits of the norm or even the rules, but do you do the same?  Are there times you let your kids get away with more than others might find acceptable?  Does it really matter what the brat is doing?  As Sgt. Hulka would say, “Lighten up, Francis”.

When it Clicks

Twenty years ago I took a sales job and my boss told me I needed to learn how to play golf.  He even went so far as to IMG_9249sponsor a golf membership at a local course (not a country club mind you, a public course, but where I could play for a cart fee and try to learn the game).  I played about twice a week for a year or more.  I got a little better but definitely not good.  My sister-in-law (who is a good golfer) told me “It just clicks at some point”.  I don’t think it ever clicked but I can understand what she was saying.

For many things, at some point, it clicks.  You get the feeling that you know what you are doing, you know how to do it, you are comfortable and relaxed doing it.  I still remember the day years ago that I felt that way at my job.  At that point I had not felt like I knew what I needed to do, and how to do it, but suddenly one day it clicked.  I went to work that day knowing what I was doing, what the future (however immediate) looked like and I felt more confident by knowing.  Prior to that I felt like I was confused, chasing what needed to be done next and spinning trying to figure it all out.  It was liberating.

Tonight I saw all a glimpse of this, in my son.  He has been playing soccer since he was 4.  He loves the game and he works hard at it – he attends every practice and pick up game and session that he can.  He goes to camps in the summer and he works hard.  He is no Pele or Mesi and who knows how far he will go but watching him play at a pick up session tonight I saw it.  It was clicking.

Tonight he possessed better control of the ball, better than I have ever seen in him.  He was dribbling and making moves and crisp passes and I was somewhat amazed.  And more importantly, he was having fun.  He was laughing and relaxed and seemed to play so much better as a result.  Granted, it was an organized pick up game so it was a lighter atmosphere and everyone was a little more laid back but I definitely noticed.

On the way home he asked me if I thought his foot skills had improved.  I told him I did notice that and asked him what he thought was behind the improvements.  He said that he has been playing with a group at his after school club and that it is in a small area with a lot of people so he has had to work closely with the ball in small spaces.  In other words, he has been practicing for the same environment he is playing in for futsal this Winter.  And I think the practice is paying off.

As Malcolm Gladwell explains in “Outliers”, practice can make the difference in many facets of life.  For any skill, be it sports, music or anything where practice can develop talent, the more the better.  If you are having an issue or an area of your personal or professional life that you are trying to improve, you need to practice.  If there isn’t an obvious way to practice or establish scenarios for what you are trying to accomplish, figure it out.  It will take time and work but it can be done.  At some point it will click if you keep at it.  As for my golf game, family came ahead of hours at on the fairway but I enjoy practicing being a dad.

Delayed Gratification

I have to admit that I am more than a little surprised at the appearance of mobile game commercials on television.  These games have become so prevalent (and apparently profitable) that they now have commercials on channels and programs that are not just cheap slots (not the middle of the night on the local station).  And I admit that I have supported their model more than once by making an “in app purchase” while playing one of these games.  So the next time you are annoyed with the latest Clash of Clans ad, feel free to (partially) blame me.

ClashFunnyThe boys got me into Clash of Clans.  They were in a clan with friends, with one of their friend’s dads was in it, so I joined.  I played for a while happily building my little kingdom then got to a point where I was impatient.  I wanted to upgrade my castle now and I wasn’t generating coins or elixir fast enough.  So I did the in app purchase to get gems and spent them on upgrades.  Since that first purchase I admit I’ve thrown more money at my kingdom as well as a little at Star Wars Commander and most recently to help my Sims in SimCity BuildIt.  I don’t consider it a problem (yet), I am keeping it in check.

Luckily the boys have showed more patience (or perhaps lack of funding) than me.  They seem perfectly content with waiting – with cultivating the resources in the game (at the game’s tedious pace) until they can expand, grow and satisfy their warrior’s/citizen’s needs.  They have taken notice a few times that my progress has received a “kickstart” by some additional gems.  And while they complain a little, they don’t expect to do the same and although on a couple of occasions they have asked to spend allowance/birthday money on an in app purchase, for the most part they are fine with waiting.

This is a good lesson to learn for later in life.  Not everything comes as quickly or as easily as we would like.  Sometimes we have to wait, we have to have patience and let things develop at a pace a little slower than what we find optimal.  They have seen this with their various sports endeavours and even with school work.  The game example only emphasizes this as just being a part of normal life – there typically aren’t too many shortcuts that you can take that don’t come with a cost or strings attached.

I am not trying to be a gaming advocate – the kids don’t need one, they are going to play regardless if for no other reason, due to the social aspects/pressures.  But at least if we can find some form of teaching moment in game play (as I have stated before with Minecraft) then it can provide some benefit to their overall maturity.  Any lesson they can get from a game will certainly benefit them more than the brain numb from the junk that is on most of the TV channels at any given time.  And if they learn a little patience in addition to the enjoyment of game play then all the better.

Last note – for the record, I exhibited delayed gratification over the holidays.  I received a very nice Apple Store gift card from my wife and waited to do my shopping until after I completed a few chores around the house.  I believe in the self incentive system where I routinely wait to do a fun thing until I have earned it.  Hopefully the boys are picking some of that up as well.

Saving Memories

While I don’t have any exact numbers, I feel safe in assuming a large percentage of the video cameras sold are purchased by new parents.  When you are expecting, you buy a camera and record all the “firsts”, and “seconds” and anything you can capture and preserve.  The idea is generally to share with other family members and to look back to the “good ole days” once the kids are older and less likely to smile at peek-a-boo.DSC00649

A lot of the current video cameras contain a hard drive or use some form of flash media.  But some still use tape, like my old camera did.  Various sources state that if properly stored these tapes should last 15 – 20 years (one even saying up to 50 years).  DON’T BELIEVE THEM!!!  While I may not understand “proper” storage, I know that all of my tapes, whether they were rewound or not, have issues.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Luckily about five years ago I went through all my tapes and converted them through iMovie to an external hard drive.  Unfortunately, that hard drive failed.  About two years ago it showed as “Not Recognized” by my MacBook.  So, thinking my digital videos were lost, I broke out the tapes again to go through the arduous process of re-converting all the videos.

I dusted off the old camera, hooked up all the Sony specific wires and started to watch the video of my oldest son’s first day of school.  There were gaps between the fuzzy, blurry mess of colors that showed a clear picture and even had some discernable sound, but for the most part, the video was garbage.  I tried a second tape and experience the same thing.  A third, a fourth – the tapes apparently were not “properly stored”.

My focus turned back to the hard drives.  The external drive was actually a two drive unit (500 GB each).  They were SATA drives and thinking the drives might be okay and that the controller in the housing might be the cause, I ordered a SATA drive cradle and attempted to access the files via its USB connection.  (Amazon is amazing – I ordered the drive around 10PM on Friday night and it came to the house by Noon the following day!!)

My problems continued.  My MacBook could see the drive but not the files.  I researched files recovery options and downloaded a tool to read corrupt files.  It ran for a really long time and finally came back with “recovered” files.  The file structure was familiar – iMovie Projects and Events.  The file extensions were .dv files and .mov files – looking good.  I tried to view one and, nothing.  An error message stated that the files were not valid movie files.  I tried a couple other recovery applications and tips from my research but still, no luck.  This was going from ugly to uglier!

Good things come to those who wait?

Recovery of the files became a pet project (aka point of contention).  I would sit down at my desk, see the hard drives and the cradle and think “Hey, I have a few minutes, let me try this again”.  I’d set it up, get to the “recovered” files and again, get the error that they were not really movie files.  I would fire up iMovie and try to open them but it would not recognize them either (so much for fooling the program).  I would research corrupt movie files and burn up my free time reading about programs to recover files (similar to what I had already done) but nothing unique for my situation, for files that you can see, you can identify but you can’t open.

Finally, after going through this process for several iterations, spanning several months, I had a thought to research the external hard drive a little more.  I found that others had experienced similar issues as mine with the LeCie drives.  It appeared that the power supply for the drive unit had an issue that would power the drives but not enough to keep them spinning at a rate that was sufficient – causing them to error as “not recognized”.  And, to add to that , the drives were striped RAID 0 so trying to read either of them individually was not going to work.

One suggestion that I found was to open the unit, supply power to the drives from a separate power source and then use the hard drive unit (for the RAID controller) to get to the data.  Sounded like a great idea except for one crucial element – I tossed the external hard drive guts at some point thinking it was faulty (and due to my frustration with the entire process).  So, I searched ebay and found a new unit for $50.

A funny aspect of this story that really has nothing to do with the video recovery.  When I received the email from ebay saying I had won the hard drive (which was not a surprise since I did the Buy it Now option) it offered to show me other items from this seller.  I clicked the link out of curiosity.  Of the items that it could display (about half were blocked requiring confirmation that an adult was logged in), I was appalled to see a variety of topless men posing for calendars and magazine covers.  It appeared that the seller I just purchased an external hard drive from was into some alternate lifestyle media.  Fear took over the disgust running through my brain.

I received the replacement drive, opened it up and plugged in my hard drives.  At first it did not recognize the drive.  Maybe it was my drives after all?  I reluctantly plugged in the drives that came with the replacement drive (covering my eyes from what might pop up).  The external drive was recognized!!  (and there were not files on it!!).  I swapped the cables again to my drives and this time it came up.  All of my videos were there AND I could open them!!

I think he’s going to make it!!

So now we have our memories.  We have hours of video of the boys when they were babies and other events from the past decade plus.  It will take a while to go through it all but I am making backup copies of them as I go so we don’t lose them again. So far it has been great – we had a “viewing” with the family the other night and the boys laughed heartily at the videos of themselves as babies.  Now I can’t wait to show them to their prom dates!!

Please take my advice- backup your memories!  Make sure they are stored “properly”, don’t lose them.  Data can become corrupt.  With storage at great prices, make a couple of copies and store one somewhere that it is safe (offsite – at someone else’s house or a safety deposit box – or use online storage!!).  Trust me, you don’t want to have to go through all the hoops I did to be able to reminisce with the family.

My son won’t sit near me and I am Thrilled!!

My son doesn’t want to sit near me.  He doesn’t want to ride in the car with me.  He hardly notices I am even there.  And I am thrilled!!IMG_8303

I mentioned in my tryouts post that my oldest tried out and made the JV Volleyball team.  This has been a great experience for him, and for us.  Where he was traditionally a quiet, very reserved type he has come alive with stories from practice and goofing off with the team.  He has really come out of his shell and it has been great for his attitude and demeanor.  Not to mention getting a lot of exercise and being involved in a sport for the first time in a while.

But perhaps most notable is his independence.  He has confidence and he is willing to branch out on his own.  We have been able to attend all of his games so far and it is great to see him being part of the team, even though as the youngest member of the group he is sitting on the bench most of the time.  He is determined and focused during warmups and assumably during practice, while so far during the limited game time he gets he looks pretty nervous.  That is to be expected.

After the JV games the JV squad is expected to watch and cheer on the Varsity team.  Rather than coming to sit with us, he hangs with the team and takes part in the cheering and chants.  He gives us a glance here and there and at times has passed along a quick “thumbs up” but is otherwise content to hang with his team.  And we think this is wonderful.

For away games he rides to and from the game on the bus, even though we are there and could give him a ride home.  He enjoys the camaraderie on the bus with the JV and Varsity guys having fun.  Granted, it means we drive from the school we are visiting back to the High School just to pick him up but it is good for him to participate and feel involved.  And the team seems to be a good group of guys- the Varsity guys  even cheer for him when he goes in.

So for now, when he avoids us at games, we are happy.  This experience has caused him to open up more to us and added a level of confidence to him overall.  He talks more to us at the dinner table and has a lot to say whenever he gets our ear.  In many ways it has made us our relationship better, and that can’t be praised enough.  It has been a great experience all around so far.

Tryouts are Trying Times

With the beginning of the school year has come fall sports tryouts.  We aren’t very good at staying uninvolved or uncaring around tryouts.  We get a little too emotionally attached to what our kids want.  I admit it- guilty as charged.  So going through the tryout and selection process isn’t easy for our household.  Thank goodness it doesn’t happen too often.TryoutsToday

This year’s tryout angst started in August.  Our oldest was trying out for volleyball.  As an eighth grader, since they don’t offer volleyball at his Middle School, he was able to tryout for JV at the High School.  We have been thrilled that he was willing to attempt this – it really shows his maturity and willingness to break out of his comfort zone.  But with it comes the anxiety of what to do, will he make it, what if he doesn’t – how will he take it.  And so on.

Luckily for us he made the JV team and has been happily participating in practices 4-5 times a week since.  It has been a little struggle keeping up with the schedule and communication but between what he hears and what we gain from a steady email stream with the team mom, we make it work.  It is great to see him passionate about the game and to have his “thing” to do.  Plus he is making friends for next year’s transition to high school.

Last year my youngest tried out for the Middle School soccer team.  As a 6th grader and with over 50 kids trying out for 22 slots, his chances were slim.  He didn’t make it but was okay with that.  In Spring he went through the tryouts process for his club travel team as they merged from two teams to one – he made the cut and was thrilled to be playing with a lot of his friends for the coming year.  He worked hard over the Summer, doing weekly workouts with a training coach, attending pick-up games with kids who were on the Middle School team and attending a couple of camps.  He put in a lot of time to fulfill his goal of making the Middle School team and we supported that effort with our time and money as well.

Middle School tryouts came the first week of school and this year around 70 kids came out.  The coach maintains all previous players so he had 18 returning players who already had spots.  Even with an expanded roster, there weren’t many slots to fill.  With a little more than a one in 10 chance of making it, he did not.  He was a little upset but has been dealing with it well and still loves the game and playing with his club team.  He’ll try again next year.

Throughout tryouts the boys have learned a lot.  They have learned about working toward a goal with both of them dedicating much of their Summer to camps and training.  They have learned about performing under pressure.  To some degree, they have learned how to deal with disappointment.  And how to deal with parents who are just as excited, nervous and even disappointed as they are at times.

It probably doesn’t help them when we get so attached to their success.  It adds to the pressure and while commiserating with them may be helpful to some degree, all of us wallowing in what we think should have been doesn’t change the past.  I realize we should be strong and perhaps in being strong we should be somewhat benevolent in seeming disenfranchised.  But that is easier said than done.  We want our kids to succeed and we are invested in the outcome of any endeavour they determine worthy of their effort.  We can just try to suppress our concern as best we can and hope they can deal with their parents during trying (or tryout) times.

Sport of a Different Sort

Most of us would probably agree that telemarketing calls are annoying. calltransferimgThey typically come in the middle of dinner or while you are watching a show or simply not wanting to talk to a total stranger about some offer they have for you that will likely get you into something you don’t want at all. Obviously if I wanted to look at timeshares in Orlando I would book a trip to do so myself. But over the course of the past few years I have started to have fun with these calls (much to the chagrin of my wife).

Part of the “plot” is to keep the telemarketer on the phone as long as possible. It is purely economics – if the telemarketers are tied up on the phone for long periods of time and not getting sales, eventually the telemarketing companies will have to do something else because they are losing value in the practice. Granted, most people simply hang up on them to thwart their business but that allows them to go to the next potential victim. I see my benefit to keeping them on the line as one to save the next person who may fall for their trick (insert wife’s eye roll here).

One of the earlier, and most enjoyable, instances I recall was a call from a man offering trips with some travel club. He was offering a cruise and a trip to Las Vegas. I told him I wanted to do the cruise to Vegas. He clarified there was no cruise to Vegas, they were two different things. I insisted on the cruise to Vegas!! Frustrated, he hung up.

Another was less fun but funny because my oldest was with me and really got a kick out of it. it was with an older woman from Hilton. She was offering a trip to Hawaii with golf and accommodations for simply touring the timeshares. I told her we had done one of these “free” trips before and the airfare was a considerable cost. She told me she couldn’t help with the airfare but kept selling me on the trip. I let her talk but finally told her “Fran, we’re done”. She kept the pitch coming and I reiterated “Fran, I don’t want this to get ugly. We are done.” It took one more time to repeat it (with my oldest laughing all the while) and finally she let it go.

My tactics improved as I got a call at work on my cell phone stating I had won a Mercedes and several thousand dollars. I put the call on speaker to let my co-workers listen in. I even told the guy I was in the office of my attorney but he kept on going. I had him getting into it for a while – we talked about getting the local media to cover the story and when he wanted my home address I told him I would prefer to have my new car delivered to work so all my friends could see it. The call ended when I asked the scam artist to sing a song to me – he mumbled some derogatory terms and hung up.

In the past week I have had a couple of opportunities. One was with the Windows Technical Support Department. I have gotten this call before and knew what to expect, although this time I recorded it (YouTube post). I had these guys cussing me out in the end. I also got a call on the 4th of July about some online coupon deal. We were watching the World Cup when the call came in. I told the guy we could make it easy (he could stop now) or we could make it hard (I could keep him on the line for half an hour). I also mentioned we were watching the game – he caved and asked the score then thanked me and went about his business.

The boys have been entertained by these events and my response. I’ve devised ways to get them incorporated into it as well. We have a few skits for the next opportunity. For example, if we get a call from the Windows Technical Support scam again we are going to role play a father and son where the son has been downloading bad files (the ones the scam artists are trying to get me to clean up). The father is going to “slap” the son on the call for downloading the bad files (my youngest is going to play the role of Tommy the son). I state this here partly to make sure it is known ahead of time in case the scammers call the cops on me!!

Of course with this comes a lesson in knowing when to say when. With this “fun” I am having with these telemarketers, we don’t lose site that they are people, they are doing a job and while I don’t have much sympathy for those trying to scam me, the message of being a good person still persists. The boys know that we still attempt to be courteous and fair. I give any telemarketer the opportunity to end the call and warn them of what we plan to do. If they ignore those warnings, then we are still not free to be ugly, but we can tie up their time and have a little fun.

Perhaps my approach is a little mean. I can see where some might consider it so. But most of it is intended to be humorous and a little fun (and it makes me feel like I am getting back at the system). I believe both my boys have a decent sense of humour and I think that will help them in life. Not that following in my footsteps of giving telemarketers “the business” is the best way to show that sense of humour, but it is one option to “express yourself”.