Last month I spent some time in my hometown and stayed at my dad’s house. This is the home where I grew up, across the street from the pastoral home of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and even today is a stylish, comfortable place that still feels like home. The phone number has been the same all those years, but in the digital age doesn’t ring very much. But all that changes when the clock strikes 5:35 pm.
“Good evening! This is Janette from the Diabetes Foundation. I’m calling for Larry Keenan.”
“Good evening! This is Pamela from the Sheriff’s Relief Aid. I’m calling for Larry Keenan.”
“Good evening! This is Julie from the Police Retirement Fund. I’m calling for Larry Keenan.”
“Good evening! This is Denise from the American Cancer Society. I’m calling for Larry Keenan.”
According to something called the Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index, the United States is the most charitable country in the world. And based on these calls, they think my dad is one reason. Before the Leawood Keenans enrolled in the “do not call” registry, we used to get these at our house. When we did, my experience is that they typically have an amateurish sound to them. As if they are calling from a tin can attached to a string from an island in a much different time zone.
These callers were not like that.
They were from the A team of phoners, sounding like Richie Cunningham’s mom from “Happy Days.” My dad, happily at age 84, has never had diabetes, cancer or, as a lifelong attorney, hasn’t been particularly partial to law enforcement. Charity callers, the bane of senior crowd, have had a PR run that would make Dennis Rodman blush. An investigation into commercial telemarketing fundraisers in New York state showed, as reported in the New York Times, that less than 40 cents of what they raise on average actually goes to charity. So naturally some might get angry and declare something like “stop calling my dad!”
Not me. For a phone I once used to call my fourth-grade girlfriend (and hang up if her mom picked up), this was a rare time for conversation. So I seized it.
Hi Janette. This is his son, Matt. Larry is out of town climbing Mount Everest.
Hi Julie. Larry is in Paris right now spending money so you won’t get it.
Hi Denise. Larry moved away and I’m his son. I’m recording this conversation. Tell me what percentage of your money you actually give to charity and send me the proof. My address is in Washington, D.C., at the FTC.
Larry is in the Holy Land. No, he’s not dead. I mean Jerusalem. He’s meeting with Jesus.
Larry is out of town driving on the NASCAR circuit — do you watch ESPN? Maybe you’ve seen him.
There were other replies more preposterous, inspired by the cold beer held in the other hand.
And this much I learned: The callers are trained, “Get the nondonor off the phone immediately! Terminate the call!” And they do. No one is interested in actual conversation with a 55-year-old who can see through the charade.
So after receiving a couple of these, I found the website that shuts these down.donotcall.gov/register/reg.aspx
. It’s so simple. You just type in the phone number. I started and then stopped. Dad moved out of the house nine years ago and keeps it for me and my siblings when we come to town to fish, hunt, and most importantly, hang with Larry at his new abode. So there is no chance these calls are going to find a deep pocketbook.
So keep calling, all you charities. I have more conversations to share with you. I understand Larry is going skydiving in Monaco and I can’t wait it tell you about it.