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Hey, dude shouting into the cell phone in the otherwise perfectly quiet café on Ocean Park, you think you feel smothered?…! Maybe next time, take it outside? I found it kind of amazing that you were so unabashed in broadcasting your minidramas to seven total strangers, all futilely attempting to continue reading or working on laptops through your din.

There was some stuff of prurient interest in your cell phone call, but not enough to make it entertainment. I type a bazillion words a minute, so it was no problem (and somewhat amusing) to take your conversation down. Here goes:

Yeah. So, And Um, well, and I have a lot of work to catch up on. And the pages I need…it’s just so much work, I have to get a new car, I have to…I’m just…I’m kinda scared to live with you. Because we’ll be seeing so much of each other, at work and after work. Yeah. Um, you lost me? What did you hear last?

It’s just that I’ve lived with people and been with them all the time, and it causes tension. Not necessarily because I don’t like them, it just does. I might want to cut my work time down and concentrate on music to the extent that I breathe and live it. I just fully submerge. Yeah. Yeah, but what’s minimum? Yeah…okay, okay. I mean, it’s just I feel too bad when it’s…no, I know, it’s me, it’s not you. Yeah. I know I…(listens)…Mmmhmm…Yeah.

Feel free, Mr. Loud Dude, to make any necessary corrections in the dialogue above, but do forgive us if we'd rather not "breathe and live" your personal life until your concerns get a little less mundane.

Oops, there's more!

I just downloaded the program and registered it. I was thinking about getting a pair of orange shorts. Why not? Yeah. Well, okay, well give me a suggestion right now. I don’t want to wear a dog costume. What I want to do is wear orange shorts, seamless, and that’s it.

We think those orange shorts would make a lovely gag!

Interestingly enough, one of my favorite "ladies" (the one with the well-hinged middle finger) happened into the café today as well. She was shocked to see me there. A few minutes after she arrived, I went outside to make a cell phone call (weirdo that I am, I worry about disturbing others if I make a call indoors).

Well, since this "lady" had howling children in the Rose Café not long ago, I would bet the move outside to talk on the phone is not a habit of hers, but I was most amused when that's just what she did a little later on. Heh heh...who says my efforts to civilize people have no effect?! (Hint: scroll down to the comments on that link.)

Let's just hope they haven't "shut off" my Smart & Final gift card, which came early this week!


After I'd invoiced them $63.20 for bothering me at home via telemarketing auto-dialer, I got this reply from their director of corporate communications:

Ms. Alkon: I am very sorry that we disturbed you close to your writing deadline. Our message was meant to provide a helpful update to our customers, not to irritate them. Nearly all of the responses we have received have been very positive.

Really? Did other customers call you up and say, "I'm so lonely, nothing makes my day like getting a recorded message smack in the middle of my afternoon nap!"

He continues:

Our calling list was generated from information provided to us by our customers on their SmartAdvantage Card applications. We did not obtain that information through any kind of intrusive search. The service that transmits the voicemail message checks all of the numbers against the National Do Not Call Registry prior to sending the message. We regret that your number was somehow missed in that process.

Subtext here: Because, unlike our other customers, who just lie down and take it, you're a major pain in the butt cheeks!

And now, the good part:

We value you as a customer and hope to continue to do business with you. We'd be happy to send you a check for $63.20 as requested or alternatively would be even happier to provide you a $100 Smart Card for use at Smart & Final. Please let me know which option you would prefer. Best regards, Randall Oliver Director of Corporate Communications Smart & Final

I must say, I truly resent having to "join" a store to save money. By the way, the day I give any legitimate information on any savings card application is the day you know my brain has been colonized. I always, always apply as Mrs. Klaus, North Pole, or something very close to that.

Did Smart & Final get the information off my credit card? Or did I have a one-minute lapse into some hallucinatory form of mental illness when I filled out that card, causing me to spew my personal information as if I'd just sprung a data leak? It is possible, of course. But, it's my suspicion that they either have some way of draining personal data from credit cards or they just decided to auto-dialer-harrass much of southern California.

Posted by aalkon at October 27, 2005 8:37 AM

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Would it be legal to make tape recordings of obnoxious cellphone conversations and put them up on the Internet? Because somebody should do that.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 27, 2005 4:11 AM

I wouldn't worry too much about the legalities of it all. They'd actually have to track you down and PROVE that you recorded the call.

I would find it hard to believe that recording such calls would be illegal. They're the ones who made it public domain by broadcasting it in public. It's no different than taking pictures in public to use in a newspaper. I don't think you need a release form from every innocent bystander that happens to be present when the shutter snaps.

Actually, it sounds like a winner of an idea. Create a website where people can record their obnoxious phone calls and post their recordings. Of course, you would need a system to verify that these were actual phone calls and not someone faking it...or not. Who would care if some of the calls happen to be faked? The important thing would be the message it sends: your lapse in manners is now entertainment.

Posted by: Patrick at October 27, 2005 5:31 AM

Ooh, that's a great idea. But, I bet it is illegal, although...public bet it is. Melissa? Jason?

The problem is, is a restaurant or café a public place (inside)? Or a private place of business?

What was funny in this case was, I was looking right at the guy from across the room. And the place was pin-drop quiet. Then I started looking at him and typing as he was talking. He still didn't shut up. Was he dumb or clueless or just that aggressively rude? Hilariously, when he got off the phone, he started staring at me. Yeah, guy, I bet way I use my eyes to read through these typed pages just killing your ears.

I just hope I see him again so I can tell him to check out my blog!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 27, 2005 7:19 AM

Thanks for fighting the good fight... And for recognizing that in the best corporate style, they took this opportunity to turn you into a customer.

In recent weeks I've had this fantasy of starting calls with customer service agents as follows: "HI there! Did you say your name is Tina? Well Tina, I'm calling to (resolve service issues/cancel my service)... So if you try to sell me anything to me day, I'm going to call you vile names. Get the picture? Can we get started now"

Posted by: Crid at October 27, 2005 2:11 PM

When I read this post (I love how you fight for justice with such reason and practicality) and your sentence,
"I type a bazillian words a minute."

It reminded me of a Bush joke I heard recently. Maybe it's old news to everyone, but here goes:

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing.

He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

Posted by: Claire at October 28, 2005 10:46 AM

Amy, you would be amazed at the number of sources those people resell each other. The bad part is, that they do it (starting with your bank) and wait for you to ask to me removed. It's truly disgusting. Just start from the principle that everytime you give a phone or address, including to Sephora to receive coupons or to Pizza Hut to order a piwza that it may end up somewhere.

Posted by: Emmanuelle at October 28, 2005 2:18 PM

Perhaps if more people treat their personal information as if it's not free -- doing what I did, for example, regarding Smart & Final -- fewer companies will abuse it.

I just got back from Smart & Final, by the way, where I bought three bottles of wine, a case of Ben & Jerry's cookie dough ice creams, a carton of Perrier, a wedge of Camembert, some BabyBel cheeses with a toy in the pack for my 5-year-old neighbor, a case of coke, and a flat of bottled water. Thanks to my $100 gift card, I paid $1.71!

I strongly suggest others follow suit when likewise harassed, and send me emails about your results, and let me know if I can post them.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 28, 2005 2:44 PM

The issues involved in whether you can record Cell Phone Guy's end of the conversation and post it on the Internet are a bit complicated and probably not of great interest to non-lawyers but (a) the laws regarding taping without the permission of all parties to a conversation vary from state to state, (b) the answer also may depend on other factors, and (c) I would strongly advise against it in California.

I also wouldn't advise posting a tape like that on the assumption you wouldn't get caught, because the relevant statutes usually carry criminal penalties.

For anyone interested in this issue, I recommend the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website (, which has a state-by-state guide called "Can we tape?"

Posted by: Melissa at October 28, 2005 4:34 PM

Perhaps not as fun as public humiliation, but these handy cards are pretty sweet.

Posted by: mark at October 29, 2005 11:00 AM

I actually came up with a card quite some time ago. Here's the text:


Just because you have a self doesn't mean you should express it. Apparently, you are under the impression that the world will be a better place once you broadcast the news that you've changed laxatives or forgotten to floss. Perhaps you call this "freedom of speech." I call it "bad breeding." Kindly save your loud, dull conversations for the privacy of your home. Thank you!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 29, 2005 7:47 PM

I know there were a couple of guys in San Francisco that had particularly drunken and obnoxious neighbors who used to tape them - they originally started because they had been threatened by one of the men and wanted to have some evidence to give to the police in the event that they ended up getting physically assaulted by one or both of them. They ended up having a blast and passing the tapes around to their friends and they spread to have a bit of an undergound cult following. The did try and track down the one remaining guy to give him a cut of the money they eventually made selling the tapes, though a friend of theirs defended their decision to sell the tapes and CDs for money by saying something like "you have to wonder how much right to privacy a man can demand when he's shouting at the top of his lungs."

Posted by: Emily at October 31, 2005 11:37 AM

Ooh, that is just fabulous!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 31, 2005 11:51 AM

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