- Hello Madam. My name is Hashish. I am not trying to sell you anything, do not worry.
My mind is racing now. Do I know somebody called Hashish? Has my husband’s recent trip to the Middle East got anything to do with it? What does he want, anyway? Of course I am worried, I wasn’t expecting a call, or to talk. Let alone answer any questions. It’s the end of a day and I am contemplating what’s for tea.
- Our call is for research purposes only. It will only take 5 minutes of your time.
Is anyone in your household aged between 25 and ..4? Yes or No?
Where did they get my number and how dare they interfere with my freedom of doing fuck all on this balmy evening in May?
The silence on the other end of the line reminds me it’s my turn to speak. What was it again? Without waiting for a repeat I answer “No” and feel guilty. How predictable, how Western. Did I sound stupid? It was something about the age bracket, right? 25 – 34? Maybe 94?
He carries on with the question in a strong accent, making it hard to understand him. Will it be impolite to ask him to repeat what he was saying? Yet my resentment to cooperate is growing stronger.
Perhaps the questionnaire was to help stem research or something just as important, and yes, at a push and good persuasion I could've listened to the end of the question and give it a half-honest answer, but my adopted Western obsession with privacy kicks in and the foreign accent on the other end of the phone is just that – a foreign accent from a faraway place, asking me some detached from my reality and interests questions.
I am not a xenophobe who doesn’t care about the way other countries develop and is being a mere obstacle on their way to a brighter future. After all, I used to be that foreign voice on the other end of a line, speaking with a strong Russian accent and annoying the hell out of Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Liverpodlian, Manculian, Lancashire, West country, Northern and all other call centre customers who happened to live in Britain outside (on the "wrong" side) the M25.
The voice is blowing silently into the receiver at the familiar signs of the inevitable rejection.
- What age are you, Madam? – He’s nailed it now.
- I am sorry, but I really haven’t got the time for this - I snap.
- You haven’t got 5 minutes?
- No, I bloody well haven’t. I’m putting my kids to bed! (read: I’m washing my hair/drinking wine/contemplating the next few hours of kids-free time/none or all of the above)
He’s stoically silent. I am increasingly uncomfortable.
Maybe, the more suave way out of this would have been in the lines of “Sorry, Hashish. I understand this somehow is important to your next career move, but you’ve caught me at the end of my functioning day. I’ve just put my kids to bed (yes, they do exist) and got a chilled glass of very good Chablis waiting for me outside in my newly discovered garden. Winters are so shittily long in this country, mate, it’s a crime to waste this unexpectedly long spell of hot summery days stuck inside my kitchen, answering your questions"
He waits patiently. I hang up awkwardly.