The Thirty-Seconds Rule
There's an amusing scene in the 1983 movie "The Big Chill" in which actress Mary Kay Place is talking to Glenn Close about her experiences as a single woman evaluating men as potential boyfriends. She says, "It's gotten so I can tell in the first thirty seconds if there's a chance in the world."
Glenn Close reacts with mild disbelief, but I know exactly what Ms. Place's character means, because when I get a phone call from a potential client, I can tell in the first thirty seconds if there's a chance in the world.
Of course, some guys make it easy. Consider this fatuous ignoranus…
Caller: Well…good evening to you, pretty lady.
The caller is speaking in an extremely contrived "sexy" voice. It's the kind of voice you hear affected by radio DJs on "smooth jazz" stations – rather slow, and as deep and as resonant as he can possibly force it to be. Produces something of an I'm-a-totally-Caucasian-guy-trying-to-sound-like-Barry-White effect. I don't like it.
I wait to see if he's going to say something else. He doesn't. We're 5 seconds into the conversation, and he's off to a bad start. But I try again.
Me: Good evening – can I help you?
Caller: No, you can't. (meaningful pause) Because I want to be the one who helps you.
Now, what the hell am I supposed to say to that? He wants to help me? What is this, State Farm's sexy new telemarketing campaign?
Me: Okaaay…So, are you calling about my ad?
Caller: I'm calling because I think you're a beautiful woman, and I want to make something magic happen with you.
Great. It's not State Farm - it's David Copperfield! It's now been ten seconds, and I'm not liking this guy any more than I did five seconds ago. I still don't even know if he's actually a prospective client, or an obscene phone caller who likes to do a little foreplay. So I try the direct approach.
Me: I'm afraid I don't understand: are you calling me because you'd like to see me professionally?
Caller: What I'd like is to get together with you in front of my fireplace, put on some music, open up a bottle of wine, and just talk for a while. I think you and I should (meaningful pause) get to know each other. And then, I'd like to just (meaningful pause) see what happens.
I smother a snort of laughter, because I have an instant mental image of this guy lying hog-tied on the floor in front of a fireplace while I sit on the couch and drink wine with my feet propped up on his butt. I'd lean over and say to him, "See what happened?"
But as charming a fantasy as that is, I really don't want to do what it would take to make it come true. It's now been twenty seconds, and I'm quite sure this guy is not client material - at least not for me. It's time to wind this up, so I give him a gentle little tap with Mistress Matisse's clue stick.
Me: You know what, I think you've called the wrong woman. My name is Mistress Matisse, and I'm a dominatrix. It sounds like what you're looking for is an escort.
Caller: No, I'm looking for a lady to connect with, and I think you're the one. You're not afraid to try something a little different, are you?
'Afraid'? 'Afraid'? Oh – now he's done it. Now he's crossed a line, and now I know, for sure, that he is a complete asshole, and unworthy to be the recipient of my good manners. I really do not like it when people try to manipulate me so blatantly. Of course, I don't like when people try to manipulate me subtly, either - but at least it's not such an egregious fucking insult to my intelligence. It's time to mess with this guy's head a little, and his use of the word "afraid" has given me an idea.
Me: (in a sexy voice) Well, now that you mention it…
Caller: Yes, pretty lady?
Me: (still in the sexy voice) Can I tell you a secret?
Caller: Oh, yes - you can tell me all your secrets.
Me: I am afraid. (speaking louder and faster) Terribly, terribly afraid. You see, I have a bad case of agoraphobia. I'm afraid to leave my house. I haven't been outside for weeks. It's very sad, and I'm actually very depressed about it. Deeply, intensely depressed. Maybe if I could just talk to you for a while about it, I'd feel better. You see, I think it all started early in my childhood – (he attempts to break in, but I don't stop talking) – when my parents made me take ballet lessons instead of tap, but my brother, he got to take tap, and I just felt so –
Click. He's gone.