I walked across the gym floor. I could feel the sting of hundreds of eyes upon me, judging me. I’m sure the gym bunny in tights hissed “sies” as I walked past her and the tattooed, muscle man pumping iron glared at me. I hopped on a bike. The fitness freak next to me moved away.
To block out the loathing directed at me I took out an emergency crossword puzzle I keep in my pocket. I read this clue and swallowed hard: Judas, informer embracing one in high place (7)*.
Am I Judas? My mark of shame – a branded red towel – hung over my shoulder. The towel revealed that I am the worst of the worst – an impipi, an informer, a rat, a turncoat, a sellout, a grass, a snitch, a mole. A week earlier marketers were dishing out the towels at the entrance of the gym. All you had to do to get one was name names. Well, name names and give cellphone numbers. The marketers use this valuable information to sink their claws into your friends. On my way into the gym I sneered at a stool pigeon at the towel stand who was about to give up his friends. “You’re a disgrace,” I muttered, shoving my nose into the air and striding on. An hour later, on my way out, I stole a quick peek at the towels. They looked so soft. It was just a split second glance, but the marketer saw me pause – he got a sniff of my traitor’s heart.
It was as if I’d been dragged into some kind of McCarthyist nightmare. I didn’t want to be rat, but I did want a fluffy red towel. I reeled off names and numbers. I’m not proud of myself.
Telemarketers are near the bottom of the most hated people in society – below politicians, lawyers and, yes, even below journalists. They phone at all hours of the day and night, usually as you’re changing your baby’s nappy, preventing your other kid from putting the cat in the washing machine and getting the burning supper off the stove. They don’t know the meaning of “no thanks, I already have a cellphone contract”.
They do know the tricks to keep you on the phone. You end up buying whatever they’re flogging just to get rid of them. If you added up all the time you have spent trying to wiggle out of conversations with telemarketers you could have finished a PhD, trained for the Tour de France and read Das Kapital in German (and also learnt to speak German).
The only thing lower than a telemarketer is a journalist who pimps his friends to a telemarketer.
My friend, Graw, climbed onto the next door bike. “You shouldn’t have done it, man,” he said. “You’ve sentenced innocent people to hours of telemarketing hell.”
And that’s when I had a brainwave: To repent I’ll get hold of numbers for telemarketers and pass them on to other telemarketers. The telemarketers will be so busy phoning each other they will leave the rest of us good folk alone. And then I had an even better idea: I’ll find personal cellphone numbers for Darren Scott, Jimmy Manyi, David Bullard, Julius Malema, Gareth Cliff and Eric Miyeni and pass them on to telemarketers. The world would be a better place if these mamparas couldn’t spew their infantile bile because they were too busy doing battle with unrelenting sales agents. It would be my contribution to nation building. I could even say, I lead SA.
I was about to share my genius plan with Graw when he hopped off the bike. “No offence, man,” he said, “but I’m going to keep my distance for a while – just until things cool off. I hope the people you pimped don’t discover it was you who betrayed them.”
Then it occurred to me. I was also betrayed. Someone gave my name to a marketer, which is why I’m a member of the gym. I watched Graw head towards the weights section and noticed he was holding a branded water bottle.
*TRAITOR: Put RAT (a synonym for “informer”) around (“embracing”) I (“one”) and then inside TOR (“high place).