7 years ago me, my future wife and another couple traveled the American southwest by car. One of our stops towards the end of the trip was a Sheraton in Vegas. While checking in, my friend who lived and continues living in Canada came up with an idea that we should trade places, just for shits and giggles, and swap our names and phone numbers. Thus I became Vladimir Choulkovski (my friend’s real name is modified here for privacy) and Vladimir became me.
What follows is a detailed account of a long social experiment with no real objective in mind or end in sight. Sort of a journal of a prank that keeps on entertaining its participants. Just a quick note- the real Vladimir has very little knowledge of any events related to this prank. It helps him that he lives in the international area code. So here it goes.
Event 1… some two weeks after the above trip ended, back home and still unaware of what’s to come. I get a phone call from an unknown number that, after a few seconds of silence, opened with a sales pitch for a travel package promotion. The voice on the other end was of a typical phone salesman, polite at first and obviously, unmistakably indifferent after I declined the offer. The salesman asked for Vladimir and I pointed out that I was not Vladimir. He asked if I’d still be interested in what he has to sell and after I said no, the indifference was quickly followed with a click. He hung up. No harm done, just another telemarketing call. I chuckled as this brought back fresh memories of a fantastic trip we just came back from and the swapping joke we played.
Event 2… some months after the trip. A different phone number and the voice telling me about a promotion, all the while expecting Vladimir to be the lucky winner. I pointed out that I’m not Vladimir but also asked to be removed from the calling list. All along still being very polite. The voice assures me that the relationship between my phone number and his service are a thing of the past. Click. I sigh pleasantly reflecting on the power of regulations that so wonderfully control direct marketers.
Event 3 through infinity. Many events over the course of the following 8 years, all with a different outcome and underlying theme guided by the creativity of one of the participants – me. And after numerous times I begged and pleaded to stop calling me with this nonsense and no longer impressed with the regulation, I still get on average two calls a week.
Here are transcripts of some of the better ones.
Call comes in as always. The salesman asks for Vladimir.
Salesman. Good afternoon. Vladimir?
Me: “Vladimir Dracula?”
Salesman, unshaken by a curve ball thrown at him: “No sir, I’m looking for Mr. Vladimir Choulkovski”
Me (with a fake, probably horrible European accent): “Only Vladimir Dracula here”.
Salesman, a little taken back but still going strong- gotta feed the fam, you know: “Vladimir, we have a special promotion for a 7-night stay at blah blah blah with the blah blah blah…”
Me, a little ruder this time, kind of European way: “Where is the blood?
Salesman: “Excuse me?”
Me: “Where is the blood? Vladimir Dracula drink blood. You sell blood?”
Salesman: “Yeah OK buddy”. Click.
Call comes in. A girl this time. Asks for Vladimir.
Salesgirl: “Can I speak with Vladimir?”
Me: “This is he”
Salesgirl: “Valdimir, we’re offering yada-yada-yada on yada-yada…”
Me: “Hi sweetie”
Girl: “…yada. Is this something you would be interested in learning more about?”
Me: “What are you wearing?”
Girl: “What is your problem, buddy?”
Me: “No problem, I just want to talk. Vladimir lonely”. Fake sigh and sinister laughter.
Girl: “Oh you are a sicko, you know that?” Click.
In retrospect – who’s more of a sicko here? An 8-year fruitless plead to stop calling me entitles me to whatever behavior I feel like. Granted, they are doing their job but kind of breaking the law while at it. Can’t call the number unless I told them it’s OK to do so.
The saga continues. More to come on this. Next, we’re going to go through a list of famous Vladimir’s. Who would’ve thought there are so many of those???