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On the Corner

by Robert Docter – 

We got a phone bill the other day. It had a bunch of long-distance charges on it from companies I’d never heard of–companies with whom I had no contractual relations. I noticed that these companies not only charged me for a telephone call, but they also tacked on a healthy service charge.

I was confused and angry. Were these legitimate charges–or was I getting “slammed”?

Yep, they even have word for it. Technically, it’s a slang term for the unauthorized transfer of my long distance carrier to another carrier. While investigating this I learned that most long distance carriers are guilty of the practice to some degree. This did not ease my anger, and it was not comforting to discover that a lot of the time it is caused by human error. But then I realized it’s always caused by human error – mine. Was I going to translate this feeling of anger into some kind of action? That was the key question. What was I going to do?

Slamming is simply an illegitimate charge to me. It’s based on the assumption that I’m lazy and dumb. That evening I was flipping my way compulsively through the 80 or so cable television channels when my thumb got tired at something called “The Psychic Network.” There was this beautiful but aging TV star playing the role of the “Queen of Silly.” She had this group of “common, ordinary, people” (read actors) sitting around a table supposedly excited about the mystery which this “psychic” had just demonstrated. There was an audience (read more actors) who somehow randomly validated the mystery. Of course, they wanted me to join and give money. By that time, my thumb was no longer tired. I clicked on. Once in awhile I think some television preachers are running their own “psychic network.”

I stopped at a news channel which reported how a senior citizen had lost over $20,000 by agreeing to buy a “winning” lottery ticket that would purportedly give her a couple of million. The same show emphasized a new home improvement “deal” designed to take money up front and never finish the work. I think it had something to do with paving driveways. That new pavement always turned out to be a yellow-brick road to nowhere.

That evening I decided to explore the internet as a research tool. If I had sought to discover ways to get bilked, taken, conned and scammed–I had found them. Eureka. I had discovered the “fountainhead” of fraud. For a few dollars here and there I could become rich– and I wouldn’t have to move out of my chair. I learned how I could make money by doing absolutely nothing.

People fall into these traps by believing they can “get rich quick.” Let me tell you. Nothing good in life happens quickly. It takes time. A wedding ceremony might last 30 or 40 minutes, but it takes years of commitment and hard work to build a good marriage. The delivery of a baby might take an hour or so, but there has been nine months of investment. It might take 15 seconds to walk across the stage and grab a diploma– and there are some “mills” that tell you they can educate you just about that fast. Nonsense! The internalization of knowledge takes time.

Many of us think we can gain a lot without investing anything–not even time and effort. Quick and easy diets will make you lose pounds–yeah–temporarily. Certain types of exercise machines will spring you into shape without any effort. Sure. Almost anyone has ways for you to win more friends, become more accepted, less lonely, and more beautiful. Pure gimmickry.

Life doesn’t work on the premise that you can get something for nothing. Life demands investment and commitment–effort and perseverance. It’s the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow. Are you working at anything–or are you being slammed?

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