The call came while I was working out last Tuesday morning, and as I was about to take a short break anyway, I answered it. The opening momentary pause tipped me off that it was a telemarketer, but, feeling in the mood for a little fun, I stayed on the line. As is often the case, it was a duct cleaning company. Luckily, given my intention, the telemarketer turned out to be very dedicated to her job. The conversation went something like this.

     “Good morning, sir, I’m Cynthia and I’m calling from The _____ Duct Cleaning Company.”

     “I don’t have any ducks, but I have a golden retriever. Do you clean dogs?”

     Another pause, a little longer this time, then, “I’m sorry, sir, you’ve misunderstood me. We clean ducts.”

     “Well, I just have the dog. And he gets really dirty at times, especially if he gets into muddy water in the ravine; and you know how retrievers love the water. How soon can you get here after I call you? But, like I said, I don’t have any ducks.”

     “Not ducks, sir, but ducts, the kind you have in your walls.”

     “Good Lord! I certainly don’t have any ducks in my walls! We had some squirrels in our walls a few years ago. Do you get rid of squirrels? You never know when those little buggers will come back. And they’re often pregnant, which makes it worse.”

     “No, no. DUCTS! The kind that run inside your walls and ceilings  throughout your whole house.

     “Ma’am, I can’t imagine ducks would have enough room to run inside our walls and ceilings. The studs alone would probably stop them, not to mention all the wires, insulation and other stuff that’s in there.  And how would ducks get in there anyway? I can see squirrels getting in… did I tell you that we had squirrels one time?”

     “Yes, sir, you did. But I’m talking about ducts, with the letter t"

     “You’re saying ducks with a t?”

     “Yes, sir, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

     “Well, then, they must be teal ducks. I can’t think off hand of any other breed of duck that starts with a t. But I don’t see how it matters what kind of  ducks they are, they couldn’t get in the walls or ceilings anyway. I suppose we might possibly have mice in there.” I then paused momentarily before adding, “I was about to ask you a stupid question.”

     “What was that?”

     “Whether you clean mice, but that’s ridiculous. I’ve never seen a dirty mouse. But then again, with their mousy colour, it would be hard to tell. Do you get it? Their ‘mousy’ colour? Pretty good, eh? I think I have seen dirty ducks, though. But, as I’ve said, I don’t even have any clean ducks. As a matter of interest, how much do you charge per duck?”

     She paused for a few seconds, seemed to gather her thoughts, and obviously decided to give it one more shot. “What I’m referring to, sir, are the sheet metal passages in your walls and ceilings through which the forced air from your furnace and air conditioner travels.”

     “Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? Sure, we’ve got those things. But I really have no idea if they’re dirty.”

     “They’re called ducts, sIr.”

     “Really? I wonder why they’re called ducks. It seems to me because they sort of crawl through the walls and ceilings that they should be called snakes. Do you clean snakes?”

     Dial tone.