I get a lot of phone calls. I (mostly) like talking to all of you, so please don't stop calling. The problem comes from being in the middle of something, getting a call, then forgetting what I was doing. I'm easily distracted, and, when I'm in an all-too-rare groove, a phone call can throw me off for at least 10 minutes.
And then there are the people who call me up to tell me they don't like the job I'm doing. I must have one of the only jobs where people not only don't like what I'm doing, but actually call me up to tell me about it, and then feel satisfied with themselves. I mean, when the cable flipped out and I called to try to have it fixed and the cable guy asked me if I wanted to upgrade to a more expensive service - when the already expensive service I had wasn't working! - I didn't flip out. I did tell him I had to get off the phone until I calmed down, and I felt bad about that. Poor guy was probably working from a script.
Then there are people who have unreal expectations. I have a good turn-around time and I understand your event or announcement is important to you, but I've got to balance a lot of important announcements and it's kind of a first-come, first-served sort of thing. If you give me something last minute, you hurt your chances, and anything the day before is really last minute.
Sometimes, I get to the point I prefer not to get any calls. Monday was one such a day, so I picked up the phone and called the receptionist desk.
"Please tell anyone who calls that I'm not available."
Diana, our fabulous receptionist who is, frankly, more patient with me than I deserve, laughed. I'd asked her to hold my calls before, but I kept getting them. I suspected she was ignoring me and sending my calls up anyway.
"Just tell them I died."
She started laughing in earnest. "You're crazy."
"No, no, just tell them I died. It was all very tragic." I hung up before she could argue with me.
I didn't get another call for almost an hour, and I was starting to wonder if Super Receptionist was taking bullets for me.
Then I got one of those calls. I can't tell you the details, because I honestly don't think this person intended to offend me, but I wanted to throw myself out the newsroom window. (Problematic, because the newsroom windows don't open; whoever the architect was, he was a wise man.)
I dialed downstairs.
"This is Heather."
"Hey, Heather, it's Summer upstairs. I don't want any more calls, OK? Just tell them I died."
"OK ... "
"If they ask, the viewing's at Reasner's in Wellsburg, alright?" (My family has always been buried out of Reasners; I don't know where the Long Suffering Husband's family takes them, somewhere in New Cumberland.)
"OK ... "
"Reasner's in Wellsburg, OK?" And I hung up. Pretty sure Sun Tzu said something like hang up the phone when you have them confounded. Or he would have, if they had telephones back in 500 B.C.
Fifteen minutes later, Mary drifted upstairs. "What did you do?"
Since I am rarely not guilty of something, I immediately went on the defensive. "Nothing. Why do you ask?"
"Poor Heather just hung up the phone and said you told her to tell anyone who called that you'd died. She didn't know what to do. She's new, and she doesn't know you. She's downstairs asking if she should tell people you died."
"Oops. Well, it wasn't my fault. The phones were driving me crazy."
(Wallace-Minger is The Weirton Daily Times community editor and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)