Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Don't Answer the Phone!

My phone at work is supposed to be safe. It better be, since it doesn't have caller ID; so if it's subject to hostile calls, I expect to collect hazard pay. As I've mentioned before, it rings only when my supervisor wants something (the less said about that today, the better), when it's time for break, when one of my district contacts needs a project worked on, or when the former holder's collection agents get hungry.

Also, sometimes Tony calls and tries to prank me, or at least I hope that's him. "Yes, I need some information on -" the caller will begin, and I immediately yell, "No you don't! Shut up!!!"

Fortunately my boss has never happened to be in earshot for this.

But today, unless Tony got someone with a non-goofy voice involved, the most terrifying thing in the world happened: I got an actual phone call from John Q. Public himself.

John had a specific question about the particular function I've recently been tapped to specialize in, so I sat on the phone with him for five or six minutes, trying to help him find the information he needed on our website. Fortunately he was pretty forgiving. This was the very first time I've ever interacted with the public as the representative of a giant faceless bureaucracy, so I was terribly nervous.

You're supposed to have, I'm pretty sure, a flat, nasal, uninterested voice. But I'm still a bit perky from my marketing days. I believe the top priority for a government employee, fielding a phone call from a member of the public, is to get said member off the phone as soon as possible, with minimal impact to one's vitally important smoke break schedule; and minus the actual smoking, I find myself in complete agreement with this philosophy.

But I really hate it, I really do, if I can't help someone, or if I can't help someone as much as I should be able to. And we don't really have the tools to answer John's questions in the most straightforward and sensible way. And God only knows, far greater beings than myself have tried to bring these tools to my agency, and failed, or died horribly, in the trying.

Nobody told me, when I agreed to take these duties on, that the actual public might find me and call me and that I might actually have to speak to them. I don't remember ever signing on for this. I wonder if I can get the agency to hire Tony as my personal secretary so he can field all my calls?

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At September 20, 2007 10:46 PM, Blogger Cheryl's BITCH! said...

I will get you ...mark my words! >:-)


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