The battles of business calls
I make a fair amount of business
telephone calls. That means I talk with quite a few receptionists, almost
all of whom seem to hate me.
Is it just me, or what? I try my best
to be polite. I admit there are times when Iím caught off guard and Iíve
spoken to them over my speakerphone. But I quickly pick up the handset
before they can announce with great irritation that I sound like Iím
talking in a tunnel.
No, even when Iím prepared for then,
handset ready, I am treated like mud. Iíve concluded itís all my
fault. I seem to have been born with an irritating name.
Practically every call I make, the
scenario is repeated. The receptionist answers, and generally it is a
female voice, sweet and chirpy.
"Good morning, Sunrise
Corporation, may I help you?" she will say cheerily, lulling me into
"Good morning," I respond,
careful to reciprocate the nice greeting. "Is Bob Traynor in,
please?" (I never forget the "please").
"Yes, he is. May I tell him whoís
Hereís where I always screw up.
Everything is going swimmingly and then I have to tell her my name. I
sigh, knowing itís the end of our short but beautiful relationship.
All sweetness leaves her voice. I can
picture this lovely woman at her desk as her teeth enlarge into fangs and
hair sprouts all over her body. The chirp has tuned into a growl.
"WHO?" she snarls.
I try it a little slower, my confidence
shattered. "Nick Hoppe."
By now sheís ripping through some
raw, red meat, slumped over her phone, cursing those people who donít
have normal names. Realizing her power, she simply gives me one.
I donít give up. This time I pause
for five seconds or so between syllables. "Nick Ö.Hoppe"
Sheís straining to hear, but the hair
growth inside her ears is giving her trouble. Exasperated, ready to pounce
for the kill, she lets it fly.
That does it. The war has begun in
earnest. Dick is a very nice name, but with apologies to the Dicks in the
world (you know who you are), I AM NOT A DICK.
War is hell. I put her back on the
speakerphone and stand eight feet away. Putting my handy four-foot poster
mailing tube to my lips, I respond to the monsterís latest inaccuracy.
"Thatís NICK, not DICK."
Now she had it straight. "Oh, Iím
sorry." She is returning to normal. "Iím having trouble
understanding you. You sound like youíre in a tunnel."
How observant. I put the poster tube
down and pick up the handset again, the battle done. "So may I speak
with Mr. Traynor, please?"
"Of course." Our momentary
truce is now over. It is time to resume sparring. "The name of your
I tell her and this time there is no
trouble understanding my enunciation. She has accepted the fact that there
are other names in the world besides Pete Smith, Frank Jones and Mary
Wong. Now she is having trouble with the fact I am not IBM, Chrysler Corp.
Her voice makes it very clear that she
has never even heard of my obscure, inconsequential, piddling little
company. What am I doing call Mr. Traynor? Most likely I am trying to sell
him something he has no interest in buying. The last thing she needs is to
let some guy with an irritating name from a backwoods company get through
to her boss.
The monster has receded, but the ice is
forming. "May I know what this is regarding?" she asks
I want to say a lot of things. I want
to tell her Zbigniew Brzezinski had a tough name, but he was Secretary of
State under President Carter. I want to tell her that the recognized
company names werenít always recognized.
In the end though, I only tell her what
I know will not only win for me this latest battle but also result in my
overwhelming victory in this greatest of wars.
"Tell him," I say, matching
her coldness icicle for icicle. "Iím returning his call."