One of the rules of the house is that we don't answer the phone we're eating dinner. My running joke: "That's why God created the answering machine." Even when we're not eating, we screen our calls. We have Caller ID, and unless it's a name or number I recognize, it goes to the machine; "Private Name, Private Number" always goes there, and sometimes it's someone we know, so then we respond accordingly. I didn't think I'd like it, but my favorite gizmo is the fact that I can tell who's calling while the TV's on so I can see if it's worthwhile getting up.
At work, though, I don't have that luxury. If the phone is ringing, I answer. I have access to four different lines. One is my direct line. One is the line for the library; we have a rotation, whereby I'm first on the phone on Tuesday and second on Thursday. However, if it gets to the third ring, regardless of the day, we each try to pick it up, for after it gets to the fourth ring, it goes to voice mail, and it's a minor pain to retrieve.
The other two phones are the main office phones. Back in our old place, with our ancient, supposedly inferior system, if I heard the phone ringing at lunchtime or late in the day, I could hit *70 and pick it up. In our current location, though, only the secretary and office manager initially could answer the main phones, which wreaked to me of bad customer service. They are not glued to their desks and so they would often miss calls. Some of them were important government officials or even a delivery person in the lobby of our own building, who can't get in without being buzzed in.
Things improved somewhat when a free-standing phone was installed near the copy machine. Not only did the secretary not have to run back to her desk, I could run over and pick it up if necessary. Eventually, I realized that the phone chord was long enough to reach my desk, so for the last hour of the day, after the front desk personnel left at 4 p.m., I'd haul it over to my desk for the last hour.
Finally, at my request, I was given a new phone with all four lines. This saved me an inordinate amount of time and effort during the day. Though I've discovered we do seem to be getting more prerecorded messages like this one: "This is your second call. This is your second opportunity to save money on your auto insurance..."
It's the little things that make a job more or less tolerable. When I first started working at the SBDC 16 years ago, I shared a phone line with the fax line, and far too often, I'd pick up and get an earful of the whiny, high-pitched noise of a fax transmission. Getting my own line a few months letter made my life SO much easier.
But what prompted this post was a particular call I got a couple weeks ago to my direct line. "Hello," the live voice said. "Is this Roger Green?" Yes. "This is Roger Green from Ramblin' with Roger?" It is. "Hello, I'm XXX. You may be surprised to hear from me. But I need a trustworthy person to transfer some monies from my country into the United States. And we know that you are a reliable person." He said a couple other things. It was the Nigerian scheme - live, on the phone! I quickly said "no, thank you", mostly because I was awaiting a call from my wife about our daughter, but I would LOVE to have heard more about it. All I know is that he called from Rhode Island and that he had that typical British/African vocal pattern.
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