One of the hymns that we don't sing all that often. For those of you who know “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean”, it’s that melody. And it dates back to the days when the church in general and the members individually were enduring great persecution. It is perhaps the most xenophobic and anti-PC hymn still in the hymnal. Very much in the mode of they’re coming after us again. [We used to sing “Though in the Outward Church Below” to the tune of a Mozart aria, and it was a strongly-worded admonition to the members of the church to examine their lives and repent as necessary. I’m not sure when it was dropped from the reprinting of the “new” hymnal. (I still think of it as the “new” hymnal, and it came out in 1985, ten years after I was baptized.) I loved that hymn; it reminded me to keep checking my spiritual dipstick. But as so often happens here, I digress.]
I hate voicemail. You hate voicemail. And it’s a sad but necessary fact of life in the modern world. Those of you who are allergic to peeves, whether “pet” or manifestly undomesticated, may want to scroll down and see if you can find a rant more to your liking.
I have co-workers who never seem to answer their phone. [Let the record show that they do return all messages, typically before the end of the day and definitely within 24 hours. If they’re in trial prep, I certainly understand the desire for three uninterrupted minutes in which to form a complete thought.]
Before we got direct lines, a call to an attorney might ring three times at his/her desk, roll back to me, get sent to a secretary who was working away from her desk, roll back to me, get sent to the paralegal who was conferring with one of her other attorneys, roll back to me, at which point both the client and the receptionist were ready to scream. Now that we have direct lines, I get maybe one-third to one-half the number of calls I used to. And if the client dials in directly and gets no live body, frequently I never know; those who have voicemail are supposed to forward their phones if they step away from their desks. And I think that most of them do.
But still, I get people who dial “zero” because they hate voicemail and want to leave a message with a live body. Seasoned citizens like me, primarily. And who can blame them? So much of our daily activity lacks the human touch. At cross-purposes with this is a primary goal for my job: to process incoming calls as effectively and efficiently as possible, which I interpret to mean, get them off my switchboard as civilly and rapidly as possible. And I have been instructed [by those in authority] to try to avoid paper messages.
When someone wants me to take a message, my classic response is to smile, so they will hear it in my voice, and tell them that I would be more than happy to take a paper message for them, and that the desired party will generally have access to voicemail before the paper message makes it back to his/her desk via the secretary. And I keep that smile on my face as I wait for the caller to decide. Occasionally someone will say, “Oh, that’s OK, I’ll just shoot him an email.” And I thank the caller sincerely and profusely.
But sometimes I get a plaintiff attorney on a power trip, and nothing will do but for me to take a paper message. Which I do. And then I put that message in the mailbox, and if I have time, I call the attorney or the secretary and say, “Attorney Bigshot didn’t want to leave you a voicemail, so there’s a paper copy in your box, and this is me, telling you that it’s there.” If our attorney is one of my particular buddies, I may leave one saying, “Attorney Bigshot thinks he’s too cool to leave a voicemail; please check your box.”
I don’t have many rude callers; usually they get that out of their systems when they’re dealing with the claims office. [Though pro se plaintiffs can be something of a nightmare. And we had one memorable young client who was rude to his mama in the meeting with his attorney, and rude to the attorney, and rude to the secretary and the paralegal, and rude to *me*. Our attorney was ready to pinch his head off in true Southern fashion.] When I get a rude one, I go into sugar-coated Steel Magnolia mode while remembering Firstborn’s unvoiced philosophy when she worked the front desk at a manufacturing firm: “You, sir, forget that I have the power of Mr. Click.” I have never hung up on a caller without warning them that I’m not required to listen to abusive language and that if they continue, I will hang up. And I only had to do that three times when I worked in the claims office, and never since moving to house counsel. But just thinking about Mr. Click helps to keep the smile on my face.
Or there is the classic question, “Do you know how long she is going to be on the phone?” It’s not meant to be a stupid question; the caller just wants a timeframe. But we have had attorneys whose every call is Major Drama and lasts for 45 minutes, and we have others whose phone light never goes off because they are returning one call after another in 90-second increments. People who say, “Oh, that’s OK, I’ll just hold for her,” have no idea the havoc they wreak on a multi-line switchboard. [I certainly didn’t before I ran a switchboard, and let me tell you, paybacks are Only Intermittently Amusing.]
Just go to the blasted voicemail, buddy!
End of that particular rant. Saturday turned out to be a pretty amazing day. I took LittleBit to the first round of auditions for All State Choir. And I did my waiting in the coffee shop at the bookstore, with my knitting and half a dozen new magazines and my cell phone on vibrate so as not to disturb the other readers. Put in eight rows on the MS3 and am nearing the finish line on this section.
Picked her up and thought about taking a nap, but then I got the brainstorm to move my improvised desk into the kitchen to serve as an island, work area, etc. So I scooted the two fiing cabinets across the living room and dining room carpet and into the kitchen, and I rock/walked the marble slab in after them and leaned it against one of them and used that top edge as a fulcrum, thus sparing my back. I've put several of the unpacked boxes on top for now, but eventually I will add more shelving or cheapie bookcases on top, and then I will have a place for pritnear everything, and everything more or less in place.
I cooled down from the effort of moving two file cabinets and a 50-lb slab of marble and pulled the couch out from the wall and inserted the sofa table and installed the lamps , and I won’t need to get new lampshades. I thought at first that I might have to; they flare out rather impressively, and they rest on a very narrow table.
I put the fainting couch in the corner where I had originally planned to put the file cabinets, and next spring when the upholstery folks come to fetch it, we’ll have a straight shot out the front door. The small glass-topped table is butted up to the head of the fainting couch, and the brass lamp is back in place, though I have no idea where the pineapple crochet doily that my aunt made for me, has gotten to.
Firstborn came over and helped us pack up my room. I threw away enough things to make her happy. Or sorta happy. She gets to take a bag of stuff I won’t wear again, and some sewing things I won’t ever need, to the thrift store. I didn’t let her look inside my walk in closet, LOL. But most of that is already in containers, and I just need to skootch them out into the room so we can put them on a truck and *go*.
I need more boxes. I probably need less stuff, and I definitely need more boxes.
We went out to LittleBit’s restaurant for dinner. She had taken her co-worker aside, the one who reminds me of Eddie Haskell, and told him I prefer he not call me by my first name. So all last night, it was Ms. Ravelled this and Ms. Ravelled that, and would you like another glass of water? Most of my tortilla soup is in the fridge. It was delicious, and I barely touched it. I might have a milder case of that lassitude I was feeling after the big stuff got moved last Saturday; I was way past tired last night, and I just scraped stuff off my bed and onto the floor, and *died*.
So now it’s Sunday, and I slept until 4:00 or thereabouts and have put in another eight rows on MS3; twelve rows to go before I need the next chart. I have moved the computer desk and put the printer and monitor on top of it, omitting the poorly-designed hutch that is lying sunny-side-up on the dining room table for the moment and will be neatly deposited in the dumpster as we head out to church. There are huge swathes of bare carpet, and Firstborn actually got to sit in one of the new chairs last night while we waited for her hubby, 1BDH, to show up with a change of clothes for her so we could go out to dinner. She had spent the day fundraising for Lark’s soccer club.
I have no idea where the trees should go. They are all clumped together in a sort of hulking floral ambush near the front door. The small entertainment center and TV are approximately where they belong, but unconnected. Rather like my thoughts this morning.
I need to find the rest of the printer paper. It got packed after the computer got moved over here, so farewell to the carefully labeled and catalogued boxes. That soft thumping you hear is me, beating my head against the wall. Quietly, so as not to disturb the neighbors.
Speaking of which. When we arrived at seminary on Friday, after LittleBit walked in and before I had gathered up my bags and gone in to knit, one of the trucks in the parking lot honked. Twice. And a third time. I walked back to where he was getting out of his truck.
“Brother X, did you honk your horn on purpose?”
“Yes, ma’am.” [This is Texas.]
“At 6:00am, when the neighbors are sleeping?”
“As a wake-up call, ma’am.”
“Do you think you could find a quieter way to do it?”
I went inside and put down my bags and waited for him to enter the building. And I asked him, “Do you think that you were perhaps taking the hymn ‘Up Awake, Ye Defenders of Zion’ a little too literally?” Not a fair question to ask a teenage boy at 6:00am. You could see the gears grinding, and of course he’s much too young to have honed a sense of irony. [It is the sort of banter that I enjoy with Brother Sushi, and used to enjoy with the children’s father.] All this dear young man could come up with was a bewildered, “Yes, ma’am?”
Because “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” are the two universally appropriate responses for a kid to give a grownup in the Lone Star State.
It is now 6:39am, and I have no idea what I want to do. Not sleepy. Not quite ready to pick up my needles and knit. I know, heresy, right?
Love the new bathtub. Love the hot water. Love that LittleBit and I can shower, simultaneously, and not freeze one or the other of us out. Maybe I will just go soak my head.
- Five years into widowhood, after one year of incredible happiness and nearly 14 years of single blessedness. Have given up perfect manicures and pretty hands in order to resume playing the soprano recorder and to see if I can figure out how to play bluegrass banjo. Singing in the shower. Still really, *really* love to knit!