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July 19, 2002 - 7:41 p.m.

i work at a place called gerard industries. when i answer the phone at work, i say something like: good morning, gerard industries, erin speaking in a very chirpy-yet-relaxed voice. the customers seem to respond very well to this.

most of the time, they respond with something like, "sales department, please," or "is rosemary available?" sometimes they say their own name and then wait, expecting me to respond (e.g. "wow, steve! i can't believe it's you! i've never met you, and i'm so excited to be talking to you!"). if the silence lasts too long, my saver line is: how can i help you? this usually gets the ball rolling. keep in mind that i answer up to 250 calls a day, so it's best to be short and sweet with the customers, especially the chatty ones.

yesterday, i had a phone conversation that went something like this:

me: good afternoon, gerard industries, erin speaking.

him: [mimic-y voice] erin speaking.

me: how can i help you?

him: [imagine rambo or southpark's cartman saying this back] how can i help you?

me: [firmly] how can i help you?

him: [hyperspeed] howcanihelpyou???


him: annemarie.

me: your name, please?


at this point, i'd recognized him as a previous prankster with his repeated "how can i help you?" schtick. i figured that if i got his name (something we normally skip over because we don't page staff before we transfer calls, so it doesn't really matter who's on the phone), then my supervisor would bust his ass. said prankster obviously realizes that name-revealing is not normal policy at this point.


him: ugh.

me: [again, firmly] your name, please?

him: ME.

me: [unrelenting] your name, please?

him: craig.

me: [sweetly] one moment, please.


i check the extension and find out that annemarie is unavailable. the switchboard actually reads UNOBTAINABLE. this either means that the person has taken his/her phone off the hook because he/she is not taking calls or has left the desk, or it means that the person is on a phone call with one call waiting. if i can't see the person from where i'm sitting, i usually make something up about why they're unavailable because i have no clue.


me: she just left her desk to go on break. can i take a message for you?

him: WHAT??? break!! didn't she just eat lunch?


first of all, it's none of his business. second of all, it had been at least two hours since she returned from lunch, which is proper break time in most workplaces.



him: [angry] no, i'll call back later.


then he made some sort of grunting noise and hung up the phone.

i was very proud that i had gotten his name and told my supervisor what had happened. she told me that he had done the same thing to her while she took over the switch for me on lunch break. another girl named jacki said he had done the same thing to her earlier this week. but it didn't stop there.

about half an hour later, i got a prank call that sounded like bird noises in the jungle. very loud bird noises, made by human beings. then a hang-up.

half an hour later, i got the same bird call, only this bird sounded more like a cross between a rooster and a kookaburra - something like cock-a-coo-coo-coo-awaaaaaaaaahhhhhh-coo-c-coo!!!!!!! and then another hang-up.

about thirty minutes later, someone yelled very loudly into the phone, utilizing every vowel available and then hung up.

sam, one of the women who works across from me, said she'd had a phone encounter with craig when he'd been extremely rude to her. she spoke to his supervisor, who was apparently even ruder and louder. so there would be no luck in talking to his boss to have him reprimanded.

i imagine his office must be something like a scene from my sixth grade memory. in fourth and fifth grades, only the girls watched sex ed films, which were mainly about menstruation. in sixth grade, the boys watched a film at the same time as the girls, but in different rooms. it was the first time either group saw private part diagrams of the opposite sex and learned the most basic ideas about reproduction.

when the girls' film finished, we walked back to class a little timid and shell-shocked from what we had just seen. the boys' film had finished earlier, and they were already back in the room. i will never, ever forget what the scene looked like: the desks had been knocked over, and the boys were running, jumping up and down and making monkey noises with no teacher in sight. it was like a scene from lord of the flies.

i imagine life hasn't evolved much for craig.

<<<��� - ���>>>

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