April 11, 2003
Warm & Fuzzy

ytd: 167.69

The caller wants to speak to The Business Development Manager right now.

"I'm returning HER call," he bellows into his speakerphone, in a voice like the thundering wrath of God. (Ever notice that it's the naturally-overloud Testosterone Units who use their speakerphones the most? As if they really need all of that extra amplification?) "This is EXTREMELY URGENT," he adds,  just in case I didn't *get* the extreme urgency of the call.

"I'm sorry," I tell him, my voice oozing professional regret. "Jane is out of the office this morning, although we do expect her later today. May I offer you her voicemail?"

There is a moment of prolonged and calculated silence on his end. This is a popular power affectation in the business world, especially among some of the older Executive Testosterone Units. I think that *they* think that pausing dramatically before they reply is intimidating. Actually, it just makes me wonder if they might have recently suffered a traumatic head injury. In this instance, the prolonged and calculated silence is followed by an equally calculated sigh of exasperation. 

"Voicemail is NOT going to be adequate," he snaps at me finally. "Give me her cell phone number."

Not 'Please give me her cell phone number.'

Not 'Would you mind giving me her cell phone number?'

Just 'Give me her cell phone number.'

"I'd be glad to," I say. "Let me look that up for you." And I swivel around in my chair and squint across the counter at the phone list mounted next to the In/Out Board.

That's when I realize I'm in trouble.

Usually I am able to read the entire phone list, top to bottom, without any problem at all ... including the row of teeny-tiny cell phone numbers at the very bottom of the page. This morning, however, the whole thing looks something like this:

µ¿Ð±þ£Å¤¥±þ£µ¿Ð µ¿Ð±þ£Å¤¥±þ£µ¿Ð µ¿Ð±þ£Å¤¥±þ£µ¿Ð

My first thought is that somebody is playing another stoopid belated-April-Fools-Day joke on me: that they've swapped out my usual crisp, readable Arial 11 pt. for Egyptian hierroglyphics just for chuckles. (If they'll stoop to slipping a whoopie cushion under my chair pad, they'll stoop to anything.) It takes me a couple of seconds to realize that the problem isn't the font OR the phone list. It's me.

I'd forgotten that I'm operating *sans vision correction* today.

I'm not sure what happened -- whether it was because I woke up exhausted for the third morning in a row, or because I was in a hurry, or because my pants do not precisely match my blouse today -- but for some reason I simply could NOT get my new contact lenses to cooperate this morning. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror for what felt like forever ... struggling to get them inserted, struggling to get them aligned, struggling to get them comfortable ... but I would no sooner get one lens into place than the other one would spring off the end of my finger and hit the floor running. At one point, the right lens took a complete detour from the center of my eyeball and wound up lodged in the upper corner of my eye: it felt like I had the April 2003 issue of "O" Magazine jammed beneath my eyelid. By the time I finally managed to jiggle it loose, I'd been poking at my face for half an hour. Both of my eyes were ugly and bloody-looking, like I'd been on a cheap-chablis-and-chat-room bender the night before. At that point I simply yanked them out -- the lenses, I mean, not my eyeballs -- and said forget it, I'll go without them for one day. I didn't even have time to look for the ugly auxiliary glasses. I've felt like Mr. Magoo all morning, as a result ... looking through a Vaseline-smeared lens at a fuzzy, indistinct world. I don't have a lot of typing or reading to do today, anyway, so this hasn't really been a problem.

Until now.

As the caller makes little constipated noises of irritation into his speakerphone, I lean all the way across my desk and squint as hard as I can at the phone list. It's no use: the numbers are completely unreadable, even from a mere foot and a half away. I knew my eyesight was getting bad. I guess I hadn't realized just how bad. Meanwhile, the increasingly cranky caller is still waiting for the cell phone number. Clearly, my only option here is to stall. 

"Let me look that number up for you," I say to him again ... and I plunge him directly on hold before he has a chance to squawk in protest. While the little red *hold* button blinks furiously, I get up from my desk, walk all the way around to the end of the counter and grab the phone list.

Up close, µ¿Ð±þ£Å¤¥±þ£µ¿Ð µ¿Ð±þ£Å¤¥± gradually swims into focus and becomes 555-123-4567. Whew.

I sit back down at my desk, with the phone list in my hand, and push the blinking red button. "Thank you for holding," I say to him sweetly. "I've got that number for you now." And I read him Jane's cell phone number -- I have to read it to him three times, as a matter of fact, each time more slowly -- while he writes it down. (With crayon, maybe?) I'm about to ask him if he'd like to also leave her a back-up voicemail message, just in case he isn't able to reach her by cell -- I get as far as "Would you like to" -- when he slams the phone down in my ear.

No 'Thank you.'

No Goodbye.

No Whoops, gotta run: the Dulcolax is kicking in!

I hang up the phone and return to my coffee and my timesheets. I am in too glorious a mood to allow one overblown dickhead to ruin my day. It's Friday, after all. It's payday. The Project From Hell is safely behind me. My son is flying in from TicTac tonight to spend the weekend with us. Life is fundamentally good at the moment. 

Later in the day -- much, much later in the day, when I'm busy and distracted and I've forgotten all about Dickhead Speakerphone Guy -- Jane calls me from her lunch meeting in Pleasanton. "Thanks a lot for giving him my cell phone number," she says.


"Was I not supposed to give it to him?" I ask her, my heart in my throat. 

I try to be so careful about these things -- about not divulging too much information over the phone, especially when it comes to the female managers in the office -- and now it occurs to me that perhaps Dickhead Speakerphone Guy is one of those callers to whom I am never, ever, ever supposed to divulge information of any kind, personal or otherwise. Maybe he's her ex-husband. Or her parole officer. Or her IRS agent.

Who knows?

But she actually sounds happy. "No, no, no," she says. "You totally saved my bacon on this one." Dickhead Speakerphone Guy, it turns out, is our brand-new bazillion-dollar client ... and the cell phone call I helped facilitate this morning will probably, if all goes well, be reflected on this year's Christmas bonus.

"And god," she says, sounding amazed. "He totally loves YOU. What'd you do, whisper sweet nothings into his ear?"

I shrug. What can I tell you? It's all in a day's work when you're a Professional Ass. But just to be on the safe side ... I think I'm going to start leaving the phone list a bit closer to the phone, from now on.

And I'm going to permanently stash the ugly auxiliary glasses in my bottom desk drawer.

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my black pants were not the same
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