Ponder this:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

At work, I answer the phone.


This morning when I got to work, there was a message on the office phone. The message was from a woman who gave her phone number but no name. She was asking that someone pick her up. I returned the call prepared to give the woman the phone number for the county transportation department, who could send out a bus to her.
The person who answered the phone was the caller's sister, who said she had her sister staying with her, and . . . "She isn't feeling well . . . mental health wise. She thinks she's well enough to ride the bus. And she isn't. She's getting almost too bad to live with."
I know how the woman feels. "I understand," I said. "My mother..."
"...was like that?" the woman asked.
"Yes. And nobody helps you unless they're a danger to themselves or others."
But mentally unbalanced people can do a lot of damage without being called "dangerous."
As we hung up, I think that woman felt better. I felt worse, having been sucked back into The Bad Times With My Mother.

A few weeks ago, a woman called, having seen an ad for a business advertising "cash for houses." She phoned the number in the ad, and the receptionist didn't know how it worked and said she'd have a representative call back. She and her sister were trying to sell their deceased mother's home, and what did I think about it, did I know anything about that particular "cash for houses" business? The woman wasn't computer savvy, so I  Googled the outfit and read a little about it. I counseled her to expect to get a lowball offer on her mother's house, if she just wants to dump the house, it would be a way to go. I hung up and said to Jane, "I feel like Dear Abby."

On October 21 and again on October 31, I picked up the phone at work to speak with a woman who was inquiring whether or not the Village would be having Halloween on the 31st. I'm not actually positive it was the same woman both times, but the voice was similar. On the 21st she explained that the weather forecast called for rain, and she didn't want to send her child out to trick or treat in the rain. On the 31st, the caller didn't offer any explanation for her concern. Both times, I think I said something like, "Halloween is Halloween. It happens on October 31st. It isn't something the Village schedules."

I suppose there are community groups that have Halloween gatherings, but they aren't affiliated with Village government. I won't be surprised if someone phones about when the Village will be holding Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve. The Halloween woman, or possibly, the Halloween women, has apparently grown up in a world in which she looks to the government for answers to her every question, and probably complains that the government tells her what to do every moment of each day.

30 comments:

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Some of those phone moments must be frustrating. Yet it seems you are giving some sort of aid to the callers.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

It's lovely that you're on the other end of that phone, June. Even if you sometimes feel like "Dear Abby", it must mean so much for some troubled soul to hear a friendly and helpful voice when they call for help and information.

DJan said...

Not easy job you've got there, June. But hopefully the woman (women?) will figure it out. Is Halloween one of those very important things? Not to me, but I'm not the mother of a little one. Glad you're there (and not me). :-)

Barb said...

It's good you've established a sense of humor. And patience.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Your kindness and patience must have been very welcome . Sometimes we just need a little support .
Even the Halloween caller !

#1Nana said...

...but the phone calls make great stories, don't they? When I was a school administrator I would get frustrated with some phone calls from parents. It's part of the job I don't miss...oh, wait, I don't miss any of it.

Olga said...

Dealing with the public...gotta be one of the most stressful jobs out there. Keep that sense of humor handy at all times.

Joe Todd said...

I used to answer the phone a lot when I worked as pharmacist. You never knew what you were going to be asked...From time to time I'll get a call from someone needing help/talk but answering that call helps me as much as them...Have a great weekend

Amy said...

Hmmm one thought on the Halloween date. My township has decided that trick or treating will take place from 4-6 on a Friday. Previously it was on Sundays. Apparently this was because there would be parties on the 31st and the children would have to make a choice. So now, instead of planning for the 31st, we have children running around on a set date, which you have to look up on the web site. Now you have to be extra viligent when driving that last 10 days of the month since each municipality chooses its own day.

June said...

Amy! I had heard of such arrangements . . . but you actually live in a place that does that?
It seemed like such a ridiculous question to me. I guess it isn't.

georgia little pea said...

Halloween isn't big here and is celebrated on days which are convenient. Since it fell in the middle of the week this year, there were parties, and school celebrations too I think, on the weekend before and after. Trick and treating was on Oct 31 though.

Friko said...

What is your job? I thought you did something entirely different; are these wrong numbers?

Still, if I were confused, I would be very happy to end up with you; you sound like a lovely, sympathetic lady, and I’d probably feel a lot better after having you put me on the right track.

I’m so sorry about your puss. Our pets just don’t live long enough and when they go they break our hearts.

Friko said...
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Pauline said...

A good sense of humor helps you keep your patience, doesn't it? Glad to know there are people like you willing to answer when someone in need (real or imagined) needs and answer.

Pauline said...

that would be "an answer" (seems I have an extra d on my keyboard ;)

June said...

Friko, I work for a small municipality that is surrounded by wide open rural spaces. When people can't find the phone number for the post office, or can't find any number of other things, they call the village office.

Hilary said...

I suspect your job and telephone is a never ending source of amusement and frustration. As a potential caller though, your caring attitude would send me on my way knowing there are good people working for your township.

Linda Myers said...

Those ladies probably felt better when they hung up after talking to you. You get to make a difference at work!

Grandmother said...

This brought back memories! I worked in a large ER in a large hospital near San Francisco airport and in the psychiatric service of that ER- oh, the calls I got! But like you I tried to answer questions with the info sought and a dose of kindness. I was sure that some were just attempts to connect with another person. If nothing else they made for some great stories, anonymously of course.

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Murr Brewster said...

When is July 4th next year?

June said...

Murr, I would not be surprised to get that question. If that holiday were called by its name, Independence Day, we surely would get questions about the date of celebration.

June said...
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Frank Baron said...

Well, it's pretty good fodder for a blog posts.

PLUS (I assume) you get paid!

No wonder you're aging so gratefully. :)

Hilary said...

My late father suffered with mental illness the last 20 years of his life. No one really understands, unless they have been there. It isn't just hard on the patient, it is devastating to families.
Love your blog.....sorry about your beautiful kitty.

Joe Todd said...

Happy Thanksgiving. We have known each other for a few years now and I am glad.

Vicki Lane said...

I'm sure you are a comfort to these folks...just a friendly and sympathetic voice can make a big difference.

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Joe Todd said...

Went to see the movie "Flight" pretty good and parts of movie pretty true/realistic

Rose ~ from Oz said...

Thanks June, I knew you would sooo 'get it' over the dogs.
And I worked for an agency such as yours some years ago. Never dull!