Solicitors – how do you spell that?

I get a lot of calls at my job. When you do tech support, you expect that. Only, tech support is just a small part of my job, and more than half of my calls are not even from inside the company. I spend so much time dealing with companies that want to sell me cheap toner, user training, copiers, phone systems, etc. It’s amazing that I get any work done at all. And the worst part about it – I can’t lie!

I know what you’re thinking – the same thing I scream at the TV everytime the computer scores against me. But I’m serious. I can bend the truth a little bit. I can talk circles around a question. I can do all sorts of potentially illegal activities. But ask me a direct question, and I’ll end up having to answer it if I can’t distract you. I realize that this confession is much like Superman admitting “Man does that kryptonite give me the heebee-jeebees.” But it’s not like I’ve got a whole bunch of evil archenemies out there looking for that weakness to defeat me. And if I do, you guys really suck if you haven’t gotten me yet. It’s not like you guys have much of a foe to combat. What’s my super power anyway? The ability to pretend that I’ve heard of any random band you mention? My lightspeed Guinness-drinking? Maybe it’s my irritating obsessive nature… anywho, where was I?

My point is that if a sales rep mentions something that I might be looking into eventually, I’ll end up having to talk to him. I can get out of surveys by saying I’m too busy (which isn’t always completely true, but it’s close enough) or ordering toner because someone else does it (I only take care of the Dell ones). But if you mention a new telecommunications product, I reluctantly admit that I’m looking for a new phone system and here’s my information so that you can continue to bug me with useless information and product suggestions for the rest of my tenure here thank you very much. The end result is many pointless conversations that kill my productivity more than any stupid meme can.

But every so often (well, almost never) I end up with a good story:

(Interior, my office. Just as I begin to settle back into my work the phone rings. I look at it irritated, but it continues to beep. Dejectedly, I resign myself to the torture that is certain to follow, and pick up the receiver.)

Me: Hello, Thom Slattery.

Sales Guy: Hi John…

(Insert sales pitch for user training here, including my utter disinterest yet lack of effort to get out of the phone call.)

Sales Guy: What’s your e-mail address?

Me: tslattery at unigene dot com. That’s T, S as in Sam, L, A, T, T, E, R, Y at unigene dot com.

Sales Guy: Ok, P, S, L, A…

Me: (slightly frustrated) No, T. T as in… Ted.

Sales Guy: Oh, okay. D, S, L… is that one or two T’s?

Me: (less frustrated, more amused) Uh, one?

Sales Guy: P, S, L, A, T, what was the rest?

Me: (rather amused and contemplating making up a new name) E, R, Y?

(Now I spell the name of the company, but he gets the dot com all on his own. The address goes smoothly – even if I give him the zip code 3 times. Finally, freedom is right around the corner…)

Sales Guy: Thanks, Pete. Have a nice day.

Me: You too… Fred?

(I sit back in a far better mood than I started. Then I rush to our host’s site to make sure the catch-all e-mail address is turned off.)

This one could keep me smiling all day. I may never understand where the D or the Pete came from, but the mystery makes it that much more appealing – kind of like an urban legend or ghost story. This also reminds me of one of my favorite incidents back in NetTech. Mike, my co-worker at the time, was on the phone. He had to spell something clearly. Much wackiness ensued:

Mike: That’s P as in… Paul.

(I look over at Mike and toss a questioning look, as if to say, “Why, in the name of all that is holy, would you pick a word that sounds like it could start with almost any letter in the alphabet, and even a few that haven’t been discovered?”)

Mike: B, as in… … Ball.

(At this point I lose it.)

I was laughing so hard I almost hit the floor. The guy on the other end also started laughing, and even Mike had to cave at the realization of his gaff. Still, not quite as memorable as the two of us hanging around in Doug’s office so that we could listen to him ask a credit card company to increase his limit… to $90,000! I don’t think it helped matters that the rep could hear us laughing and Doug could barely keep a straight face. Phones certainly can be a great source of humor.

Now I must actually go back to work, although I hope to return soon to regale you with stories of moving, drinking, and The Psychedelic Furs.