Saturday, March 24, 2007

Answering Phones

Dealing With The Special Breed

One of my jobs when I work a shift on the weekend is to answer the stray phone calls that everyone else in the newsroom avoids to pick up. Sometimes, like today, I hear the phone ring and say, I'll let it ring some more. Coincidentally, about an hour ago, I said that to myself. I had an excuse other than laziness: I was in the middle of writing a nasty e-mail to a co-worker; I was aiming for tears. Anyways, the phone rang and rang, and I finally decided to lift my receiver only so I could transfer the call and get back to writing hurt into life.

If you've never had the pleasure of working with journalists, then you may not know how to tolerate them. For the most part, journalists are regular people: capable of laughing, breathing and not taking themselves too seriously. But there is a group of journalists who Believe in Journalism, and believe in their own self-hype. The size of this group is no different than in any group of professionals where you'll come across arrogant, egomaniacal freaks.

In journalism, many of these egomaniacs are foreign correspondents or reporters on a foreign correspondence stint. Quite often, they'll call HQ in a moody blaze; they miss their family, their friends, their home, their favourite foods, their favourite illicit drugs, and so on. I have no sympathy for these people. The worst part though is that these foreign correspondents believe that when they call HQ everyone - everyone! - is waiting for their call. The truth: nah, not really. We've actually forgot they had left the country.

So, more than an hour ago, when I finally answered the phone, I should have expected a moody asshole. The Unnamed Foreign Correspondent in a War Zone calling said he wanted to be transferred to the world desk. I put him on hold, and proceeded to find out what the world desk's local extension was because I rarely ever transfer to the world desk; usually, people who want to speak to the world desk call the world desk.

After I found out the extension, I prepared to transfer the call and saw that the UFCWZ had hung up. Back to writing my e-mail-intended-to-hurt. Ring. Oh, it must be UFCWZ.

"CP Online."

"It's (UFCWZ)."

"Yes, let me transf--"

"Wait a minute."


"I've tried to call the world desk three times in the last five minutes. It's (UFCWZ) in (war zone: don't worry, UFCW is in little danger). Now, I want to be transferred to the world desk."

"O.K. I was about to transfer you the last time you called, but you hung up."

"I didn't."

"Oh, O.K."

The whole minute-long exchange between me and the moody UFCWZ ruined my mood: I had to put aside that cruel e-mail I was writing, and get back to doing my job. But if you analyze my conversation with the UFCWZ, you'll realize I did nothing wrong.

First, I could have missed the first two of the UFCWZ's calls because I was away from my desk. I wasn't, but the UFCWZ never asked if I was, which is a sign of his complete arrogance. Second, if the UFCWZ wanted to speak to the world desk, then he should call the world desk directly (yes, I made this point earlier). I have a hard time believing the UFCWZ went all the way to the war zone without the phone number he'd have to call most often. Third, who cares I didn't pick up? Only the UFCWZ. Since when did I care about him?

Now, with this out of the way, back to that e-mail.


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