After many years in IT, like most people I'm resigned to the endless stream of unknown and unsolicited calls that dog my working days. On the rare occasion I answer, I am greeted with a long pause of disbelief that I actually took the call followed quickly by the inevitable sales pitch, with which I deal in the standard, passive-aggressive style.
Last Saturday morning, however, I was awoken at 8:00 AM to a call on my personal phone, from "California". I ignored it and tried to go back to sleep but the state was dogged and called back two more times within 10 minutes. It was rare and strange for a sales call to invade my weekend and, in a moment of weakness, I picked up. California was apparently a young woman and, yes, she was eager to speak with me about a piece of software or other technical service. I was even more eager not to listen, and may have been a tad more aggressive than passive in letting her know that. Being the nice guy I am, I later felt a twinge of regret. After all, California was a person. She was just doing her job, working overtime on Saturday. In a fit of penance, I resolved that for the next week I would answer every single unsolicited call, happily! I might even respond to a few solicitation emails. My wife on hearing my plan treated me to her best "he's finally lost it completely" look, but I was not to be dissuaded, and in fact wagered her $10 that at least one of the week's "unknown" calls, if fielded politely, would actually prove to be useful.
The first call came in at 11:27 AM, Monday morning. "IT, this is Rodney." I don't know why I answer my personal number this way. I just expect the call to be IT related, even if it's from a family member. The Unknown caller was "Bethany" who wanted to sell me season passes to my hometown team's basketball games. I recognized the voice; she had been calling for over 6 months after I went to one basketball game last year. Kudos to her for persistence. We had a pleasant conversation although I tried to make it clearer than I managed the last time we spoke that if I ever needed a season pass I would seek it out on my own.
At 1:57 PM, "California" called again. I had a meeting starting in 3 minutes, but here was my chance to make amends with the young woman from Saturday. It was jarring, therefore, to hear a gruff, masculine voice asking if I was Rodney. Once I affirmed, a long, scripted, one-way dialogue began about a technical whitepaper that could aid me in my current role as CIO. I did not correct MrCalifornia about my title but when 2:00 PM rolled around I tried to break in, courteously, to advise him that I had a meeting starting. This did not dissuade him. "Hey, that all sounds interesting, but I really have to go". He kept talking, bless his heart. "OK, sorry but I have to drop. Thanks…thank you." And I hung up. I hate hanging up on people because it is rude, but surely people know not to cold call a few minutes before the hour or half hour? It is all about timing!
By Wednesday, having fielded stoically many similar calls, I was worn down. For light relief, I turned my attention to the solicitation emails. This was even worse. For a start, there were just too many, 47 in total, none of which looked even vaguely promising, plus countless others from people who were sure I needed sex and Viagra.
On Thursday I received a call coming from an internal extension. "I am IT…go ahead" I greeted my unknown co-worker, who in fact turned out not to be a co-worker at all, but a salesman who had called a co-worker and got him to forward the call to me. I let him know that as much as I admired his clever ruse, now was not a good time. In fact, this entire week was turning out to be a NOT good time. I went to lunch, exasperated.
Late Friday afternoon, I fielded a call from a man who wanted me to listen to his colleague present a half hour demo on their SQL product. He informed me, suavely, that he had taken the liberty of setting up a calendar invite for me for the following week, and that I should also have received an email notification that he was going to call. I opened my calendar and sure enough there was the half-hour meeting, right at lunch time. Shaking my head in disbelief, I deleted the email, deleted the invite, and told him I was not interested, which only encouraged him to increase the intensity and aggression of his verbal barrage. I reiterated my lack of interest, with as much patience as I could muster, at which point he hung up on me!
I got into my car to head home for the weekend, relieved that the calls were over but still upset about the previous one. Half-way home the phone rang again, caller "unknown". I tensed in preparation for the final confrontation of a long week. "IT!" I barked into the phone. It was an automated call from my pharmacy letting me know my blood pressure medicine was ready for pick up. Perfect timing! Although, I wasn't sure if it meant I'd won my bet.
Rodney Landrum (Guest Editor).