The hubby and I just spend an interesting morning doing something new for us. We volunteered to help in the fund raising drive for the local public broadcasting station, University sponsored KUER, by answering the telephones for pledges. Being around ringing telephones, with up to 9 others talking at the same time, made me feel like I was back working in a newspaper office.
Everyone was buzzing around, the air full of anticipation and excitement, especially at the top of each hour as we all held our collective breath and hoped to reach preset goals. With the chaos all around, it really is necessary to put everything else aside, even the interesting “getting to know you” conversation with the person sitting next to you, when that telephone rings. It’s definitely living “in the moment” at its utmost.
The way it works is, there are a couple of tables set up in a fairly small room with ten telephones all in a row. An incoming call first comes into line #1, second to #2, and so on to the last one, #10. When the lower numbers are not busy, the calls go to them, so whoever is on phones 1, 2, etc., will most likely be a lot busier than on down the line. To even things up a bit, we “fruit basket turn over” at some point so everyone feels they’re contributing more or less equally.
Something happens in a setting like that. When things heat up, especially at the top of the hour when various hosts go on air to drum up business. Sometimes you’ll hear pre-recorded personalities like Garrison Keillor or Terry Gross appeal for pledges. Then your adrenaline starts pumping. You’re on a roll. Each time you finish a pledge and hang up the phone, you want it to ring again so you can start all over again. When it doesn’t ring right away, you sit there and wave your hands at it, and will it to ring again.
It reminded me of a time when I worked in Obituaries on the Knoxville News in Tennessee. Most death notices came in on the fax machine, so we would edit them into the standard newspaper format throughout the day, but once in awhile–especially as we neared deadline–literally last minute notices would come in by telephone. I would cradle the receiver at an awkward angle between my ear and shoulder while the funeral director dictated the essentials and I typed VERY fast. Typos could be corrected later, but you had to really focus on getting the name spellings correct.
The adrenaline would start pumping and I’d be typing at upwards of 120 words a minute. After awhile I’d simply go on “automatic” and forget what it was I was actually typing about. It could have been about being on a tropical island sipping exotic drinks and I would hardly be aware of it.
One day, while I was all hyped up and raring to go in a manner of speaking, I’d done a phenomenal amount of typing and editing and was really on the proverbial roll, when all of sudden everything stopped. There was an almost dead silence, if you’ll pardon the pun.
The fax machine was silent, I was finished with all the work at hand, deadline was nearing, and the telephone wasn’t ringing. I glanced at the fax, and the telephone and waved my hands at them and said, “C’mon! C’mon!” All of a sudden, I snapped out of my adrenaline daze and realised what I was saying! I was actually waiting for more people to die, so I could get them onto the obituary page before the deadline!
“Well, slap my face!” I thought, and got up to walk about the room and clear my head. “I didn’t really mean it!” I said out loud to nobody in particular. My office mate walked in at about that moment and I told her what had happend. She laughed. She understood perfectly, because the same thing had happened to her before. Just one of those silly things that can happen when you’re really living in the moment.
If you haven’t made your pledge yet, no time is better than this moment. Go KUER!