Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Calling Miss Manners

All I'm trying to do is write a few freelance assignments.  I have the contact information, I have the details, I have the emails, the phone numbers and a general outline.  What I don't have is an interview.  And apparently, what my contacts don't have. . . is time.

I get that.

I get that people are busy.  (Have you noticed that it's May?  Please don't ask me if I've accidentally cried at a baseball practice because I'm not sure if I can possibly go to one more meeting after driving to ballet and sitting through lacrosse.  The answer is yes, yes I have cried, but please don't ask.  And while we're at it, don't ask me how many meetings and luncheons and parties are scheduled in May.  DON'T MAKE ME WRITE ANOTHER POEM PEOPLE BECAUSE THIS ONE MIGHT HAVE THE F-BOMB IN IT.)

But I digress.

So anyway, I'm writing articles.  Well, so far, I'm sitting at my dining room table with very organized questions.  And allow me to explain that the articles I'm writing will highlight the individuals in question in a very favorable manner for their company.  Lots of accolades.  Whoo-hoo-to-you, so to speak.  For one woman, I've left three emails and two messages, but no return call.  I'm ready to go, but I can go no further.  I can't write about her if she won't call me back.  

To be clear, I don't really care all that much about "how you respond to the changing face of your customer base" but I'll write circles about it if you give me ten freaking minutes of your precious time.  I'm quite certain that there are plenty of calls that I haven't returned, and emails too.  But if someone wanted to write an article about how great I was-- I'm pretty sure I'd phone that person for a quick chat.  Do we so quickly give up the opportunity for fame, however fleeting?  I know I wouldn't, especially if it involved a crown.  Maybe I need to start offering tiaras and prizes.

In one email exchange between a contact and an editor, there is the phrase, "I'm very busy, but she can try to reach my on my cell, but I'll be hard to reach."  The "she" is me.  Oh, "she" will try.  I sent this busy, busy man a couple of emails to set up a phone call.  He's traveling this day, interviewing someone that day, and Monday was "officially crazy."  Flights here, and travel there, but "could I call his cell to set something up?"  I could.  And I did, trying, actually, to catch his cell phone voice mail when he was traveling to just leave him a message with some interview options.  To not disturb this exceptionally busy person, perhaps the person with the most valuable time on earth.

Here's how the call went down, because, in fact, he answered.  Let's call him Bob.

(ring, ring)
"Bob."  This is how he answered.  With his name.  Which is more confusing than you may think, because his real name isn't Bob, it's acutally something that sounds much like my own name, so I thought he was speaking to me for a moment.
"Hi (Bob)," I said.  "This is Christy Chafe, calling about the article for XXX magazine."  (Now, I just made it sound like porn, but it's not.  I was just trying to be anonymous.)
And here's where it gets good.  Here's what I get.  Not hello, not even hi.

"Your timing is TERRIBLE.  I'm getting on a plane."

I'm sorry, what?  MY timing is terrible?  Well, heavens to Betsy I'm so sorry, I must have forgotten to correctly tune my ESP signal before I CALLED YOUR CELL LIKE YOU ASKED ME TO YOU
D-HEAD.  That's right, Mom.  I wanted to call him a dumbhead.

"I'm sorry," I said.  "I know you have a busy day.  I was just hoping to leave you my phone numbers so we could set up a time to talk."

"It will depend on blahblahblahblah what flight blahblahblah maybe that flight blahblahblah.  Can I reach you at this number? "

"You can," I said.  I don't care about his flights.  I was still stunned by my terrible timing.  Here's an idea-- if you're boarding a plane, DON'T ANSWER YOUR PHONE.

"Shoot me your cell phone in an email," he said.  "I'll call you later in the week when I know my travel schedule."

"I'll do that,"  I said.  I won't be doing that.  Only nice people get my cell phone number.  And anyway, what would I do, interview this guy from my folding chair at a baseball game?

"Listen," I said, trying to salvage, "I get how busy you are, and I certainly wasn't trying to bother you.  Have a safe flight. . ."


No good-bye.  Well, is that really surprising?  There wasn't ever a hello.  Obviously, there's no time for that in this guy's busy day.

I would like to thank my friend Lisa for asking me this question.  "Why is their time any more valuable than yours?"   I'm thinking of this now, as I find myself waiting at the dining room table, yet again, for calls to be returned.  

Of course I will still try to contact my contacts--a girl's got to get paid.  But when this one particular busy, busy person calls me back, there's a huge part of me intends to tell him that his timing is horrendous and I'll get back to him after my Pap smear, unless of course, he'd like to be on speaker phone.

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