Date: Thursday morning.
Time: 11:15 a.m.
Location: My office.
The phone rings. I answer.
Me: Department of History, this is Laura. How can I help you?
Older Woman's Voice On Other End (which is rather raised and as if she's smoked three packs a day since she was a teenager): I got a bunch of stuff that I want to give away and I need to know who's gonna take it.
Me: (Silence. Am rather confused.)
OWVOOE: I got this stuff.
Me: Uh, well, um, can I ask what kinds of things you're talking about?
OWVOOE: I got a program from one of your celebrations from 1965, I got two newspapers--one from 1954 and one from 1963, and I got a magazine from you guys.
Me: Oh, yes, you have things from the University then.
OWVOOE: Yeah. Who I give 'em to?
Me (trying to be calm and polite): Well, you'll want to speak with Mr. White, the University's archivist. I'll be happy to transfer you to him, but I'd like to give you his direct line in the event that we get disconnected.
OWVOOE: Good. What is it?
Me: (I recite number to her.)
OWVOOE: You know, because I'm 80 years old. I don't need this crap.
Me: Well, hopefully Mr. White will be able to help you out. I'll go ahead and transfer you now.
OWVOOE: Wait. Before you transfer me.
OWVOOE: You ever get leg cramps?
Me (TOTALLY confused): (pause.) Um, well, sometimes.
OWVOOE: Okay, here's what you do. You know that little piece of skin below your nose and above your lip?
Me: Um, yes.
OWVOOE: You know, like, right about where you put your lipstick?
Me (slightly confused by her beauty ritual, as lipstick, to my knowledge, goes on my lips, not on the skin above it, but I play along anyway): Yeees.
OWVOOE: Okay, what I want you to do---I'm a nurse, by the way--you want to grab that piece of skin and squeeze. It short circuits your brain and then you don't know you have leg cramps.
Me: Oh, well, that's very interesting. Thank you. I'll go ahead and transfer you now.
OWVOOE: You got a headache on the left side of your head? You squeeze your left ear lobe. You got a headache on the right side of your head? Right ear lobe.
Me: Yes, thank you. I'll transf--
OWVOOE: Lemme ask you one more question.
(I swear on my life that this is a true story. I really did get this phone call yesterday.)
Me (rolling eyes to student aid across office and making eye-gouging gestures): Sure, okay.
OWVOOE: You got a dog?
OWVOOE: Know someone who does?
OWVOOE: Okay, now I want you to listen to what I'm gonna tell you. Are you listening?
Me: Mmm hmm. (Gouging gestures still in full-swing.)
OWVOOE: Never, ever, ever let your dog or cat near a telephone pole or a railroad tie. Know why?
Me: Um, noooo.
OWVOOE: Creosote. It'll kill 'em. People spend millions of dollars on their sick pets, tryin' to get 'em better, when they just die anyway. And it's because of the creosote. Sure, what if you don't live near a telephone pole or a railroad tie? People say, 'My pet never goes near telephone poles or railroad ties. What do I have to worry about?' I say to 'em, 'Well, what if you have someone over to get your carpets cleaned? And the guy tracks it in on his shoes? It'll kill your animals.' So, just keep 'em away from the creosote. It'll kill 'em.
Me: Well, that's very helpful. Thank you. I'll be sure to tell my friends. I'm going to go ahead and transfer you now.
OWVOOE: Good. I gotta get rid of this crap. I'm 80 years old. What do I need this crap for?
with love from Pittsburgh,
Friday, February 06, 2009
Date: Thursday morning.