Friday, August 03, 2007

I Hope She Got Hazard Pay

Back when I started this job, my desk resided in a cubical farm. Having never worked with so little personal space before, I found myself extremely self conscious about EVERYTHING. Was I breathing too loud? What if I laughed and a little fart squeaked out? Would the lady across from me announce it to the other cubical cattle? I learned to talk in whispers and type softly, a difficult feat for someone whose job consisted of answering phones and typing long-winded training modules.

Three weeks after I started, our IT person walked me through the phone system. There were extensions to learn, passwords to memorize, and the dreaded voicemail message to record. Just thinking about that message made me tongue tied. As someone who frequently trips on her words, I knew it would take me several tries to get it right, a luxury you don't have when working in a cubical farm. The woman across from me, we'll call her Wilma, had already started complaining that I "stank."

She didn't mean that I smelled bad, mind you. For whatever reason, Wilma had decided on the first day that she was allergic to me. Each morning it was something new that she could smell: my lotion, shampoo, hair gel, deodorant. It made her sneeze and then sigh, apologizing to everyone in our vicinity because my "body products" were aggravating her "condition." I was terrified to piss her off further. Somehow I just knew that trying to record my voicemail message would.

So I tried to time it for when no one else was around. But it never quite worked out the way I needed it to. I started thinking that Wilma was on to me. She knew I was going to sound like an ass and she wanted to be there to witness it. Two weeks later, the IT person sent a reminder about personalizing my voicemail. So I did what I had to do. I pretended to drop a stack of papers. Then I hid under my desk and recorded the message as quietly and quickly as I could. I thought it came out pretty good too. Until a few hours ago...

It's been over three years since I recorded that message. I have never once listened to it again. Seriously, how often does someone leave a message for themself? I'm going on vacation next week (Surprise!), so I thought it would be a good idea to record an away message. But before the system would allow me record a new one, I was forced to listen to the old one first. I was horrified when it came on. "Hello? This is Tink Erbell..." My voice warbled through the speaker uncertainly. There was no mistaking that I was whispering.

It was the voice of someone who had been kidnapped and thrown in a basement. "Please, leave a message," practically translated to "Please, send help." THIS is what my callers had been hearing for the last three years?! Shit. They say that people who don't look their best during a first meeting often hurry to the mirror afterward, fix themselves up, and instantly feel better about the prior encounter. They trick themselves into thinking they looked better than they did.

This is basically what I did with the voicemail message. I recorded over the old one with a clearer, louder voice and made sure to smile while doing it. Then I pretended like the old one never existed. I was never very good with phones though. Apparently, in erasing the old message I accidentally switched to a secondary one that was recorded by the girl who held my position last. I came back to six very confused voicemails. Four people claimed to have dialed the wrong number. Two just laughed and hung up.

As for the voicemail I'd selected?

"I'm sorry I can't get to the phone right now. I've been abducted by aliens. They have probes!"

Un-fucking-believable. I think I'm REALLY going to enjoy this vacation.

Notice: I will be on vacation from August 6th-10th. Don't worry though, PB isn't completely closed for business. I'll post updates at some point in the week. There's beer in the fridge. Emergency numbers are on the phone. Feel free to loiter. But thieves will be sporked. Have a great weekend!

25 Comments:

At 03 August, 2007, Blogger Spamboy said...

It's amazing how others can force people to change their phone habits. My sister works in a cube farm at Dell, and she used to be in the habit of listening to her voicemails on speakerphone -- until I got ahold of her number and started leaving missives along the lines of, "Hey, it's me. It's about 12:3--holy crap! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! (click)" Now she never uses speakerphones...I wonder why.

Have a good vacation!

 
At 03 August, 2007, Anonymous TB said...

That cracks me UP. Once Jeff and I were going out of town and he called his voice mail remotely from his cell to change his message just as our plane was getting ready to take off.
I waited until he got to the middle of the message then leaned over and made a funny, loud warbling sound into the phone. Jeff immediately started laughing then disconnected the call. Just as he was calling back to fix it, the fligt attnedant came on and said phones had to be off. I always wonder what the people must have though that called his phone that day.
Have a great vacation!

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger Edge said...

I worked with a guy who would call your voice mail when he knew you were away and leave these long winding messages that talked about everything and had no point. One of them went on for 10 minutes ( voicemail limit ) and he started with building a fence this weekend and ended with eating tacos or something like that!

~Jef

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger geenalyn said...

LMAO at the previous girl's voicemail message....

Have a great vacation (totally jealous). All i have to look forward to is a long weekend, and i'm pretty sure knowing my hubby he doesn't have any grand plans (that and its stinkin' hot out)

 
At 03 August, 2007, Anonymous susan said...

So...Wilma was really an alien? How did you not pick up on that?

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger Jay said...

There is always one person in each cube farm that is soooooo loud when they talk on the phone. I worked with one like that. He sounded like he was yelling to people all the time. And of course he would cuss up a storm too. I swear he was completely oblivious to that fact that everyone could hear him.

You're gonna be on vacation AGAIN???? What are we supposed to do with ourselves for a whole week??

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger Chris said...

Have a great vacation! And you'll have to send me an email so I can share an amusing voicemail story. I can't post it because I'd be identified in about 2 minutes. :)

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger my stream said...

That is AWESOME. I'm laughing really hard and the kids are asking me what's so funny.

I used to leave funky messages on my answering machine. For the longest time I had a clip from a Beastie Boys song that said, "Shit! If this is gonna be that kind of party, I'm gonna stick my dick in the mashed potatoes!" followed by gales of laughter.

 
At 03 August, 2007, Anonymous wordgirl said...

Too bad that bitch Wilma wasn't abducted by aliens with probes. There's one in every office, no?

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger Peggy said...

Oh Tink! I want to use that message on my work phone in the worst way. I may do it anyway. You crack me up!

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger Newt said...

Too funny. Have a great time! I'll miss you!

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger Lefty said...

I gotta say, Tink, you're a goof!

And don't you think it is a really weird coincidence that your name is Tink Erbell?

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger Betty said...

My voice main messages always sound like some little old uptight southern lady. I don't really sound like that. I don't. Really.

Have a great vacation.

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger Scottsdale Girl said...

There is always some old bat who is allergic to AIR. Always.

Jeebus.

 
At 03 August, 2007, Anonymous Michelle said...

Bwa ha ha ha! Great story.

Enjoy your time off. :o)

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger fiwa said...

Oh my god - what a HAG! My husband has a wombat in his office that does that too.

I hope you enjoy your vacation!!

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger meno said...

I once had a friend of mine at work tell me that my voice mail message made me sound like a real weirdo. I listened to it and he was right. I did a new one and thanked him for the info, and then swatted him for not telling me for 4 years.

 
At 03 August, 2007, Blogger Jess Riley said...

Oh Tink, you are awesome.

I had to laugh at "send help." I sound THE SAME WAY on my work voicemail!!!

You could never "stink." Man, coworkers can be the pits.

 
At 04 August, 2007, Blogger mrspao said...

Silly Wilma - she needs to grow up!

I love your story :)

 
At 04 August, 2007, Blogger captain corky said...

Have a great vacation Tink, and as always I'll drink all the beer in the fridge while you're gone.

 
At 05 August, 2007, Blogger Foo said...

Your post made me think of two things: how much I hate working in a cubicle farm, and how much I used to enjoy coming up with interesting messages for my home answering machine.

I would love to have considerate people like you as cubicle neighbors. Instead, I've got... well, it's like a scene from Office Space. They're loud, consistently, whether on the phone or endlessly visiting with one another in their cubes. Some have annoying speech patterns when on the phone with clients: one endlessly repeats "correc... correc. Correc. Correc... correc... correccorrec", another prefaces every statment with "Ah'll say...". Yet another tries to sound sultry by speaking at the very bottom of her range, in a droning monotone. Off the phone, we've got a loud laugher, who sounds for all the world like The Count from Sesame Street. "Ahhhh...ah. ah. ah. ah. ah."

Sorry, but nothing's that funny.

Then there's the young woman of color who has to bitch to one of the other hotline people after every call. She transforms to an ebonic cartoon caricature, going from a polite, well-spoken professional to a gutter-mouthed, ebonic whiner with a voice so high that it's painful. I keep hoping she'll go just little higher so I can no longer hear her.

My office voicemail message is the same default one that came on the system. I figure people would rather hear some smoky feminine voice reciting my extension number than an outdated recording of me explaining how I was going to be out of the office for a vacation that took place two years ago.

 
At 06 August, 2007, Blogger butterfly girl said...

Oh my goodness! You poor thing!I hope you are having a great vacation, we're hanging out waiting for some news!

 
At 07 August, 2007, Blogger furiousBall said...

where's the pizza money?

 
At 08 August, 2007, Blogger Nettie said...

Love the personalized message. Fanfuckingtastic! Hope you are having a wonderful vacation.

 
At 08 August, 2007, Blogger eric said...

i left an out of office reply on my email that read ...

"I am on vacation and will return to the office on July 23. Have a nice day."

That have a nice day translated as, "here's middle finger for you if you have a problem with that."

 

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