Saturday, April 7, 2007

Did I Ever Tell You The One About...

I was checking out a number of blogs today when I popped onto 'Julie Says':

She told a highly amusing tale and wanted to hear stories from other bloggers. That got me thinking back to a morning not so long ago - well, eighteen years ago - when I was unhappily working for a chartered accounting firm in Toronto. I'd been with the company for a few days, had no prior experience as a receptionist and was soon to leave it for the far more comfortable world of live theatre. Ushering, to be exact. Not that different from being a receptionist except there was no phone involved (those who know me find my phone phobia amusing.) Also, my theatre work day started at the more reasonable hour of 6 pm, rather than the ungodly office hours of 8 am - 4 pm. (shudder)

But back at the drafty reception area, which had the warmth of a medieval castle minus the tapestries, I stoically faced the switchboard. In those youthful days I thought there was nothing at which I couldn't excel. I didn't appreciate then that it would take surviving all the darkest days of the next twenty years to really prepare me for a position on the front desk.

Mornings at this office were fairly busy on the switchboard as the chartered accountants called in from whichever client's office they happened to be working that day. Some of my calls were from our own CA's, some from the public. I answered the calls in quick succession:

"Good morning, Shwartz Levitsky Feldman, can I help you?...One moment please." Put the caller on hold. Tranfer if the CA was in the office. This was before voice mail was a big thing.

In the middle of this I'd have the CA's calling for the head honchos. "Can you hold please?" Then I'd put them through if Schwartz, Levitsky or Feldman were in.

One morning when I still wasn't quite awake - sometime before noon - I had a CA that I put on hold while I answered a few other outside calls. When I got back to him, I said in my lovely professional receptionist voice, "Schwartz Levitsky Feldman, can I hold you?"

Luckily, this only solicited a giggle from our accountant. But it convinced me that I'd better take the ushering job before I said something similar to one of the partners. That, and the fist fight that erupted in the board room over a hostile takeover while I cheerily answered more calls.

Funny story, anyone?


Annie Mac said...

Most of my funny stories were from part time jobs when I was a student. When I worked in a small grocery store, no big superstores back then, two ladies got into a big fight about who was first in line. No one intervened, not even management and I had to wait on both of them.

Another time, this would have been more than 30 years ago now, I worked in the ladies shoe department at Eaton's and two very large men came in and wanted to buy fuzzy slippers in their size. And a very old lady wanted to pay for her purchases with Canadian Tire money.

A nice story. A very romantic couple came in. She was buying high heels for a party and wondered if she'd be able to dance in them. Her very hunky boyfriend said "Let'd try them out." And he waltzed her through the department. I used a similar scene in one of my books.

Once I became an accountant the funny stuff didn't happen so much. I expect the receiptionists and secretaries were having lots more laughs and fun than I was.

Julie S said...

LOL, Julia! I love that story. "Can I Hold You" - that's great. Thanks for carrying the torch on this.

I haven't even thought about my retail days lately. I bet if I think about it, I could come up with some good ones.

julia said...

Annie Mac, that's a great one about the waltzing shoe department couple. The ladies duking it out over their place in line reminds me of the cultural expectation routine played out at coat check when I worked at the theatre. If women with a European background came up to the coat check together, I had to wait patiently while they both took out their wallets and argued over who would pay for the coats. This even included a gentle shove of the wallet that would not be allowed to give up its money. Always predictable, always fascinating.

Julie S, glad to encourage a great idea! Hope it spreads like a wave.

Dara Edmondson said...

Too funny! I'm surprised they didn't give you a raise and beg you to stay!

Wylie Kinson said...

LOL! Great story...

I spent years in the hotel business and could write a book on the hilarious experiences. Hey - maybe someday I will!