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Sandra Lee Novelly

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What Number, please?
By Sandra Lee Novelly
Sunday, March 16, 2003

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All in a day's work...

“Good Evening. Thank you for calling. What number, please?” The required phrases rolled off my tongue, requiring no thought at all so frequent was their use.

In response to my kind question, a stream of vitriolic and profane words so scorching, that had I looked at my headset I am quite certain I would have seen steam rolling from the earpiece, assaulted my ears. The thought crossed my mind that this was going to be another of ‘those’ nights.

“Sir,” I interrupted gently, “I am so sorry that the people you spoke with previously were unable to assist you to your satisfaction.” I hurried on before he could regain enough breath to begin a new harangue. “However, if you will calm down I will be happy to help you.”

“Gimme the number to The Leaning Post,” the somewhat garbled voice demanded.

Aha, just as I surmised. My fingers performed the magic three dot three dance on my keyboard – Lea. Pos. The lone listing for The Leaning Post appeared on the screen before my eyes.

“Sir, do you have a pencil and a piece of paper?”


“I will read you the number and you write it down and read it back to me. Will that work for you?”


I began reading the number. After fifteen minutes were spent in pronouncing the digits ever so slowly and ever so carefully, the man on the other end of the line had successfully written and read back to me the desired telephone number to a bar called The Leaning Post.

It was very evident to me that the befuddled drunk had been given the number by two or three other information operators previous to speaking with me. However, these folks had simply pushed the Automatic Response Unit button and a recorded mechanical voice had delivered the number. In his inebriated state, the man had been unable to write the number down before the recording had cut his protests off, leaving him to stand fuming in the phone booth. I had simply been the unfortunate recipient of his frustration.

“Ma’am, I want to apologize. You’ve been nice.”

“That’s quite all right, sir. Have a good evening.”

It was all in a day’s work. The ‘zip’ tone sounded in my ear, signaling another incoming call.

“Good Evening. Thank you for calling. What number, please?”

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