I’ve often complained that instead of talking to a robot on the telephone, I would relish communication with a warm body. Once I even spoke to a janitor who just happened to be passing by the ringing phone. He couldn’t help me with my issue, but it was comforting to know that not everyone in the building had been called in for an IRS audit.
But now I find there are times when even a warm body fails my desires. The person might speak English, but it’s in strange dialect. On a couple of occasions I’ve had to ask the person to whom I was talking to slow down, maybe pretend he or she was an extra in “Gone With Wind” or maybe “Forrest Gump”
There was one instance when, after pushing all the buttons on the phone plus the pound button, I got a fellow whom I absolutely could not understand. The phone call was very important because it involved a financial transaction. Eventually I had to ask for someone else to come on the line and help me. I told him I wasn’t trying to be rude, but I had a lot at stake in the phone call and I didn’t want there to be any miscommunication. They obliged me.
I’ve gotten so use to this kind of communication, or lack thereof, that when the opposite occurs I’m truly amazed. I have the urge to mark it on my calendar and celebrate it once a month. It makes more sense than Presidents Day or Arbor Day.
Such happened last week when I called a features syndicate in New York City. The lady who answered had an incredible Southern accent. Let me put it this way .... she said the word “yes” with two syllables. She pronounced each word slowly, like fog rising off the Okefenokee Swamp.
And when I spoke, there was a sudden moment of silence ... as if we were giving the Justice Department time to turn on their recorders.
“You’re from the South, aren’t you?” she asked.
I said, “Yes ma’am, I’m from Moultrie, Ga.”
She let out a big laugh and said, “Honey no one has said ‘yes ma’am’ to me in a long time! I’m from Allbeeeeny, Ga.!”
Her voice was smoother than cane syrup on a cold morning. We chatted for a while about the Colquitt County Packers, the weather, The Atlanta Falcons and eventually she took care of the reason I called.
Now probably a seminar on effective communications in the workplace would have declared that she did it all wrong.
Well stick your seminar in your ear. She made me feel like my business with her firm was important, and she would cook grits for me if that’s what it took to address my issues.
Like I said, this doesn’t happen very often so I relished the moment no less than if I was enjoying an Orange Crush and a cheeseburger. I’ve since thought that this exchange would have been a great television commercial for Country Time Lemonade.
Now I’m not promoting the idea that we all sound like Clem Kididdlehopper on the phone but the concept of slowing down and smelling the roses can have very broad application.
The fact that she called me “honey” might be translated by some as being sexual harassment. But I think because I said “yes ma’am” to her was a pretty good indication that I wasn’t going to file a complaint.
Now there are some people out there who get a kick out of mocking Southern language. But for me, I think there should be a calling option that says, “And if you want to speak to someone who might offer you her mama’s secret recipe for pecan pie, just punch seven (pronounced saavuun) followed by the pound key.”
It beats the heck out of talking to someone who sounds like later in the day, if he’s not too busy, he might invade your country.
(Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer, 985-4545. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)