I have worked on the phones for my entire working life, consequently, I rarely answer my own phone (but that is not the point I will be making today, just a justification (not an apology) for me really upsetting people that actually want to talk to me (as if there were any)). There are two very important buttons on the phone at work: The first is the "release button." The release button is what I throw my fist on when the customer finally relinquishes me from their frigid hands of pure evil and malice. The release button is the button I imagine slamming my forehead on, in exasperation after I hear things like, "Above ground basement" and "Z as in Xerox" (both real quotes). The other important button is the mute button. The mute button is the one I press right before I stand up and exclaim to all those around me how stupid the person on the other end of the line is, or when I have to fall out of my chair laughing because the parents of the person calling in on the phone decided to punish their child with the name Joe Joe Josephson (also true).
I was working as a collector for a well known telephone company and on the phone with a woman who was about to make a payment over the phone with me. While grabbing her checkbook she (I imagined of course (keep in mind, I am just on the phone with her)) started coughing a wheezy cough that eventually overtook her body, forcing her first on her knees and then in the fetal position where she tried to maintain consciousness through the inability to breath because of her uncontrollable coughing. Each cough seemed to give birth to 3 more little coughs which filled her lungs and seemed to want to kill her. I pressed the magic mute button and said in a manner in which those around me would hear me, "Maybe you should stop smoking!" I moved my hand back to the box with my two favorite buttons and felt for the activated button. It seemed my finger was trying to deceive me as the button was didn't feel as though it had been activated. I looked down and to my horror saw that the customer would have heard every word that I just said. While my advice was certainly sound, it is still something that could have resulted in my termination from that employment. My blood ran cold as my customer weakly got up from the floor, receiving help from a chair that she grasped as the last of the flem filled coughs left her throat. I waited in silence for the explosion of anger and the wishes to speak with my supervisor. Those fears were never realized as my yelled insulting advice was never heard over the muting power of her black lung filled coughs. It is the most relieved I have ever been in recent memory. I still mute customer to do the same thing (so I guess there is no moral, because no lesson was learned), but I do double check from time to time in moments of would be horror to make sure that my comments stay behind the blocking power of my favorite button.