Words Are Hard

Writer, Messenger, and Professional Weirdo

Tag Archives: Humor

Erm, excuse me…

Usually when our customers forward their lines it’s because they leave the office and go home for the night.  But one or two of our customers actually do things the old fashioned way and by old fashioned I mean they really do still live in the funeral home.  So when they forward their lines at night it’s because they want to sleep.  But there are a couple who, when the phone rings, will hear it, let it ring to us and then call us five minutes later to find out what the call was.

No seriously.

You can set your watch by it.  I usually take my time, even waiting up to a minute after finishing the call, to let the director on those specific accounts call us.  Most of the time they do.  At three in the morning we really only take one type of call and while it saves them from paying for us to call them about it, all I can picture every single time they call in, is this:

I still don't have my paycheck and they took my death call.

I still haven’t gotten my paycheck and they took my death call.

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It’s been too long *sadface*

I’ve been re-reading The Hobbit.  I don’t know why.  Papa Tolkien and I have never actually gotten along, prose wise.  I love the stories, but my armor class is useless against Giant Walls of Text and I usually end up KOed by the first page and then I miss out on the loot while the rest of the party dances on the corpses of the R-O-U-S and since this is my game we’re talking about, they probably also burned down an orphanage without me.  The bastards.

No, it …it really is like that.

The Hobbit is easy though.  I can handle The Hobbit.  And if I keep telling myself that, it might actually turn out to be true.

/salute Hobbit!  I enjoyed your latest cinematic endeavor and look forward to listening to the geek chorus whine about your movie continuity all over again a year from now.  And by geek chorus, I mean my husband.

“Oh, how awful!”

This pretty much sums up 2013 for me.

But the Halloweenies got into the spirit of things.

I sincerely hope that, however you celebrate it, the holiday season was a good one for you.  It was a good one for me!  Mostly.  I worked all of it.  But then I’m easy to please and the post-holiday breakdown didn’t happen until the morning of the 26th when EVERYBODY DECIDED THAT SIX AM WAS THE PERFECT TIME TO ASSUME OFFICES ARE OPEN.

People.  If the sun hasn’t come up yet and nobody is dead: go back to sleep.

Sometime in the last couple months (probably November) I took a call and ever since taking that call it’s been preying on my mind, like a brain worm.  Since I’ve been scatterbrained and other things have been popping up hither and yon, I haven’t gotten a chance to write about it, but here – let me paraphrase it for you:

Me: Good Morning. This is [FUNERAL CHAPEL HOME PLACE], my name is [REDACTED because Olivia is a pen name yo] how can I help you?

Caller: Hello?  Can I speak to [DIRECTOR]?

((It’s about 2am, so you know.  Eyebrows.))

Me: I’m sorry, s/he is not in at the moment, may I take a message or did you need to speak to someone right away?  I have [REDACTED – who was not the director she asked for] on call for emergencies.

Caller:  Oh.  Oh dear.  No, s/he just told me to call when my family member, [REDACTED], passed away.  I just wanted to give a head’s up.

((I actually do not roll my eyes at this point, because grieving family members get breaks.  They just do.  I hate it when they call in death calls because they never have any of the info and I feel awful asking them dozens of personal questions, but they’re upset and doing what they were told, so it’s a get out of jail free card.))

Me: Oh!  Alright, well, I can certainly reach someone for you–

Caller:  Oh no, please don’t bother them.  We’re not ready or anything, this is just a head’s up for …well, for whoever.

Me: ((Patience padawan…)) Alright, well, what usually happens is when the facility is ready they go ahead and give us a call.  We have a removal person that we can contact at that point who will come out and pick them up.  If you like, I can take what information you have and get a hold of them for you?

Caller: Is that the director?

Me: No, in this case it’s a separate in-house removal person that we contact for death calls. I can certainly reach a director if you need to speak to them though.  May I have your name please?

Caller: I don’t want to give that out just yet.  The facility can call when they’re ready?  We’re just getting ready to go up there now, so they should be ready when we get there.  So …this is just a head’s up, I guess.  No need to bother anyone.

((At this point, in case it’s not obvious, we’re speaking at cross purposes.  I really can’t help her, and it’s sort of drilled into us that we’re to take messages all the time, hence all the “no seriously do you want me to reach someone?” questions.  See, head’s up calls are messages, that will be cleared, provided I have the info.))

Me: If I take a message now I will have to page someone, so if you want to hold off and just want to have the facility call–

Caller: Wait, so you’re just an answering machine?

((Congrats random answering service drone, you’ve been upgraded to a T-1000 answering MACHINE!))

Me: I’m with their after hours service, yes.

Caller: Oh!  Oh, how awful.

I wish I could make this one up, but that last line is a direct quote.  And yes, if you’re reading it in a certain upper crust, prim and proper accent, you’re reading it correctly.  In fact, it’s the only quote I really remember because it bothered me that much.  The rest is paraphrased but essentially breaks down to someone not understanding that she actually was jumping the gun.  Badly.  After that, she muttered some more things and hung up on me.  About an hour later we did get the call from the facility, so no business lost, I guess?

If you think I’m taking the comment the wrong way, let me assure you, from tone and context (let’s not get into the things she muttered after the awful comment), she was just mortified that she had to talk to a service.  I don’t know why.  I don’t pretend to understand, but when she found out I was a lowly worker drone, she just couldn’t take it.

Look, up until that point, the caller was extremely nice, if a bit scatterbrained, and also gets the “grieving family get out of jail free” card.  But two things here:

1.  No, what I do is not awful.  What I do makes sure you got to talk to a living, breathing human (now with action punch empathy!) at two o’clock in the morning.  Not a voice mail box.  Not a calling tree.  Do not pass GO.  Do not collect $200.  Go straight to person.  Sometimes people are surprised when that happens, but it’s always a pleasant surprise and you know what?  I enjoy that part of my job.  I’m the filter between slightly scatterbrained family members who called not really knowing what they wanted and the directors.

But you know, filters can get worn out, which is why #2 is so degrading:

2. I am not this:

DELETE DELETE DELETE

DELETE DELETE DELETE

Or this:

Though let's be fair: I wouldn't say no...

Though let’s be fair: I wouldn’t say no…

And I am definitely, most assuredly, no seriously please knock it the fuck off, NOT THIS:

JLKJSFDALKFHALSKFHAKLHGLSHDGLHSD STOP IT

JLKJSFDALKFHALSKFHAKLHGLSHDGLHSD STOP IT

I am a human being.  Nothing gets you put on my shitlist faster than asking if I am an answering machine.  If you can’t tell the difference between a person and a machine then Skynet can’t wipe out humanity fast enough because frankly, I can’t with you anymore.  I can’t even English.  That’s how mad that question makes me.

It makes me wish I was this.  And then they would all pay.

It makes me wish I was this.

Damn those birds.

So to recap: Please never assume the person you’re talking to is a cyborg, unless they introduce themselves as Siri and even then it’s probably best to err on the side of them having a fully functioning organic heart, brain, nervous system, and other assorted squishy bits.  We’ll love you for it!  Thanks!

Anatomy of a Death Call

1:04am: “I’m just calling to give you a heads up. The family isn’t here so the body isn’t ready yet. We’ll give you a call when they leave.”

1:08am: The director is called and the call is cleared.

1:31am: “Okay!  The body is ready for pickup.”

1:33am: The director is called and the call is cleared.

1:40am: “Hi, I’m with the donor network/eye bank. We will be approaching the family regarding donation. Please hold off on removal.”

1:42am: The director is called and the call is cleared.

2:00am: “Hi, I called almost an hour ago regarding Mr. Doe. Do you have an eta? I’m sorry? Oh. Yes. Well we’re ready now.”

2:02am: The director is called and the call is cleared.

2:05am: “Hello, I’m with the donor network/eye bank. Just letting you know that the family has declined donation and the body is ready for removal now.”

2:06am: The director is called and the call is cleared.

2:45am: “Um hi, yes, um. I called regarding a Mr. John Doe about two hours ago. So it turns out the family gave us the wrong number and will be using a different funeral home. You can disregard the call. Sorry about that.”

2:46am: The director is called and has a nervous breakdown.

Oh. That good huh?

This is going to be a short post, mostly because the upswing hasn’t come ’round yet and I’ve spent more time dramatically sobbing into a pillow than actually being productive. That may or may be hyperbole, but when one of your beta readers is asked the question, “Would you read past the first chapter?” and their resoundingly honest answer is a very blunt, “No.” it sorta bruises the ego.

Thing is (and this is why I haven’t posted any teasers of the first chapter), I know that bit is broken. It’s (no seriously) attempt fourteen or fifteen (or more, I lost count) at starting this dumb thing and every time I try to fix it, the entire story ends up getting changed. Tweaked. Fixed. Rearranged.

That’s not bad, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate it, but it is exhausting. Eventually I’ll be head over heels thanking dog for honest editors, but right now all I have to go on is a no and a vague idea that the info dump is too much, but not where or how. What makes it worse is this particular reader works days while I work nights, he lives an hour away, and has a small toddler at home. What this means is that I am astonished and humbled that he’s actually taken the time to go through my mess, but it also means that sitting down and talking through where the weak spots are and what about them makes the weak is just shy of being a massive headache.

This upsets me because he is actually qualified to tear the ‘script apart and the novel would (will, I suppose because I will figure this out) benefit from every blow he can throw at it.

The silver lining: the Editor (capital-I-am-being-paid-for-my-time-E) is working on it and she is equally qualified to rip it shreds. Obviously. I mean, I wouldn’t be paying her otherwise. She’ll also be much easier to get in contact with.

The second silver lining: People, if you’re going to marry someone, marry someone whose job it is to teach other people how to write. My wonderful husband took a gander and gave his professional assessment:

I think I know how fix it and no, you probably won’t have to rewrite the whole thing but I need to, like, show you because trying to describe it is hard. But like I need to go to rehearsal (did I mention he’s also an actor?) and you need to go to work so we’ll go over it in the morning.

Seven years of wedded bliss people. This is why. Of course now the big jerk won’t wake up…

Why Wasn’t There A Post Yesterday?

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I

Brave

Have

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No

See you Wednesday!

Happy Father’s Day!

In honor of Father’s Day have a short story about a divine dad’s quest to find a babysitter for his precocious offspring so he can go to the Olympic Games.

Read more of this post

Ack!

Since I started this blog last month I had a good buffer of posts ready to go, but it appears time has finally decided to get down and truly be a terrible, fleeting thing so that buffer has run out. You may have noticed that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are post days generally. Oh noes! It’s Thursday already and I have nothing for Friday!

So here, because the proverbial black eyes I asked for are starting to roll in: a rant on feedback, inspired by one too many writers going off the way wrong way after getting constructive criticism. Also notes to self because I’m going to need it in the coming weeks here. I cannot swear enough, people.

After reading the feedback our “friends” gave us: I HATE EVERYTHING

Getting feedback – real, very critical feedback – is a lot like working out (I imagine – I’m sort of allergic to working out). It can leave you feeling like you’ve just taken a good crowbar to the gut. You get the wind knocked out of you because you find out you’re not half as clever as you thought you were and all those funny little moments that you thought were genius actually weren’t. You want to curl up into a ball and cry and never, ever let anyone read anything you write ever again. In fact, you don’t even want to write anymore because OBVIOUSLY WE’RE JUST NOT ANY GOOD AT IT.

The reality is more complicated. Stick with me here. The beta readers are on your side. Unless they’re total asshats in which case they’re not going to be helpful and need to be ditched ASAP. I wish I had an easy to spot solution for finding out who is trying to help and who is just worthless, but I don’t.

And after the workout you’re sore. Your ego hurts. It hurts because this is your baby. You have spent days, months, years, a lifetime of anguish to get these words onto the page(screen). We suffer for our art. Even comedians are drawing the funny from a very dark well. These words are a part of who you are. The story is, in some primal way, your life and to have someone point out that maybe it’s not quite as solid as you thought hurts in an almost physical way.

But hey, we’re all adults here. We’ve been hurt before – it’s what led us to do what we do. I hate being told that, as a writer, I need to have a thick skin. I know this get off my case and let me sob into my beer gawd!

Ahem. Let’s assume that people are generally good. This is difficult for me so you’ll have to bear with me. I’m sort of a misanthrope. So somehow I have to convince myself that getting critical feedback is a lot less like getting beaten to a bloody pulp by a gang of forty and more like this:

After the sore, if you keep at it, you start seeing results. You’re story starts toning up. It starts building muscle. And it starts lookin’ good. Your beta readers are the gym baby and after awhile you start to feel like dancing because you have all the energy and there’s a healthy glow about you and you’re ready to face the WORLD!

HERE IS MY BOOK WORLD! READ IT! READ! ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

And it all comes crashing down after one stupid review on Amazon, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet, so my delusions, let me keep them.

Anyway! Coming up on Sunday I actually do have a post, in honor of Father’s Day. I’m not a fan of this day, generally speaking, but I do have a minor character who is a dad and the idea for the drabble was a cute one (shut up it is) so two plus two equals special post!

Note to self: go through said post and remove spoilers from said drabble, dummy.

Also incoming is a review (!!!). While I’ve definitely done some heavy-handed critique (my snark can get pretty epic, but I only break that out for people I know very well because generally speaking, they ask for it and give as good as they get *see above creys*), I’ve never done, like, a review before. I finished The Pull by Rob White last night at work, enjoyed it, and I’ve got some digesting to do before I get some thoughts together about it but really quickly: if you’re looking for something fun to read in your down time, definitely check it out.

I think that’s your lot.

Wait no. Have a Sassy Dancing Ood:

Now we’re done.

An Open Letter to the Brave Men and Women On Call:

To the heroic doctors, nurses, funeral directors, plumbers, HVAC techs, and other emergency sort of workers whose lines it is my duty, honor, and privilege to answer:

Love,
Me

Things People Say When They Call Me

Happy Memorial Day!  Since I’m getting 14 hours of holiday pay while you lucky ducks get your barbeques and whatnots, have a fluffy fun lil post and remember why we get to do fun things like barbeques and picnics:

Image from Wikipedia.org

 

 

 

My job is full of fun.  Considering how often we deal with death and those left grieving, you wouldn’t think so.

But then we get the weird callers.  Of course, my first instinct upon getting a weird caller is to make them feel at home by being equally weird:

queen

After suppressing that temporary urge, I’m able to deal with the call in a professional manner but every once in awhile I’ll get one that just makes me stop and stare at the computer for several seconds while my brain blue screens.

These are very real things that very real human beings have said to me.  Nope, I am not naming the business they were calling and yes, this covers more than just the ones calling funeral homes.

But first, a PSA:

“I just killed my husband/girlfriend/dad/mom/poodle you need to come pick him/her/it up.” – is a running “joke” among funeral home prank callers.  I’ve gotten several variations on this over the past couple years.  It wasn’t funny the first time.  It will never be funny.

If you’ve ever been tempted:  Don’t.

And now, onto the actual really strange stuff (hopefully funny or at least groan-worthy)!  Wording has been slightly changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

“I am a certified, licensed prophet.  That’s prophet with a ‘ph’.” – funeral home

“My toilet has gremlins.” – plumbing company (no, they were not joking)

“Are you a person?” – every account ever

“My dog is having the butt problem again.  …They’ll know what I mean.” – veterinarian

“Do you sell formaldehyde?  I want to preserve this animal embryo I found when I went hunting.” – funeral home

“Do I have to be dead before you’ll cremate me?” – funeral home

“So I used to be a stripper.” – funeral home (an elderly woman told my male co-worker this …at 2am)

“NO WAR IN DETROIT!” – funeral home that is no where near Detroit…

At least no one can say my life isn’t interesting.

jerry-mahoney.com

Author, ranter, dad

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