Greg Triggs, Boy Receptionist
“Promise me you’ll be as well behaved as you’ve ever been.”
When am I badly behaved? “Okay. Why?”
“Your grandma has a doctor’s appointment, and no one can take her. Someone has to stay home to answer the business phone.”
“What about Dad? It’s his business. Shouldn’t he answer the phone?”
“Let’s not dwell on ‘shoulds’ today, okay? You’ve got to stay home and be very careful. I can’t worry about you and get everything else done. If anything happens, run for help – but nothing bad is going to happen.”
“Don’t let anyone who calls know you’re 7 years old, okay? Sound grown-up.”
I force my voice a little lower but end up sounding like a drag queen. “Okay.”
“What do we say when we answer the business line?”
“Triggs’ Home Improvement. Vinyl is final. May I help you?”
“Yes! And then ask for a phone number and name. If it’s a hard one, ask them to spell it. Write it all down here,” she shows me the message pad that has every tavern in town written on the inside cover.
“Okay,” she says, kissing me on the forehead. “I wouldn’t do it if I weren’t desperate. They’re waiting in the car.” She kisses me on the forehead again and starts to leave. Pausing at the door, she turns around as if she has something to say. Her lips purse for a second. She stares at me with sad eyes before smiling. “Bye. I love you.”
I stare at the phone, anticipating it will ring at any second. It doesn’t. There is, however, a shift in the room. The kitchen has become my office, and I’m a receptionist, like my sister.
I guess that means I’m a lady. I’m wearing a skirt and blazer with a ruffled blouse. My hair is frosted like the ladies on TV. I am beautiful.
I have long fingernails. Red seems kind of cheap, so not that. Maybe a soft pink. That sounds perfect.
The phone rings. Oh, my! I reach to pick it up, but my inner office professional senses that seems needy. I wait until the third ring. Picking up the beige receiver, I flash on a lesson from my acting class.
“You’ve only got one chance to make a first impression!”
I clear my throat and clearly say, “Triggs’ Home Improvement. How may I help you?” Shoot! I forgot the vinyl part. Okay, I’ll remember next time.
“What did you say?” says the woman on the other end.
I repeat it, remembering the vinyl part the second time.
“Oh. I’m sorry. Wrong number.” Hang up. Dial tone. Over. Easy enough.
Two other calls come in and go perfectly. My inner receptionist is starting to realize this job is just a stepping-stone to bigger and better things. I’m sure to meet an eligible young bachelor. He won’t want me to work, but I’ll insist. After all, he knew I was a career girl when we met.
The phone rings again. This time I pick up a Barnes branded ballpoint pen for the taking of messages. After all, I am the communication hub for the entire operation. I will not allow myself to keep our important customers waiting.
“Hello. Triggs’ Home Improvement…” blah, blah, blah.
“Is Ray Barnes there?” asks a gruff voice.
“No, but I’d be happy to take a message. Someone else from the company,” AKA my mom, “will get back to you as soon as possible.”
“Really? Because this is the fourth message I have left, and I’ve yet to hear back from him. His wife and stepson have called, but I want to talk to the owner,” says the sexist man who doesn’t know he’s better off talking to my mom anyway.
“I’ll do my best to make sure…”
He cuts me off. “Lady, your best isn’t good enough. You may have to put up with this shit, but I don’t. Tell that asshole you work for that no one showed up on the start date as listed, so I’m canceling the sales contract,” says the man who doesn’t know he’s talking to a child.
Hang up. Dial tone. Over.
Left in the silence after that call, I just want to quit.