Saturday, 23 April 2011

Chris Port Blog #239. "Would you like to leave a message?"

© Chris Port, 2011

This article was first written in response to a question posted on Facebook by DJ Geoff Lloyd.

"Hello there! What's the most embarrassing thing you've said during an awkward silence?"

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I used to work in investments. One Friday, I returned early from a pub lunch to find a deserted office. Almost. Our mouse-like receptionist was cowering before a woman who was literally screaming in fury.

I assumed she was an investor who’d lost money. Putting on a passable impersonation of sobriety, I coughed discreetly and came to our receptionist’s rescue. I put on my most soothing actorly voice: “Excuse me. How may I help you?”

The woman slowly turned around. Her eyes glittered like kitchen knives. She slowly looked me up and down. Then she spoke. “Who the f**k are you?” she snapped.

I smiled to show that I was in full control of the situation. “My name’s Chris Port” I said (silently praying that I hadn’t just written to her) “Assistant Manager of our Client Service Department.”

She looked underwhelmed by my title. I persevered. “What seems to be the trouble?” I asked gently.

Her eyes bulged like white balloons filling with blood. “I’ll tell you what the f**king problem is, mate” she hissed. “Your F**KING personnel manager [female identity omitted here] has been F**KING MY HUSBAND!"

I opened my mouth. I closed it. I opened it again. Then I closed it again. I must have looked like a tipsy goldfish. Whatever I said now was going to be a disaster.

Five seconds dragged by. She stared challengingly at me. It was my move. Finally, my autopilot kicked in. I put on my most polite phone voice. “I’m terribly sorry,” I soothed, “but I’m afraid she’s out of the office at the moment. Would you like to leave a message?”

It was the first time I’d seen a face turn purple since my little sister used to throw temper tantrums by holding her breath. She was speechless with fury. I think we both started to picture exactly where our personnel manager was...

With immaculate timing, our Chief Exec walked in. He took in the spaghetti western build up at a glance, obviously knew all about it, and breezed her into his office.

I can’t tell you the rest here. But take my word for it. It got a LOT worse :)

To this day, I can’t think what else I should have said. Can you?

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