QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Friday, March 6, 2009

Caution: I Work from Home

For the better part of 12 years I have worked for a major corporation from my home office. It has its perks for sure, but there is never a down moment. Challenges include not working all the time, dealing with my wonderful friends who call and expect me to be able to chat because I’m home, the dog, and the kids. Most significantly, I live in fear that I will not be muted on a group conference call.

About a year and a half ago when our dog Sophie was a puppy, a well-meaning, dog-loving colleague of mine sent a squeaky toy as a puppy gift. I was leading a fairly serious conference call with co-workers on the phone, and I was trying to juggle the mute button effectively. Sophie, like all 5-month-old puppies, had to go outside to go potty quite frequently. I would try to ask questions requiring a long answer, hit the mute button, run outside with the puppy, and make it back inside the quiet of my office in time to unmute and continue the call. This all went swimmingly until Sophie eyed the new squeaky toy lying innocuously on the floor across the room from me . Horrified, I saw that she had noticed it. Panic struck. My life went into slow motion. We both lunged for the squeaky toy simultaneously. Alas, I fell back, defeated. All of a sudden, in the background during the call, there were these very loud, sporadic squeaks which started low in pitch, rose to a crescendo, then fell again slowly at inconsistent speeds. I didn’t know what to do except laugh and explain the situation amidst uncontrollable background squeaks, feeling quite professional, indeed. It’s much easier now that she’s destroyed the squeaky toys altogether and has to potty much more infrequently, but every once in awhile, as my boss will attest, I’ll be on the phone and she will burst into a barking frenzy, stoically protecting me from a cat passing outside or a child walking home from the school bus. I am the safest home worker in the world!

Other harrowing times my kids have been home during a conference call, and inevitably they have erupted into what I would euphemistically call World War III in the background of the call. We all know that it is like trying to stop the earth from spinning to attempt to squelch a siblings’ argument, and it is rather even more impossible when one is stuck on a conference call. When this happens I have no choice but to get as far away from the boys as possible, unable to discipline them while I’m on the call. I’ll typically end up in the freezing cold (or squelching hot, depending on the season) garage or even outside so that my colleagues are not treated to the background squabble. It’s nice when conference calls fall on temperate days, to be sure. No matter, they find me. My desperate attempts to communicate wordlessly, via my eyes or flailing arms: “I am on a conference call for work; put your hands in the air, and back away slowly. Cease and desist” fall on blind eyes. It is no use. They will hunt me down and involve me in the argument, each angrily pleading with me to punish the other, notwithstanding the importance of my need to pretend professionalism on a conference call.

Indeed, all mothers know that children are like magnets to us as soon as we get on the phone, whether it’s a work or personal call. They could be outside playing with their best friends on a beautiful, warm day; the ice cream man could come along. It matters not. They employ a sixth sense which tells them that we are on the telephone now: “! … My mother is on the phone. I must GO to her now. I must ask her questions. I must speak to her NOW.”

Sometimes, neither the dog nor the children is problematic; instead, I go about my daily business if I merely need to listen rather than speak. You know those calls in which you must participate, but not actively? I fumble around the house doing dishes, running the water, pouring coffee… and after a lot of coffee….. I am terrified that, one of these days, the mute button will not be activated.

In the meantime, I persevere, ever mindful of the mute button’s status and ever protected while working…


  1. You are not alone! I have a job that requires that I frequently speak to clients on the phone, but also my constituents (I'm on the city council) and the kids will be perfectly fine until I get on the phone and then they sound like they are being mistreated in the background.

    Whenever I call my mom she always freaks out and the first thing she says to me is, "What's wrong with Tristan?? What's happened?" *sigh* How can she not remember what this is like? Actually she reminds me frequently that her kids "were not allowed to do this." Well, true cause we know she'd whack us with the flyswatter! LOL

  2. Hello from one telecommuter to another....

    The majority of my co-workers are remote workers. On a conference call there was a loud burp. No one said "excuse me" and the call continued as if nothing had happened. I admit that had that been me, I would not have said anything either as not to identify myself. After the call ended, I called my counterpart at her home office.

    "Can you believe that someone burped on the call??!!" I asked.

    "Ummm.......I think that was my dog" was her only response.

    I still laugh to this day about it.


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