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Operator? Operator!


Almost all of the roughly 11,000 employees at radio station Sunny 93.9 are named Chris Johnson. At least, that's what they said when they all called me one Friday.

The Chris Johnsons are of different genders, but are all very, very perky. The Chris Johnsons are all concerned with how I'm "doin'." They also want me to listen to Sunny 93.9.

Let me explain. I am a receptionist at an office suite--though my official company title is "director of first impressions." (Thank you for not laughing.) I greet visitors and answer phones for 75-plus companies.

Now I should tell you that in a shared office situation like mine, the suite has a block of numbers in consecutive sequence, usually beginning with the same three digits. Calling centers like that used by Sunny 93.9 automatically dial numbers in sequence, and when a live voice answers, a worker--in this case one of the Chris Johnsons--jumps in.

Consequently, for one memorable hour, here's how the incoming calls went:

Me: (Answering line 1) Good afternoon, XYZ Law Firm. How may I direct your call?

Male caller: Hi! This is Chris Johnson over at Sunny 93.9 radio! How're you doin'?

Me: Please hold.

Me: (Answering line 2) Good afternoon, Happy Househunter Realty. How may I direct your call?

Female caller: Hi! This is Chris Johnson over at Sunny 93.9 radio! How ARE you today?

Me: Please hold.

At one point I had four Chris Johnsons on hold with a dozen or so more calling in. I kept trying to explain that they were tying up the switchboard, and about the number sequence, but they were calling in so fast there wasn't time. Also I didn't want to be rude, because the Chris Johnsons were all so darned pleasant.

Finally, I briefly explained my dilemma to a very nice, female, youngish-sounding Chris Johnson. She apologized and said she would try to do something about it. Within minutes I got a call back from a lovely representative named ... Monica. She asked for our exact number sequence, apologized for the hassle, explained that although she would put the cease-and-desist order through immediately, we might get a few residual calls. Finally, silence. Within minutes the phones started ringing again, but they were the usual mundane calls. No more perky questions about how I'm "doin'."

That was Friday. On Saturday I did something I haven't done since moving to Raleigh in 1997. I switched from the country station I've been listening to all this time but have grown tired of, with its constant stream of Toby Keith jingoism. I really haven't felt like a loyal fan since they pulled the Dixie Chicks after Natalie Maines' anti-Bush remarks, anyway. I tuned in to Sunny 93.9. Within minutes, I was tooling down Capital Boulevard singing along with Three Dog Night, and smiling. So to all you Chris Johnsons out there, I would just like to say ... I'm doin' fine. And thanks.

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