Thank you for calling the Oakdale Leader.
These are the words I have spent the better part of the last six months singing to callers as they contact us with their many pressing needs.
While I would like to report I have been doing this job part-time for an investigative piece on human behavior — that would not be truthful. The fact of the matter is, when my husband lost his job late last fall, something in our household had to change. Raised by a family of fighters and survivors, I knew I needed to step up.
Fortunately for our family, less than one week after my husband learned of his unemployment, a part-time front desk position opened up here at the Leader.
In my seven years of interrupted tenure here at the paper, I have voiced many opinions on management decisions I’ve disagreed with, restructuring decisions and the like. In all fairness, I must now share that at that moment of despair, wondering what the fate of my family would become, I have never been so grateful not only for a job — but for a supportive management team as well.
With my dedicated and strong handle on the Living Section of the paper; together as a team our General Manager, office manager and editor were able to help me work out a schedule to accommodate both the editorial and administrative departments. And so after five years of part-time flexible work, I was once again a full-time employee.
Being a working mom brings with it a list of challenges that I am still learning to cope with. Adjusting to the demeanor of some community members when I am seated as receptionist, however, was one I had not expected.
There’s actually a disconnect I have had to learn to adjust to. Initially I thought I could help many of the callers as they called with questions for the editorial department. Only to quickly learn, no one wanted to hear my two cents, since I was, after all, just a receptionist.
One customer was even kind enough to inform me (in person, I might add) that “if I was just a nobody, perhaps I should keep my mouth shut.”
Another customer felt it necessary to spell and punctuate his entire Classified Ad over the phone to me. Then there are others who stop by the office and, looking down their nose, inform me smugly that they were here to see ‘Teresa Hammond.’ Imagine my delight and their shock, when I have to inform them that I am Teresa Hammond.
As a receptionist I have found it interesting to hear the voices of people I know as a reporter and the difference in their tone. Now granted, I am not your ‘atypical’ bubbly, let it roll off my back type when it comes to the condescending type. This perhaps is a personality trait, which is probably better suited for the job.
I am an all about businessperson, a shortcoming, I am learning — when it comes to answering the phone.
Midway through this piece I even had a person bring in a letter to the editor. As I accepted it from her with my ‘receptionist’ hat on, she was quick to share with me that she believed the woman standing next to me (at the front desk) was the editor.
Thank God that woman came in, I have been wandering around this building for seven years wondering where all my work ends up.
I have to add that I, too, have needed a bit of attitude adjustment, accepting the fact that some of the community receives a ‘reporter’ and a ‘receptionist’ two completely different ways.
What puzzles me most, however, is this one simple question: When did it become socially acceptable to treat a person with less respect and dignity because of the title on their business card (or lack thereof)?
After all, once all is said and done … when our titles are stripped, our awards and accolades put away, we will be remembered for the type of person we were. The way we traveled through life, the impression we left on people and perhaps the heart or two we may have touched.
The business cards we hold with our titles or lack thereof, will find their way to a corner where they, too, will collect dust with all the other items we deemed important.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.