I took a really nasty call yesterday, and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about it. The call was from a woman with a Robert-something company and she wanted to speak with “the owner.” Now, part of my job is to screen calls, and we get a fair number of solicitors and other general time-wasters. I was pretty sure from the get-go that this woman was one of them. Not that I’d let that get to me, mind you.

One of my defense mechanisms for dealing with cranky people is a sort of playful antagonism, which probably dates back to childhood when I’d be asked to explain myself for one misdeed or another — and I’d cheerfully be as unhelpful as possible. I chose this tactic for dealing with this particular caller. (I should point out that answering phones is the bane of my existence. I don’t want to take calls for other people.)

I simply replied “Owner?” She said, “Yes, the owner.” It gets a little murky after that. I think the next thing I asked was “Owner of what?” and she just repeated “The owner.” After that, I think I said “I don’t understand your question-” at which point I was cut off when the woman shouted a bunch of letters at me (misspelling “owner” in the process) and promptly hung up. That isn’t how you get what you want.

Obviously, she didn’t want to play. I’ve run through all sorts of things she might’ve said instead of losing her patience with me and shouting. Perhaps if she’d said what she was calling about — but no, she didn’t do that. She might’ve clarified that she was looking for the owner of the company, or reiterated the company she was calling for. Obviously, she isn’t the sort of person our “owner” would want to talk to anyway.