• When you decide not to hang up •
[7 MIN READ] One of the people I get together with regularly is happy to break bread at any of a few places where we usually frequent, but occasionally we need to expand our horizons. A recent attempt to do just that became an exercise both in information seeking and being in community. It began with the text message: Where should we meet?
I began with Google: pubs [town name] PA. Within the first 10 search results (which in Google is the first page), I found a local name that I didn’t recognize (“Pub” going forward) and sent it to Friend. He, in turn, looked at some of the social media comments and found a passing one about smoking at its bar.
Not every search is worth doing every time, so even though I didn’t think restaurant smoking was legal in PA, I didn’t bother investigating. Maybe the patron happened to be there when the bartender didn’t feel like leaning on a regular. Neither comment nor rationalization boded very well for Pub, but I was still curious.
Information Guy (me) offered to call the place and get some clarification.
Pub didn’t have a website and its Facebook page hadn’t been updated in 7 years (since 2015): more ill boding. A search on yellowpages.com listed 2 numbers. The first number followed “Phone” and looked like a cellphone number. The second followed “General Info” and had a local area exchange. Since one SM poster had said Pub’s telephone number went to a private residence when they called, I decided to dial the latter. I guessed wrong.
I realize there were already so many reasons not to go any further with this whole exercise. What can I say? If for not any other reason than just the insight you can gain, sometimes the exercise is worth the effort.
Someone clearly was on the other end of the line after the ringing stopped; I could hear movement. I waited for a greeting. And waited. For about 15 seconds. I finally said “Hello?” After 5 seconds, I did it again. After the 3rd time, I also said, “I’m trying to reach Pub.”
That did it: “I’m sick and tired of these calls! Why do people keep calling me?”
Another reason not to go further. Any rational human being would have hung up. Any rational human being would have opted not to call in the first place. I responded. “I am so sorry,” I said. “This must be incredibly exasperating.” Woman: “This happens all the time! I’m a 56 year-old woman and I keep getting these calls. I answer at 2:00 in the morning because it could be one of my kids. Then I get some woman calling me a whore and accusing me of lying that it’s not Pub and that I’m cheating with her husband.” That was not the end of it. I just listened sympathetically. The world is full of people who just want to be heard. Sometimes the exercise is worth the effort.
I learned she was married (Her husband doesn’t like the calls any more than she does.). I learned she went to the pub and asked them to remove her number from their listing (They stared at her like she was an idiot.). I learned she would never eat there (The floor was sticky. Mission accomplished for us relative to eating there.).
I spoke up: “Yeah, Pub can’t do anything about the telephone number themselves. It’s a telephone directory issue.” She mentioned the name of [presumed directory service] that she wanted to call but hadn’t yet. It was the name of a popular website design application. I wasn’t about to correct her. She mentioned calling yellowpages.com and being told she’d have to pay to make the change. I wasn’t about to contradict her (aside from that fact I couldn’t understand how you could make a change at all on someone else’s listing.). She mentioned complaining to her adult kids: “As much as they know about the internet, they didn’t know what to do.” I spoke up: “Yeah, the internet isn’t as obvious as people think. I’m not surprised if they couldn’t help.”
Over the numerous minutes of venting I gave her (during which she also apologized for yelling at me about something that she knew wasn’t my fault), she said, “You are the nicest, most patient person who’s ever called.” “I’m an information guy,” I returned. “I can’t promise anything, but I feel like this is something that shouldn’t be that difficult to address. My name is Calvin. Let me look a little and I’ll call you if I find anything. I know your number.”
I looked at FCC’s website which had information about telephone complaints, but the majority of the information had to do with solicitors. I considered letting Woman know she could file a complaint with them, but felt like it was too indirect an option and one not likely to stop her calls.
A search on the bad telephone number generated a substantial majority of results for Sheila, the unfortunate, now-named owner. The only promising phone directory result was for Yellow Pages. I went back to their website. The answer was on their Contact Us page: Update a Business Listing. Taking the information from that heading and going back to Pub’s business listing, I found the “Suggest an Edit” link (the maybe-not-that-inexplicable evidence that you can change someone else’s listing: that’s the Worldwide Web for you).
“Hi, this is Calvin.” (“I know; your number is on my television.”) While I explained to Sheila what I found, I navigated to the webpage and submitted a suggested edit for her. Sheila was thrilled for the little bit of hopefulness: “Something told me I should answer the phone when you called.”
Intuitions come from a place, usually one of experience. As an information person, I have a lot of experience to help me interpret what I’m seeing when I search. As a communal person, I have a lot of experience connecting deeply with people (what I call communitizing). As a person of faith I have a lot of experience processing certain kinds of conversations. Just as effective information-seeking intuition comes from a place of experience, faith intuition also comes from a place of experience…that isn’t always rational. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone say anything like what she did that resulted in an answer of non-Christian spirituality when I chose to follow up. I chose to follow up.
“Is there faith somewhere in your life?” I asked. Sheila blurted, “I wondered the same thing about you! I’m a Christian!” “As a matter of fact, so am I. I didn’t have a clear voice telling me to talk to you, but I guess I must have had my own version of the same thing.”
Sheila and Calvin had communitized in 36 minutes (11 and 5 each of conversation and 20 of research). I told her I’d check the posting in a few days to see if anything positive came of my suggestion submission.
My friend and I did not go to Pub for lunch. If my information-seeking efforts succeed for Sheila, she’s invited me out for lunch, too. If that happens, we won’t go to Pub either.
Either way, sometimes the effort is worth the expense.
Postscript: An Experimental Line of Work
Updated: 2023’04’26’W (Postscript)
One thought on “Hello? I’m Looking for Information”
Love it! Really enjoyed reading it. I think at some point you should write a book! Your style is quite engaging.