“The Next Call”
One hour and 101 names and titles later he told me “I have to go on rounds now...call back in a half hour – my shift is about to end.” I asked him, “Do I reach you at this number?” He then gave me another number to call, which I did, approximately 45 minutes later at 4:50am, and a female voice answered.

“Gate Seven, Officer Stevens,” she proudly announced, like she was serious about her job and rearing to go.

“Hello, Office Stevens, this is Maureen Sharib. Officer Gil told me to call this number – I need to speak to someone in the actuarial department...”

“He did?” she asked somewhat incredulously. “Officer Gil just left, his shift ends at 4:30.”

“Oh, dear,” I said, taking my clue from her somewhat confused understanding of what I had just said. “I was hoping to catch him; he was going to help me find someone in the actuarial department,” I repeat, letting my enunciation lengthen on the words “actuarial department” with emphasis on “...he was going to help me...”

“They ain’t in!” she exclaimed. “They won’t be back in ‘til Tuesday, some of them won’t even be back in ‘til the following week!” she offered, hinting at the fact that she knew their feeding habits, maybe even as well as Officer Gil did.

My heart swelled with hope.

“Oh, darn! I just missed him, he told me to call back This is a problem – it’s my fault – it’s almost 5, isn’t it?” I stated, sounding defeated and somewhat frustrated.

“Jus ‘bout,” she answered. “4:55 by my watch.”

“Dang!” I exclaim. “Would you happen to have his directory there at your post?” I familiarly ask.

“This ain’t his post – he’s assigned to Gate Six. This time a’ night we watch each other’s gates, I can see his gate from here...” she confides, beginning to fall again off-track on me.

“That’s good,” I concur. I ask again, knowing the stakes are ratcheting up, “Do you have his directory?”

“Nah, I have my own – all the gates have one. All seven of them,” she breezily informs, spilling some of the beans.

“Oh, even better,” I encourage. “Officer Gil was going to help me – I need to talk to someone in the actuarial department...”

“I tol’ you – they ain’t in!” she exclaimed, her patience finally wearing thin. “Hol’ on jus’ a second!” she commands.

I wait patiently as I hear something drop and realize the phone has probably dropped onto what sounds like a hard floor. A few seconds later she comes back. “Hello, hello – you still there?” she anxiously asks.

“Ouch,” I gingerly respond. We laugh. “I knocked the receiver off my desk,” she confesses, "I thought I lost you...”

“No, I’m still here, bruised, battered, but still here.” We laugh again.

“I’m sorry,” she apologizes.

Sorry is good.

“Office Stevens, can you look in your directory and tell me who’s in the Actuarial department?” I ask, knowing that I’m all in.

“Whatchu’ need to know for?” she sasses back, seeming to forget the fact that she “almost lost me”.

“Officer Gil and I were going over the operations department and (my bad) I failed to call him back on time,” I diverted, hoping she would accept my explanation, beginning to believe that she might be rather challenged in the comprehension area. “My butt’s still smarting!” I teasingly remind, trying to bring her back on to my point.

“Oh, I see,” she trailed off, sounding a little confused, chuckling in the process.

I went silent, waiting for the next words out of her mouth, knowing I was at the make or break point.

“What’d you say you needed?” she volunteered.

“I need to know who’s in the Actuarial department,” I answer.

“Actuary’s mixed in with Underwriting - there’s a whole passel o’ them on that floor,” she knowingly offers.

“Are they identifiable by anything?” I ask.

“Yeah, they have an A after their name if they’re Atchuary - I mean Actuary - I always say that word wrong,” she laughs. “And they have a U after their name if they’re an Underwriter,” she tells me.

“Hallelujah!” I think to myself. Two birds with one stone.

“Okay, let’s get busy,” I instruct her, taking the reins. “I’m ready – shoot!”

“You need ‘em both?” she asks.

“Yes, both – that’ll be fastest. After the name, just say U or A. I’ll get it straightened out.”

And she does. 148 of them in about an hour, with a break for her to let someone pass through her gate and another to sop up the half-full coffee cup she knocked over. She didn’t mind – the coffee had gone cold anyway, she said.

doggedness noun; The quality or state of being stubbornly unyielding: bullheadedness, hardheadedness, mulishness, obstinacy, obstinateness, pertinaciousness, pertinacity, perverseness, perversity, pigheadedness, tenaciousness, tenacity, willfulness.
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Another great read...thanks for sharing Maureen!!

PJ

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