For the last 20 years, I have been self-employed as a freelance … well, anything: writer, mediator, purchaser, project manager, director of marketing. My office is equally flexible and includes my house, my yard, Barnes and Noble Café, dressing rooms, wherever. Nonetheless, being a professional, I endeavor to at least create an illusion that I am sitting in my recently pressed Armani suit in a lush high rise.
So here’s the real play when a call comes in and I am at home. First, there is a brief but mad rush to hush all environmental sounds. Then, I close the door to my home office, tie the cord of my bathrobe, and give the call my 100% focus. Occasionally, however, calls come in to me during the “arsenic hour” – you know that time in a home around 5:00 or 6:00 pm when the kids are home, chaos is reigning, and you have just started burning .. I mean cooking, dinner.
On this particular day, I warned my kids as soon as they got home that I was expecting a very important call and that they should not disturb me under any circumstances. “Look,” I told them tripping over the dog, who had just decided to roll in . . .well something particularly foul smelling, “I am going to be negotiating a complicated deal with this Wall Street executive and I am supposed to be in the office, so “Shush! when he calls.”
“Okay mom,” they chimed and we all went on with our business. Several hours later, I figured the call wasn’t going to come in after all and started dinner. No sooner had I put the frying pan on, poured in the oil and set the burner to high, did the phone ring. Immediately, all my attention went back to work. I mentally buttoned up that Armani suit and shooed everyone out of my room.
“Hello Gary. I got your last offer and I had a couple thoughts I was hoping we could discuss . . .” I pushed aside yesterday’s cereal bowl, today’s math homework, and glanced out the window noting the overflowing bags of kitty litter cluttering the patio, then turned my attention my “smoking gun” document. Rubbing my hands together, I couldn’t wait to send it to him, followed with an “Is that your signature?”
“Mooom!,” I heard in the back ground
Gary was talking, so I stuck my hand over the speaker, stepped out of my chair quietly and poked my head out the door. “Guys!!! Shhhh I can’t talk right now,” I whispered urgently. “Remember . . my call? Well, this is it.”
Without waiting for their response I closed the door again and took my hand off the speaker
“mmhmm,” I murmured – wondering what he’d actually said.
“MOOOOMMM!” I heard in the background.
I ignored it. “Well, see Gary, I understand your reasoning for coming up with this number, but my review of the docu-. . . . . .. “
“MOOOOOM!!!” I heard frantic running across the floor and quickly covered the speaker just as the door burst open and both my kids entered, wild-eyed.
“Hello?” Gary inquired. “Did we get cut-off?”
“FIRE!!” the kids shouted
“Um Gary,” I said. “Could you hold please?”
Being at home meant that “holding please” did not involve pushing a button down, but rather firmly planting my hand over the speaker and clutching the phone to my chest as I dashed into the kitchen.
The flames, 4 feet high already peeling the paint off the hooded vent and licking on past, threatened to engulf the ceiling. Oh yeah, I was cooking. . . .
I looked at the kitchen and then at my phone. . .the flames licked higher.
“Gary, I’m terribly sorry but a little, um . . fire . . has cropped up in the office.” I hoped fervently my honesty brought to mind a teary-eyed secretary quitting or something . . . “Can I call you back?”
“Baking soda!” I whispered urgently to my kids as Gary grumbled something about checking his planner . .
“Thank you Gary. I’m sorry to end this call in such a hurry. I’ll send something over for you to look at . . . “ I smiled at the thought of what state that document might leave his Armani suit in ..
I hung up. Then calmly proceeded to douse the fire in my kitchen.
All in a day’s work.