Monday, December 17, 2007

Anatomy Of A Phone Tree

Here's the way it works. If we're not having school, the faculty emergency phone tree goes into effect. OK, I don't really know if the word 'emergency' is on there. But we have one of those little guys for each building. You're only supposed to be on one, where you start your day, but one of the travelers last year was on two. So she was sure to get the message. Of course, she also had to call two people. Even Steven, don't you know.

Usually, the phone tree works just right. But sometimes you get a dead branch, or worst of all, the tree sprouts too late in the season. Last night, the tree was a bit sickly.

It all started with my #1 son. I heard him talking in his room. I am the nosy type, who believes in keeping her children under her thumb. The boy is known to be talking in his room for two reasons: he's on his phone with a crony, or he's talking to the imaginary 'Tony'. Thank the Gummi Mary, that last one hasn't occurred since he was three. But sometimes he will talk for hours, or past 9:00 p.m., and I must put a stop to it. Around 6:15, I went in to see who he was talking to. "Just SmellALot," he replied. I told him, "Ask how the roads are around his house." SmellALot (who does not smell, but that sounds like the name my son calls him) lives in one of our rural areas. The conversation went downhill shortly thereafter.

Some are clear; some are snow-covered.
That fills me in.
Hey! SmellALot says his mom called ElemTeacher, and she said we're not having school. Wait a minute, SmellALot! How do you know that? My mom hasn't gotten a call.
That's right. Ask him how ElemTeacher found out, and how long ago.
How old is she?
What are you asking him? She's in her thirties. That has nothing to do with it.
I mean, how old is the call? How long ago did she find out?
I swear. You don't know what you're doing.
SmellALot says it was just a few minutes ago. ElemTeacher got the call from her list.
Well, it was just a few minutes ago. I might get one any minute. I know--I'll call Mabel.
Do you need the phone? I'm on internet.
You big idiot! No wonder I haven't got a call! How are they going to call me if the line's busy?
Oh. I'm an idiot.
Get off it. I'll use the cell to call Mabel.

Mabel verified that indeed, we did not have school. She had just received her call, but hadn't called the next leaf on her branch. Of course, we had to chat for 15 minutes. During that chat, my phone rang. It was the wife of the leaf above me on the phone tree. It went a little something like this:

I tried to call you, but your line was busy.
Yes. My son was on the internet.
Well, when I couldn't reach you, I called Traveler. She's the one below you, isn't she?
Yes. So I don't have to call her?
I got her answering machine. I left a message. So you might want to call the leaf under her.
OK. I will.

I finished my chat with Mabel. Then I rang the next leaf, who sounded as if she was in the bathtub.

May I speak to NotACook, please?
Sure, let me get the phone to her.
(Splash, splash) Hello?
This is Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. We don't have school tomorrow.
Are you sure?
(No. I'm prank-calling you because I don't have enough to do)
Yes. Mrs. LeafAboveMe called while I was talking to Mabel, who also said we don't have school.
You're not the one who calls me.
I know. Mrs. LeafAboveMe left her a message because my line was busy.
Are you sure? Why aren't we going? The roads are fine.
According to Mabel, TheFreshmanHater who calls her asked Mr. Principal why, and he said we have some roads that we definitely don't want any buses on tomorrow.
I'd rather go now than make it up in the summer. We didn't really have to miss last Monday.
I'd rather have my days now, thank you very much.
Well, I guess I go shopping tomorrow.
Not me. I have to get my special projects done by the end of the week.
OK. Well, I guess I'll call the next leaf.

Whew! It's tiring to call off school. One year, the boys and I had already left before the call came. In fact, I had dropped them both off at school. A lady came out the door and said, "Boys, go get back in your car. There's no school." So I took them to my first building, where the principal was standing out front by the drive, telling people school was canceled. Just my luck. That building has a downhill to get to the highway. And three cars had just slid off the side and were in the ditch. The boys and I went to my room for an hour until the road was cleared. Then we put the LSUV into 4 Low and chugged down that slippery slope. It took us over an hour to get home. That's usually a 35 minute drive.

Mabel doesn't pussyfoot around on snow days. She takes the bus. The school bus. I prefer to trust my own driving skills as sit with my sworn enemies. Oh, and the bus doesn't run a route to my neck of the woods.

That emergency phone's the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I still watch the news to verify that we're off.


DPA said...

Phone trees are probably more reliable than the news. The morning after Hurricane Katrina I was still blissfully unaware of the full scope of what had just happened. (Tv/electricity was out.) I turned on a battery powered radio and tried to get info, but nobody reported on the schools in BFE, so I drove the 42 miles to work. Nobody was there. There was nothing on the radio. There was NO information. The only way you could've known was if you had television or if someone called you, and I had neither.

I played the same game every day that week-- calling radio stations and trying to get info. But I DIDN'T make the drive every day. I figured if I missed a day, my phone would ring.

I'm so glad I don't live in yazoo shitty anymore.

Hillbilly Mom said...

I can't believe you didn't have a phone tree. Great Googley Moogley! Did you run copies on a mimeograph machine? Was the intercom a network of tin cans and twine? Was chair-throwing a competitor sport?

OK. You don't have to answer. I'm psychic, you know.