Thursday, 24 January 2008

Dirty old men

Ah well. It had to happen sooner or later, I guess. I've been at the library now for just over a year, and finally, we've had a phone call from a Dirty Old Man. Oh, I didn't take the call myself: it rang on my phone, but as I had my hands full (ahem) my lovely colleague answered it. I watched her face as the weirdness of the call began to register. I kind of guessed that things weren't quite right when she repeated "gyrations ... copulation?" Daunted, she put the phone down and asked me who we should refer a call to from someone asking for information about "the gyrations of copulation between a male and female". I started laughing. "It's an old fella trying to amuse himself," I said. Still, she transferred the call to one of the reference librarians, who no doubt was thrilled to hear the dulcet tones of this old f****r on the line. After she'd done this, my colleague told me that he sounded about sixty or seventy years of age. She'd asked if he was a student (you do occasionally get some well-seasoned students) and he'd said no. Bless her, she treated him professionally, as though he were legitimately information-seeking, and her feathers weren't ruffled at all, which was probably a disappointment to him.

In my twenties, I worked a for quite a time as a temp secretary, and twice in my phone-answering career I got dodgy old men trying to sass it up. Strange thing is, they're always 'mature' gentlemen; there's that old-man crackle in their voices. They must be at home, bored and a bit lonely, and decide to try to get their jollies by ringing random numbers and talking dirty to any lady who's unfortunate enough to answer. Who says retirement's all walks in the park and a chance to read through back issues of the Reader's Digest? For some old fellas it's a fresh new chance to make a nuisance of themselves. Perhaps the old duck has popped down to the shops and he's got twenty minutes on his own, alone with the telephone. The other thing that betrays their age is their use of often archaic language. "The gyrations of copulation?" Are you sure you're not actually 105, sir?

I don't remember one of the calls, but the other was memorable for the request that I get on my hands and feet, followed by some other nasty muttering that escapes me now. It seemed a strange and quite uncomfortable request. Are you suggesting a downward dog, by any chance, buddy? A friendly yoga session? I think they enjoy the fact that it's about the last thing you expect to hear when you've just brightly rattled out your "Good morning, this is _____, how can I help you?" In my twenties, I could be relatively easily shocked by callers like these and both times I spent a few moments trying to respond professionally before giving in and just hanging the f**k up.

Public libraries are often magnets for these kind of weird callers (and visitors), but mine not being a public library, I've not witnessed it until now. It reminds me that I'll have to start honing my brutal, withering comebacks, so that when my time comes I can deliver a quick one-two: the short, swift verbal takedown followed by a resounding ring-off. Any thoughts, readers? I'm taking suggestions.


Hilts said...

My college sweethart worked summers answering fones out of state. I always tried to call the toll free numbers in an attemp to get her- and the one time that whole summer I did, I made sure it was a smutty response.

We were young and going through the first love thing very hard. To make a smutty crankfonecall to my girl @ work was, strange to write, deeply romantic between the two of us.


ana said...

Oh dear. Gives a whole new notion to the 'don't drink and dial' golden rule - perhaps after a certain age it should just be 'don't dial'?

There's always the reverse psychology strategy of saying something so revolting/acrobatic that they are too shocked to respond (far be it from me to come up with such a thing, I've got such a squeaky clean mind). At their wheezy intake of breath, you slam the phone down...

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog while looking for "tattle tape". Great stuff. you have a gift. will there be more?