It happened again. Just the way it always happens. I'm sick of it. I'm frustrated. I think it may be time to return to the drawing board.

As always at the office, I answered the phone the other day by saying:

"Bob Levey speaking."

The first thing the voice on the other end said was:

"Is this Bob Levey? "

Now, even this early in the conversation, there's probably no way to rescue it.

Most of the time this happens --and it happens at least once a week--I'm already thinking: "Who the heck do you think it is, numbskull? I just told you it's Bob Levey speaking."

Or: "I can hardly wait for the rest of this conversation. This guy must be as alert as Sleeping Beauty. Notice how quick on the uptake he's been so far."

Or I let my mind wander a little: "Y'know, pal," I say to myself, as the voice on the phone tries to grapple with the fact that I really am Bob Levey, "the world has gone to the dogs. People are so stunned by the fact that a guy answers his own phone, rather than having a secretary to do it, that they get discombobulated right before your very ears."

But what do I actually say when "Is this Bob Levey? " happens?

Usually: "Yes, sir-or-ma'am, this is Bob Levey."

Truly, you do catch more flies with honey.

But I've been thinking that I should change my act.

Maybe I should simply say "Hello," the way I do at home.

Maybe I should be a tough guy and bark, "Levey," in a tone that says unmistakably, "I'm very busy, and you're interrupting me."

Maybe I should come up with a longer spiel -- something like, "This is Bob Levey, may I help you?" --to give the caller a little more time to fasten onto the fact that I am the very soul he is trying to reach.

But "hello" would invite the same question from the caller that I get now. Barking my last name might scare someone (and I'm not always that busy). And the longer spiel might take too much time and patience on days when I am that busy.

So "Bob Levey speaking" it is. It may not be the soul of brevity, or of wit. And it may invite a wry caller to reply, "I didn't think you were whispering, Bob." But aren't the alternatives worse?