Get up at 9:30 to get my son Kevin ready for his checkup at the doctor. Times like this I really appreciate my evening hours at C&P. Doc says Kevin's fine. Home in time to fix him some dinner and drop him at the babysitter. Then time to jump back into the car and head downtown to work.

Get to the office at 4 p.m. Chance to grab a cup of coffee and relax a bit in the lounge before plugging in.

At 4:30, put on my headset, sit down at a console, plug in and immediately begin taking calls. First few calls are uneventful. All the customers know exactly what they want.

"Brenda, what city please?

"Sally Benton.'

"What city, please?"

"I think she lives in Washington."

Thank to the DAS-C computer system, I just punch in the name in Washington files. Not there. I try Northern Virginia. Here it is.

"Sir, that number in Northern Virginia is . . ."

"Thank you.

It's so much easier and faster to search the files with the computer.

Since working in the universal directory assistance office for seven years, I have found that approximately 95 per cent of the callers are uncertain how the listing may be found. But that's my job, to serve the customer.

Real quiet evening and I start to think about how bored I am. Think about my transfer that I put in a few weeks ago to another department. Maybe I should try TSPS (long distance) operating. It would be a change. TSPS operators handle the actual connection of customers to any city in the U.S. or any foreign country.


Things didn't go well at home this morning. Seems like everything was rush, rush, rush. Arrive at work at 4:25. Grab my headset from my locker, put it on, head for a console in the back of the office so I won't have to exchange pleasantries with coworkers. I'm not in the mood. Sit down and plug in at exactly 4:40.

"Brenda, what city please?"

"What took you so long! I've waited five minutes."

I try to maintain my cool. "Sorry, madame, what city please." "Northwest Washington . . ."

"Brenda, what city please?"

"Washington. Can I have a number for Johnnie Jones?

"Madame, do you have a street address, please?"


"Madame, I'm afraid there are several Johnnie Jones in Washington. I would need an address."


"Madame, there is no way to distinguish your Johnnie Jones from all the others listed without a street address."

"Oh, Okay."

"Brenda, what city please?"

'Hyattsville. Gimme the number for Jimmy's."

"Sir, I need more information to help you."

"Whatsamatter, ya don't understand English."

"Sir, just what is Jimmy's?"

"Everyone know's JImmy's. It's the bar across from the 7-Eleven."

"Sir, I still need more information -- a street address."

'What the hell's the matter with you people?

I disconnect. For every 10 calls, operators receive at least one abusive call. Before we had no defense against these callers. But now, company policy allows us to disconnect such callers.

After a harrowing and hectic start, the calls become routine and before I know it, it's 10:30 again. Before leaving, I make arrangements to work 9 to 5 tomorrow so I can attend a church meeting. Time to unplug and trek off home.


At 8:30 a.m., I'm back at my locker putting my headset on. It's always interesting to work a day tour. I run into people I don't see very often. Day operators tend to dress up a little more, not so many jeans.

While sitting in the lounge chatting with coworkers, my group manager comes to tell me that I've passed the test for the clerical job I've applied for. As soon as there's an opening, I'll be moved. So excited, I almost choke on my coffee.

I thank her for the good news and happily move to a console to begin work.

"Brenda, what city please?"

'Hi operator. I'm calling from Los Angeles and I'll be in D.C. next week. What's a good seafood restaurant?"

"I'm afraid I don't have that information, sir, but I can give you the listing for our Convention and Visitors Center, perhaps they can help you."

"Brenda, what city please?"

"Operator, I just got hit by a bunch of dogs."

I disconnect. This man is just one of the list of frequent callers to our office. We also have a man who calls and ask, "What do you think of a 400-pound bald-headed man," and the lady who says, "Did you know they just buried a woman in the tomb of the unknown soldier."

Over a period of time, the operator learns to recognize the frequent callers' voices. It's really sort of sad. They are probably just lonely people and they call the operator to have someone to talk with.

For some reason, times flies during the day. A glance at my watch tells me that in 10 minutes I can pack up for the day and make it to my 6 o'clock meeting.


It's nice to be able to sleep late this morning -- no doctor's appointment, no day tour.

Around 10:30, the phone rings.No great loss. Kevin already has awakened me. The call is to tell me that I've been selected to work on a planning committeee for Operator Appreciation Week. I agree, sounds like it might be fun. There will be a brief meeting at break time on my regular tour of duty.

My evening tour comes and goes quickly. The evening meeting on Operator Appreciation Week is the only break we get from a routine day.


"Brenda, what city, please?"

"Washington. Can I have the number for the White House?" I key the White House into the computer.

"Madame, that number is . . ."

"Brenda, what city, please?"

"I'm trying to reach my congressman. Can you help me?"

"Certainly, sir, the main number for the Capitol is . . ."

After several calls for the White House and the Capitol, I begin to wonder if Ronald Reagan gave a speech earlier today or if something particularly newsworthy has happened. Must remember to read the newspaper when I get home or at least to watch the news during my break.

Earlier today, I was told that I would be going on an on-site visit for my new position. Pretty excited about getting a change from the routineness of the operator job, But, although he job can be routine and repetitive, it has several benefits. To me the most important is the opportunity to help people.