‘What about the switchboard?’
It usually doesn’t take long for an often-used word or phrase to lose its meaning and become cliché. Although I’ve heard “unprecedented times” repeated over and over lately, it still perfectly defines this time.
When staff members who were able began working from home, the question was asked, “What about the switchboard?” Would it be best to continue working on-site as usual? Would it be better if all calls were sent to voice mail and checked remotely throughout the day?
In the end, it was decided I would work from home and all calls would be routed to my cell phone. Yes, that’s right! If you’ve called the Sisters of Providence recently, I have answered your call on my cell phone. What a blessing for me to be able to answer calls as they come in while staying safe!
I have been a switchboard operator for the Sisters of Providence for 16 years and the calls can vary – questions about theology, questions about Mass times for area churches, questions about the best local florist, or even “Who used to live in the house that sits across the road from the church in the Village?” Still, I’ve found most calls fit neatly into one of two categories: Calls for employees or calls for sisters. However, during these “unprecedented times,” there have been more calls from people who just simply want to talk. I fondly remember one call I received during my second day working from home and I think we both found peace while talking with one another. Lately, I’ve had more calls from former students or old friends of sisters looking to reconnect. How nice that so many are taking the time to do more of that!
For me, the most “unprecedented” thing has been where I happen to be when I answer switchboard calls. I have taken calls while on a hike, while mowing my lawn and while baking bread. I’ve even had some calls in the middle of the night. Sorry if I sounded a bit groggy!
But among the many calls I have received during my time working from home, one stands out as my clear favorite.
A man called me one afternoon and told me he was having a terrible time. After attempting to call several places all around the state, he was frustrated because most places were closed. He said even when he did get someone to answer the phone, he hadn’t been able to find anyone who would take the time to talk to him. He asked if I would please listen and try to help. I tried to sound confident when I said, “Yes, I’ll help you.” but what was I agreeing to? Was I getting in over my head?
Turns out all he wanted was the definition and proper spelling of a word!
Now I can add Reference Librarian to my list of job duties. Unprecedented!
. . . and if you were wondering, Henry and Florence Caserotti used to live in the house that sits across the road from the church in St. Mary’s Village. He ran the local grocery store and worked for the Sisters of Providence in the print shop.