Of goats and men
Last updated 11/4/2020 at 10:39am
Editor's Note: In the interest of maintaining privacy, people's name, street names and other identifying landmarks (including house colors), have been changed in this story.
One of my more important responsibilities as circulation manager is making sure that carriers know when certain houses cancel or new ones have been assigned to them. Since I like get things finished promptly and have a record of what I said afterward, I communicate to a lot of carriers via text messaging.
This is generally a good system, but it can get interesting if I'm not sure who I'm actually talking to do. Recently I asked a carrier, who as far as I knew was a boy 10-14 years old, to take care of something on his route. The response read, "I'm out of town so I will let my husband know about it." I spent a few seconds pondering what to make of this statement before I remembered that the boy's mother was my point of contact.
On rare occasions, the system breaks down in ways that leave everyone confused. For example, here's what happened on March 6 - the first week of my first full month as newspaper circulation manager:
Shortly after I entered the office, one of my coworkers told me she had been contacted by someone who lived on Smith Street (not the actual address). Evidently, the person had noticed one of our newer carriers, "Ben," dropping off a paper at a home which was actually vacant. The homeowner had moved several weeks earlier, and had apparently neglected to let us know. Obviously, this meant I needed to tell Ben to remove that particular house from his route. Unfortunately, we didn't have the house's address. The person who spoke to my coworker had pointed out the house, my coworker had gone up to the house to get a look at it, but the house didn't have a visible house number anywhere on the front. All we had was my coworker's description of the house.
Fortunately, the house was very distinct, so I figured it wouldn't be too hard for Ben to know which place I was talking about. I got out my phone and I texted Ben's father:
"Hi, this is Connor Salter from the Fountain Valley News. Please let Ben know there's a green house (1 Smith Street) on his new route. That house no longer has any residents, so please stop all deliveries to them."
I waited two minutes and then remembered another detail my coworker had mentioned. So I sent another text:
"The house may have a different address, but you should be able to recognize it when you see it. It's a green house with several additions near a goat farm."
Then I got a reply:
"Wrong number you are texting."
Oops. I checked and realized I had mistyped two digits. I quickly wrote back:
"Very sorry about that."
The person answered:
"That's OK. The whole goat thing was kinda funny."
"Thanks for taking this so well, won't bother you again."
The next time I was able to get the right number and Ben's father responded promptly. He asked if the house might have a different number. I said maybe and that he could get back to me next week after he knew for sure.
Ten days later I checked in again. Ben's father told me he thought the house was blue, but it was definitely near a goat farm. I decided I was pretty certain we were talking about the same place. At any rate, I made sure Ben knew to stop all deliveries to that location, and moved forward from there.
I never did get around to asking my coworker if she was sure of the house's color. Sometimes it's best to just let sleeping goats lie.