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Find the path of least resistance — Part 2

August 29, 2012

The following is the conclusion of a two-part column.
Some people enjoy doing things the hard way. Perhaps it’s a personal test to themselves to prove their perseverance or to prove someone else wrong. As for myself, I try to find the best and/or fastest way to do something so as not to waste my time. After all, you only live once (as the young people of today remind us with their YOLO antics). If I have a need from a service provider — say I need new carpeting — I will contact or visit a business that deals in flooring. If I’ve run out of something, for example my subscription to TV Guide, I contact the company to renew.
And if I don’t know how to contact someone, I will look at all the obvious places before asking around for the answer. Back to the TV Guide. I don’t off-hand know what their phone number is, so I would look to the publication — likely somewhere it says how to get more — or I can just go from store to store (or even easier, call store to store) until I find one.
It was the late, great, John Wayne that was penned as saying, “Life is hard. It’s even harder if you’re stupid” I’m no Einstein but The Duke was on to something. Finding the path of least resistance sometimes merely takes a little common sense. I wouldn’t call the hospital cafeteria to ask about how much I owe them for my lab tests (and obviously that would never come to play as medical professionals clearly won’t allow anyone to forget what they owe); I wouldn’t call my daughter’s art teacher and ask how much money is left on her lunch card; and likewise I wouldn’t call the BMV to see where I can find a tax form — even though both the IRS and license bureau are government entities.
If I had a dime for every time someone left a message on my office answering machine asking me for information about costs for an ad, or regarding their account, I could take a very long and well-earned vacation at a tropical resort. It’s not so much bothersome as it is time-consuming for both parties — and it’s funny really — because before the caller gets a chance to leave their call-back message, they are instructed where to call for what service and which department. The newspapers themselves also note (in two locations) what number to call and whom to ask for for their needs.
The other day I felt genuinely awful for a woman who I had played phone tag with for days. For those that aren’t familiar with it, phone tag is when person A calls person B and B is busy, so A leaves a message. When B has the next opportunity to return a call to A, A is in the ladies room and thus can’t talk to B at the moment. When A is available and calls B, B is in a drive-through trying to order and then when B calls A back, A is in a meeting. The “game” can literally go on for weeks until the initial caller either gives up or finds the information or service elsewhere. As a reporter, I’m used to it because most stories begin that way. However, this woman and I played the game and once we finally connected on either end of the cell phone waves, she wanted an answer to something that I couldn’t tell her. But, had she listened to the message on the answering machine, she couldn’t save us both a lot of time and from needless chaos.
We have amazing people that work for our small-town newspapers, many of them just waiting for the phone to ring. So please dear reader, look below at the box with the newspaper’s name in it. There you will find the names and departments and contact information for anyone you might need regarding this newspaper. We work in different offices in several towns and have computers with different programs — which is why we each have specific roles to better serve you from.
If you truly need me for something and can’t reach me live, leave a message — that way I will know you called — and leave a number! If I had a nickel for every person who told me they’ve “been trying to get ahold of me” and when I ask if they’ve left a message (which I already know the answer to) they answer “well ... no,” I could afford new clothes to wear on that trip.

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