Saturday, August 19, 2006

Why I hate answering services

Last night, I had a gas leak in my apartment.

I got home from work relatively early, ate dinner, and, at about 10 pm, was finishing up the process of getting ready for my 8 a.m. flight to West Palm Beach, when I somehow noticed the smell of gas in my kitchen. I checked the stove, made sure all the burners were all the way off, and still smelled the gas. I looked around to see if there was anything or anywhere else that it could have been coming from, but found nothing.

So, I called the maintenance office. Of course, it was late, so I only got the answering service. The woman on the other end was a complete moron. I had to explain the situation to her three times. The conversation went something like this*:

Idiot: Hello, you've reached the answering service for {insert other apartment name here} apartments. Oh, whoops, sorry, I mean {insert right apartment name} apartments. What can I do to help?

Dara: Hi. I think I have a gas leak in my apartment.

Idiot: What?

Dara: A gas leak. In my apartment. You know, my apartment smells like gas.

Idiot: Is that an emergency?

Dara: Well, yeah, kind of. It's flammable. And, truth be told, it's probably not good for me to be breathing it.

Idiot: So, you want me to call maintenance now?

Dara: Yeah, that would be great.
So, the idiot took down all my information. And I waited, all the while thinking something wasn't exactly right with the conversation. In the meantime, I opened all my windows, turned on all the fans, and turned on the vent over the oven.

About half an hour later, I got a phone call. I was really excited, because I thought it was the maintenance guy, but no -- it was the idiot.

Idiot: So, I called maintenance, but there was no answer.

Dara: Did you leave him a message?

Idiot: No. I didn't know what to tell him. Your apartment was broken into. Maybe you should call the police instead.

Dara: Huh? My apartment was not broken into. I have a gas leak. Something in my kitchen is leaking gas and needs to be fixed.

Idiot: Oh. Well, I guess I'll try to call maintenance again.

Dara: Well, I'm freaking out a little here, because this is a really dangerous situation, so while you're doing that, I'm going to call the gas company. And if they can't help me, I'm going to call the fire department.

Idiot: That sounds like a good idea. But there's no fire.

Dara: Please call the maintenance guy and ask him to call me back as soon as possible.

So, I called Washington Gas. And they sent a guy out to help. Unfortunately, he didn't get there until the beginning of Conan O'Brien. While I was waiting, I called my parents, and told them the story -- and I indicated that my strong belief that the answering service lady was on crack. Of coures, I also told my parents that there was a possibility that I would die in a fiery gas explosion and miss my flight home in the morning. They were not amused.**

Right before the Washington Gas dude arrived, the maintenance guy finally called, and asked me what the problem was. I told him, and he was like "Wow, that's a really big deal! Why didn't the answering service tell me it was such an emergency? I mean, your apartment could explode."

I think, by that time, I was frustrated enough that I actually said "Duh."

He asked me whether I needed him to come up, and I explained that the Washington Gas guy would be there any minute, but that all they could really do is turn off the gas. Sure enough, within ten minutes, the Washington Gas guy had shown me that a valve on my stove was leaking, written up instructions for maintenance on what needed to be done, and turned off the gas connection to the stove.

I got to sleep around 2 and I'm sure I breathed in an excessive amount of natural gas before having to wake up at 6. I was sluggish as hell, but still managed to make my flight.

And, since I had to tell the maintenance office about the necessary repairs, I waited to this morning to call them from the airport -- just to avoid the answering service.

I am hoping that my apartment does not explode in my absence. I'll be checking the Post, just in case.

*This is as close to a verbatim transcript as I can come up with 23 hours after the fact and on 4 hours of sleep. But this is not in any way embellished or exaggerated.

**Really, I should know by now that no one in my family thinks my jokes are funny.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It could be worse. I work for an answering service while finishing my degree.

I call a certain on call all the time, and always get the same response. "The caller is 9 months pregnant and there is no hot water." "Oh...there's nothing I can do..." "The heater is on in the middle of summer, and everyone is on the roof to escape the heat" is replied with "I cant help them." Even "a pipe exploded in the ceiling, and I'm being flooded!!" was met with "oh, ok. I'm tired though. I'll talk to them tomorrow." Don't throw the a/s under the bus, when most of the time management refuses to respond to our calls.