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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Space (01/23/06)

TITLE: Hello? Anybody There?
By Mary Lang


Michael sat at his desk waiting for his call to be put through. He was hanging by a thin line in cyberspace – that somewhere between a person you need to talk to and nothingness. He was getting irritated: he had heard the voice tell him his call was important for the umpteenth time and he was beginning to doubt its sincerity.

He only had a few minutes before he would have to show up in the board room for a meeting, and he wanted to get these charges on his credit card straightened out. He didn’t remember the charges and hoped he wasn’t the victim of some identity theft.

“Somebody! Hello?? Anybody there???” The classical music only seemed to get louder.

“Due to a high volume of calls, all our representatives are helping other customers. Your call is very important to us. Your call will be answered in the order it was received,” the pleasant voice told him.

Michael punched “O” hoping to get a real person, only to hear the pleasant voice say, “That is not a number I recognize. Please hold and your call will be transferred.”

Michael punched “*” hoping to by pass the recording, but again, “That is not a number….” Michael hung up the phone swearing lightly under his breath. He considered starting over, but the board meeting was looming over his head and he felt time constrictions close in on him. He would have to try reaching customer service at the credit card company later.

“That was totally useless,” he grumbled clearing a space on his desk to go over the meeting agenda. The first item caught his eye. It was titled, “Outreach Program: Telephone Staffing.”

“Boy, do I have input there,” he thought remembering the telephone vacuum he had just floated through. He stuffed the notes in his briefcase and ran down the hall to the board room.

As Director of Religious Education and Outreach, Michael’s ideas were always sought and respected. Michael was known throughout the church for his uncanny ability to catch people at the right time and in the right frame of mind to successfully get a project rolling.

Pastor Jim McDuffy had just started the parish council meeting when Michael flew into the room and grabbed a seat at the long oval table. His blue eyes twinkled mischievously, “Held up in cyberspace, again, Michael?”

“Actually, I was.” Michael’s neck reddened even though he knew the Pastor was teasing.

“Here’s an idea to enrich the Outreach Program,” Michael addressed the five board members. “We can employ our junior and senior high school students to man the outreach phones with training by our full-time coordinators. Pastor McDuffy and I can work out the logistics with the school’s youth transition program to allow them to get class credits.”

Pastor McDuffy asked, “Michael why are you so intent on staffing the outreach phone lines? We have message phones and forwarding capabilities.”

Michael looked into those now serious eyes. “Because people need help at the time they make a call. They don’t want to hear music or that their call is important. We do not want anyone to say that they called God’s workers on earth only to be left hanging in cyberspace.”

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This article has been read 758 times
Member Comments
Member Date
terri tiffany02/01/06
I had a problem with the pastor swearing at the phone. Otherwise, each sentence was well written. The ending was a bit hurried for me but the point was well taken!
Lynda Schultz 02/02/06
Me too - on the swearing part - though I confess it happens more than most of us would like to admit. Let's not make it seem like it's okay. Maybe you could have included our hero feeling badly about letting the situation get the better of him. However, that said, this was well written and a great take on "space". I too dislike answering machines, automatic tellers, being "on hold", having to push 47 buttons to maybe hear a human voice and other related things that don't put me in touch with real people. Good insight and application.
Linda Watson Owen02/02/06
Very good storytelling based on a relevant need in our world. Your example of phone contact crosses over into many areas of Christian servanthood. This is a challenge to timely heart and hands on ministry. Thank you!
Amy Michelle Wiley 02/02/06
I, too, hate those "Your call is important to us..." messages. I enjoyed this!
Maxx .02/03/06
Liked it! I like the concept that God might even use those long annoying holds as part of His master plan. Had the pastor not been placed on hold he might not have decided to staff up the lines ... a life might not have been touched ... a person might not have been saved.

Gives you a little more respect for being put on hold! ;-)
Phyllis Inniss02/04/06
Very interesting article. I enjoyed it. I hope Michael's suggestion is put into practice where I live. It's very frustrating to be carrying on a conversation with a machine that does not give you the answers you want.
Marilyn Schnepp 02/04/06
Brilliant! We've all been there/done - and sometimes the music isn't THAT soothing. But I loved the Read; the writing was supurb, and the ending was.... back to... Brilliantly done! In fact, exceptional!
Marilyn Schnepp 02/04/06
PS: Michael was not a pastor; so pastor did not swear into phone. Just went back to re-read-to make sure.
B Brenton02/05/06
It was a great point. There needed to be more emotion put behind the suffering of being on the front edge of telephone technology when Michael wasn't getting heard to REALLY drive the point home.
I see potential plus in this though...