Gatekeeping

Many people have gatekeepers. For many lawyers, it is a dedicated receptionist, secretary, or paralegal who guards the phone line for unnecessary distractions, thereby freeing us to focus on our work and accomplish our tasks for the day. It’s not that we want to be unavailable. We just need a bit of a buffer to do what we gotta do.

Some people have private-life gatekeepers. The simplest form of this occurs when someone responds to a question with “Man, I’ll need to run this past my wife.” Others go a bit further. I encountered one of these last night.

As with many lawyers, I’m involved with a handful of civic organizations. One is Cub Scouts, where I hold various responsibilities within our local group. During the course of my responsibilities, it is often necessary to make phone calls to parents.

Here’s how the latest call to a parent one went. I began by dialing the cell phone of Bill, a father of one of the Cub Scouts. I know Bill, having spoken to him on numerous occasions. He introduced himself to me as Bill, completed forms as Bill, and his name appears on checks as Bill. He is a very pleasant and jovial fellow.

Female voice (FV): Hello?

Me: Hi, can I speak to Bill?

FV: Sorry, there’s no one named Bill here.

(Always awkward to have dialed the wrong number, but, hey, it happens.)

Me: I must have the wrong number. Sorry about…

FV: Who is this, and who are you calling for?

Me: (Taken slightly aback.) I’m calling for a man named Bill. I’m Eric with Cub Scouts. But since there’s nobody there named Bill…

FV: Hang on a second.

(Very Short Pause)

Male Voice: This is Bill.

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3 thoughts on “Gatekeeping

  1. I get this a lot at the hospital – I was told it’s usually people avoiding debt collectors or other such folks… I’ve often been told “he’s not here” until I explain I’m calling about Mr. Such-and-sos MRI report.

    • From now on, I’m going to respond with “I’m calling from the hospital with his STD test results; and he needs to make an appointment to see me ASAP.”

  2. Having gotten a home phone recently for the first time in 7 years, I discovered that it would ring several times a day. From telemarketers. They even called during the recent Boulder County floods (we were lucky, no damage) and asked “How are you doing today?” “Not good,” I said, “We’re experiencing terrible floods. It’s all over the news.” “Oh,” the telemarketer said. “Would it be better if I called back at another time?”

    My solution? The Do Not Call List. Much easier than pretending you don’t exist.

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