Friday, September 17, 2004


In which the phone never stops ringing...

So, I've started my job.

It's a good job. Damn it, it's a prestigious job. I love to call someone up and give my name, followed by the words, the ones that make little fireworks pop in mouth, the ones that cause my personal soundtrack to switch from instrumental noodling to Main Theme: "I'm the Deputy Editor of The Magazine. Do you have a moment?" Everyone has a moment for The Magazine. Not like when I was working for a trade magazine devoted to the manufacture and sale of the high-strength metal shelving such as you find in home improvement super-stores. Back then, half my day--hell, half my waking life--was spent trying to explain to people that there actually existed magazines devoted to such specific minutia as shelving. Big money, this was. That was when I worked for controlled-circulation magazines, what other folks like to call B2B (Business to Business) mags.

and it's not just that I can call people and say my magic words and listen to the excited response on the other end. It's that people are calling me. By the dozens. I must get at least a hundred calls per day. If only they were people I wanted to hear from.

This is the first of what I will probably come to call Dirty Little Secrets of the Business: life as an editor of a big magazine means fielding more calls from people who want something from you (from your magazine, more's the point) than just about anything else. That's why I almost never answer the phone. Especially at lunch. Somewhere out there, there's a book advising PR professionals on the best way to get a hold of an editor and get them to agree to receive whatever press release or piece of crap product or service you want to send them, and the first tip it must have is: Call folks at lunch.

What is this about? Is it that you suppose I'm sitting around at lunch, waiting for my mom or my family to call? Was there some study done that showed more magazine editors sit around their office during the noon hour and so have nothing better to do than pick up the phone when it rings.

Thank God for voicemail.

Oh, and my assistant.

Yep. It's weird to say, but I gotta say it: I have an assistant. Not sure how I feel about it yet. I really hate asking someone else to do work I feel I should be doing. I mean, no one nailed my ass to a board: why in hell can't I just haul myself down to the copier and make those damn copies myself? I have a feeling I'll get over it though.

For now, my overwhelming feeling at the thought of having an assistant is guilt. Today, for example, after three days of deciding not to answer the phone any more, I realized that my calls were bouncing out to my assistant, not to voicemail. I'm sitting three feet away here in my office. My asst. knows it, knows I'm in there, not answering my phone, forcing her to pick the damn thing up and say, "Deputy editor's office." A hundred times per day. Man, did I feel bad when it dawned on me. But she took pity on me when I came out with a sheepish look on my face an admitted I had no idea my calls were bouncing to her (how the hell was I supposed to know. I never had an assistant!). So, now we've straightened it out: NEITHER of us will answer my phone.

And if you want to reach me, don't call me at lunch. What, you want to hear me talk with my mouth full? No, I'll tell you a secret: best time to get me to pick up the phone is between 5 and 5:30. That's when family members call to see how late you're going to be, so you better pick up. But just be ready for me to be mad because you're not anyone I care about.

No, all in all, you're better off emailing me. But then you'll be part of the endless stream of story ideas from freelance writers, which is what anyone with email access and a desire to write for us seems to call themselves. And I could call myself a race car driver. But does that mean I am? It does not.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

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