The office is one of those
under-budget, under-staffed deals. Bad carpeting,
cramped quarters, fake plants. It's an insurance company called Uren,
Johansen, Potter. I'm just here for the day, to handle
"heavy phones, light filing", in my agency's words.
I am shown how to answer
the phone by a pleasant woman named Cathy.
"So, let me tell you
how to pronounce the company name," she says. "Yooouuuu-Ren,
Uh. Okay. No
problem, what's with the--
Oh no. No. NO.
At some point today, I
know I'm going to pick up the phone and say "Urine." Off
all the offices in Oakland, why did I... I start practicing in my head.
Yooooou-Ren. Youuu-Ren. You-Ren.
The phone rings, I pick it
up. "Good morning," I say carefully, "Yoooou-Ren."
There's silence on the
other end. Oh, yeah. There's other names I'm supposed to
say. I check sign in the lobby. "Johansen,
The insurance company
handles day care centers and preschools, from the looks of the filing
I'm doing. The names cover the entire spectrum of what someone
might be looking for in a daycare center. Like Hugs & Snugs
Daycare for the cutesy-poo family, and Professional
Childcare Management Services for those with a no-nonsense
approaching to child-rearing.
The filing is a pain
because a lot of the places have similar names, such as Creative
Learning Center for Children and Learning Center for Creative
Children and Children's Center for Creative Learning.
There's also a place called Husky House. Man. Can you
imagine being a kid, and some other kid asks you where you go to school,
and you have to tell him "Husky House?" Instant beating.
I guess it might be better than The Dainty Center, which is
another name I come across.
Nah, that's a beating too.
Speaking of beatings, it
turns out the Urine guy's full name is Kit Uren. Kit, which
is short for Christopher, which is long for Chris. I grew up with
the name Chris, too, but at least it wasn't followed by Urine.
Chris Uren. Ah, that's a childhood for you. Nothing like
getting called Piss Urine while getting chased home from school.
I figure when I meet this guy, he'll be a fractured shell of a man,
timid, jumpy, a walking, breathing wince.
Either that, or he'll have
a chip on his shoulder the size of a septic tank.
As it turns out, he's a
nice guy. I think. He introduces himself (Kit Yoouuuu-Ren),
and seems quite friendly. Again, I think. The thing
that bothers me about him is the way he responds to me when I tell him
he has a call or a fax.
"Kit, here's a fax
"A fax? Oh,
great! Super! That's fantastic! Wonderful! A
It just seems like
incredible sarcasm to me, but his tone is very light and airy.
There's no real hint that he's being sarcastic.
"Kit, John is on the
phone for you."
swell! I sure want to talk to him! You betcha! Super!
Great! Excellent! Good job! Great! Super!"
When he says these things,
I stand there watching him, thinking he's going to follow up his
cheerful exclamations with a surly "Take a message" or "I
hate that bastard." But he never does. I guess he's
sincere, but it still makes me nervous.
I walk around, filing
things, delivering faxes, and saying Yoou-Ren over and over in my
head, determined not to screw it up. The problem with this is,
when I say something over and over, it tends not to sound like a real
word anymore. And then I can't tell if I'm saying it right or not.
I decide to write it down
on a piece of paper and carry it with me. I spell Uren:
Y-O-U-U-U-R-E-N. I write it as small as I can in the hopes
that no one will see me using it.
The phone rings, and I
answer. I read off the paper: "Good afternoon, Yoou-Ren,
Where the hell did I get that from? Oh, right, my tiny
scribbled scrawl on the scrap of paper that is impossible to read.
It's supposed to be Johansen. I don't think anyone heard my
mistake, but now I become paranoid about getting the Johansen part
Potter. Urine, Johansen, Potter. No! Yoou-Ren,
Johanson, Potter. You-Ren, Johammond, Potter. No!
Johansen! This consumes me for hours, and I jump and fret every
time the phone rings. I decide to shove the whole thing out of my
mind and just read off the paper.
Someone asks me for a
phone number of a previous caller, and I go through the copies on my
message pad. As I'm doing this, I notice that when Brenda from
Golden Poppy Daycare called about a workman's comp claim, I had written
it down as Brenda from Golden Poopy. Great. Golden
Poopy. I'm sure Mr. Urine enjoyed that one.
Towards the end of the
day, the phone rings again, and I dig in my pants for my cheat-sheet,
but I suddenly can't find it. "Uh, Good Mor-Afternoon.
Uh... Youuuuu-Ren? You-Ren. Jo...hans...en... Puh..."
(don't say Poopy don't
Hey! I actually did
No problem. I'm a