Similar to what I did last summer with ‘The Lifeguard Chronicles,’ I have decided to share some survival guides for the next several posts. Today, we discuss how LizHarrell survives talking on the phone all day long.

LizHarrell does not like the phone, and does not feel that she is alone. Many people have no love lost for this piece of technology, and, despite its many conveniences, would rather Alex G Bell had spent his time creating the text message so that today I would be texting via direct thought instead of on an ancient Motorola that won’t even allow cuss words in its predictive text. Anyway, I would rather carry on any variety of personal conversation through text and email than over the phone any day of the week, and wish it did not make me appear anti-social and unpleasant that I feel this way.

But, folks, this is a modern world and the phone is a large part of it. I can avoid 85% of all personal phone calls if I’m willing to really put effort into it. But at work, I’m stuck with the business standard way of communication: the phone. Email is fab, but I find that most people feel their problems are more effectively resolved with voice-to-voice communication. I get it. I really do. Especially in my customer-oriented field of work. You want a person to help you.

Problem is, you probably also want a person to help you who has some basic phone skills. Shy as I am, I learned these business phone skills easily while working as a lifeguard and even came to relish the phone answering chore. I honed my talents at the chain bookstore I rather infrequently mention these day for which I served as an assistant buyer in the corporate office. I was so good at it  that the receptionist and back-up receptionist thought it would be cool to go to lunch together most days and leave me to pick up the phone. I ask you, what’s the point in a back-up receptionist if that person is gone at the same time the regular receptionist is gone? Quite right. None.

My phone skills suffered as a sales rep, mainly because I was no longer fielding phone calls; I was making them. Or rather, coming up with every reason ever NOT to make them. Once I had my spiel down it got easier. But I am convinced it would have taken years of intensive therapy to overcome my hatred of the phone had I continued down that path.

Now I’m back on track and answering the phone like a(n almost) pro. I almost never know what problem is going to be thrown my way, but that’s sort of part of the adventure. Until I get fifteen LONG phone calls of an identical nature. In a row. Before lunch. But you know what, even if it isn’t much of an adventure, I still get a kick out of whipping out my secret weapon: Super Professional Smiling LizHarrell. SPSLH is the best phone answerer in the world. She smiles when she picks up the phone, even though no one but her co-workers (who may or may not believe her to be insane at this point) see her. She has a bright, clear tone that people love to listen to. She is the friendliest person on the face of the earth. She is helpful. She knows almost every answer, and if she doesn’t, gosh darnit, she’ll figure it out for you. She is never irritated that you are calling with the same question fourteen other people have already asked her that morning. She enunciates. She oozes charm. She is amazing.

She is obviously NOT me. But I have gotten quite good at pretending to be SPSLH. Not only do I have people thanking me on bended knee when they end the conversation, I’ve actually pulled off a major con at the same time. I am diabolical! I am fooling the world. Little do they know how much I spent the fraction of a second between phone ringing and my answering dreading every moment of the conversation I was sure to have. No, they believe I love it.

And you know what? I sort of do. SPSLH makes me better. And she can make you better too. But I recommend coming up with a new name. And potentially tweaking the gender. Or perhaps her goals in life. Maybe she should be a vegan, or something. You know, whatever works.


I’m such a lost cause when it comes to fashion… not much of it fits my body the way it’s supposed to, nor do I have a real grasp on what comprises good and bad fashion. But for some reason, I am incredibly intrigued by clothes. It truly thrills me when I put together a killer outfit. I don’t have oodles of money to spend on clothing, but now that I’ve discovered the joys of online shopping, I’ve become quite a shopper. I understand now why people love clothes so much! I’ve always hated dressing rooms, but trying things on at home is truly luxurious! But I digress… back to the point:

There is a distinct correlation between how I feel and how I’m dressed. I always feel much better when I’m wearing pretty colors and styles, skirts and heels. I’ve also seen this in action in the high school where I taught – the kids who best followed the dress code (the guy’s code was much stricter than the girls – so they tended to be better dressed) were MUCH better behaved than those that dressed more casually. And my dad, on days when he works from home, always gets up and puts on his work clothes, no matter what. This is a goal I really want to live up to but often don’t. It’s so easy to prefer the comfy clothes to fashionable and presentable clothes, but I find that it often isn’t worth it.

I wonder if this is why those perfectly productive housewives of the 1950s were always wearing dresses and heels around the house? Because I’ll tell you, the days I wear pajamas 24 hours straight are my least productive days. If it weren’t such a chore to do laundry, I think I’d be more willing to break out the nice clothes for at home office days… but it creates so much work to do that. On the other hand, I do really get more done when I’m dressed down to my shoes. So, as I experiment with adulthood, I think my next small step will be to get dressed to the shoes every day for a month and see how much more productive I become. This is going to be a hard resolution to keep I can already tell, but I’m betting on it being worth it.

Now, I’d better get out of these pajamas… I’ve got a phone meeting today and I’m sure it will go better if I wear those strappy sandals, my new Old Navy top and some khakis. Much better.