Small Humiliations: Part IV / by Courtney Mehlhaff

When I first moved to the Twin Cities, I worked retail for about a year. As part of my job, I answered the phone. This is in addition to dusting, straightening, restocking, gift wrapping, counting out the tills, and taking out the trash (I didn't have a job where I wasn't responsible for the garbage until I was 26). Oh, and I also got to call 911 after the occasional skateboarding punk tossed a lit firecracker into the store, since I was a supervisor who made 50 cents more than the other clerks.

But I digress. The crux of this little story is the phone. One afternoon, I received a call for another employee, whom I knew was on break. I told the caller this and put her on hold.

The phone rang again. This time, it was an employee I was good friends with who wanted someone to check the work schedule for her. I put her on hold as well. And then, because I couldn't resist making a joke, I picked up the receiver and proceeded to sing my own rendition of call-waiting music to my friend.

The song I chose? "The Girl from Ipanema."

I don't know why this was my go-to tune, other than it seems appropriately Muzak-ish. But I wasn't really singing, just "doot-doot"-ing.  As in "Doot doot doot doot, doot doo-doot doo-doot ..."

I think I got almost to the chorus before the person on the other end, the first person I'd put on hold, the person on LINE ONE and not LINE TWO, said, very confused, "Uhhhhhh ... so is Chris there or not?"

Realizing I'd just made a complete ass of myself by humming sweetly and happily into a complete stranger's ear, I was at a loss for an adequate explanation. I think I simply replied, "Um, yep" and gingerly placed the receiver back in its cradle.

But that's the kind of employee I am. Always willing to go the extra mile. Even if it means digging into my limited repertoire of 1960s bossa nova music for random people's entertainment.