Calling the right place on post can be a major pain in the ass. There are numerous extensions and DSNs, not to mention the turnover is high and people are constantly moving in and out of offices. And don’t get me started on the ‘phone directory’ provided online… it may as well be in greek since I don’t understand a word of it. Especially anything to do with the human hospital numbers, I’ve been guilty of just calling one of the numbers in hopes that whoever it is that picks up the other end can direct me easier than me mulling through pages and pages of extension numbers.
Because of that we receive the occasional wrong number from others trying to reach another department. We’ve had mental health questions, podiatry, home maintenance requests, and once even a poor mother who thought she was calling the nurses’ line that went into a long story about her son’s circumcision before I was able to politely cut her off to tell her she had called the wrong number. Usually my co worker and I would just say “I am sorry but you have reached the veterinary clinic” and refer them back to the post operator number to most likely play another game of ‘let’s try this number now” until they reach who they need to. Yesterday though… we got a call that was different.
I could barely hear the lady on the other end. At first I thought it was her connection but it was obvious she was having a hard time speaking. I turned up the volume on my phone and listened to what she had to say. She was saying something about wanting to get information about traveling across state, and that she didn’t know what documentation she needed. Being in the ‘veterinary clinic’ frame of mind I figured she was asking about traveling with pets, but before I opened my mouth to speak I heard her say the word “Veteran”…… then silence.
“Ma’am? Are you trying to call the….” I replied, then I could hear her take a deep breath and she half blurted out as if the words had been choking her in the back of her throat
“You see, I’m the mother….”
Oh GOD… she was trying to call the Veteran’s office regarding having her child’s remains moved! You could tell this poor woman was having a hard enough time making this call in the first place and just having me say “You called the Veterinary clinic, not the Veteran’s office” would make it all the more worse.
“Hold on just for a few moments Ma’am, I will get the number of the person you can contact for that”
“Thank you…. very much!”
I put her on hold and my hands were shaking. Even from that short conversation with that lady I could feel the emotion in her words. To think of what she was going through calling a military post where her child was once at and now where they will be until arrangements could be made to bring them home.. it broke my heart. The most I could do was get her to the correct people without any more delay. Thankfully my husband oversees a number of divisions on post including the Casualties. I gave her the direct number for them and she thanked me again with a little sniffle and we each hung up the phone.
I hope she is able to be reunited with her baby as soon as humanely possible.. and I’m glad I was able to help out if even a little bit by not referring her out into ‘post operator’ land.