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Oops, I Made an Obscene Phone Call by Mistake

Calling all telecommuters: Send or post your stories about the good and bad of working from home.

South Whitehall Patch Editor Mary Ellen Alu discovered the perils of working from home when she was getting her 5-year-old daughter Carmie ready for bed the night of a candidates’ debate and accidentally bumped speed dial without knowing it. 

Later that night she reached one of the candidates, who said he had received an obscene phone call from her number earlier. He said he kept hearing someone say, “Carmie, take off your clothes, it’s time for your bath.” 

I haven’t made any accidental obscene phone calls from my home/office but I’ve had to escape to bedrooms to conduct phone interviews when our household hubbub gets too raucous. 

For me, perhaps the biggest drawback is there is no clear line between work and home life anymore. Technology has put us all on a short leash. When was the last time you were actually unreachable? 

According to the U.S. Census 2009 Community Survey, 5.9 million people list their home as their primary workplace. Other estimates are much higher, with the numbers growing each year. 

Those of us who work from home sometimes have to remind friends and family that we really are working. Kelley Fritzinger of Salisbury Township has done medical transcription for about 25 years, seven of them from home. She said it takes discipline, but also occasional reminders to her family that she really isn’t available for trivia.  

“I’ve gotten angry and said, ‘Pretend I am not here. I am working and I’m not here,’ ” she said. “But everybody has a question: ‘Where’s the ketchup? Should I take the dog for a walk?’ ” 

The good part is she has the flexibility to work anytime and doesn’t have to dress up – she works in pajamas all winter. Without co-workers to talk to, it’s easier to concentrate. “I get so much more done at home,” she said. 

My friend, Scott Weidensaul, a writer who lives in Schuylkill County, has been working from home for almost 25 years.  For years an elderly neighbor who had a mailbox on Scott’s property would stop each day to get his mail. “Joe would blow the car horn because he wanted to chat,” Scott recalls fondly. “And if you didn’t come immediately, he’d blow the horn again.” 

Scott’s biggest distraction was self inflicted. About 10 years ago, a white-winged Dove – which is rarely seen in Pennsylvania - showed up on his property. He posted the sighting and his location to an online network of birdwatchers. “People were showing up at my driveway at 5:30 in the morning,” Scott told me. “They’d say, ‘I just drove in from Philly, do you mind if I use your bathroom?’ ” 

Scott forgot to warn his neighbor who later said the crowds of people with telescopes and binoculars were the tipoff. 

“He said ‘I figured they were either looking for a rare bird or waiting for the mother ship,’ ” Scott recalls. 

If you have a good story about working from home, feel free to post it or e-mail me. If I get some good ones I might collect them for a future column.  

Mary Anne Looby December 01, 2011 at 12:12 PM
In aswer to your question, "when were you actually unreachable?", we are all responsible for making ourselves unreachable. If you have a dedicated office space in your home, it should be off limits when you are working. By the same token when you are "not working" there should be no email, phone etc. Ignore them, turn them off, close the door. No one gets paid to work round the clock. I went through a similar thing after 9/11 when my husband stopped going into the city and worked from home. He had a dedicated office space which I stayed out of and at days end, if the office phone rang, I put my foot down. Home offices can be a blessing (pj's, no traffic etc) but they can also be a curse. No one dies wishing they had spent more time working. Do yourself a favor and disconnect.
Ann Wlazelek December 01, 2011 at 01:07 PM
This is hillarious, Margie! And sad too. Because we live in a "short leash" society doesn't mean we have to answer every call.
Salisbury Resident December 04, 2011 at 01:31 PM
"Without coworkers to talk to, its easier to concentrate" she says. Ya, just what a want...a work place free of human interaction. Respect the job. Get dressed. You may not answer where the ketchup is at home, but I'll bet you would answer a coworker if asked if there is any in the kitchen at work. Something tells me priorities are not in the right place here. Yes, I can work from home whenever I want. I choose to go in to the office. That is the respect I owe my employer. There is leash. It's a balance.
Salisbury Resident December 04, 2011 at 01:32 PM
Correction - there is no leash.

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