Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Verbal Fiction

When I was a little girl, my mother told me never to lie; that it would bring misfortune. To this day, I try to avoid lying at all costs. However, there are times I engage in verbal fiction.

Below is a conversation I had with a customer service representative at one of our suppliers in which I tried out a few seconds of verbal fiction. It was about 4:45pm, twilight, and dark gray clouds hung over the entire West Coast.

Acme: "Thank you for calling the Acme Company. How may I help you?"

(The man's desolate monotone sounded like he'd just lost six of his siblings in a volcanic eruption. My empathy glans kicked in immediately.)

Me: (sunny voice) "Hi. I need to place a purchase order."

Acme: (Brief sigh indicating his dog had also run away during the same lava spewing event) "Do you have your account number?"

Me: "Sure, it is P387112"

Acme: (another sigh) "Are you still at 383 West Elm?"

Me: "Yes."

Acme: "What is your PO number?"

Me: "3XT107"

Acme: (extremely pitiful sigh) "And what would you like to order?"

(Believe me when I tell you I hadn't planned this. It just happened as a result of listening to the voice of someone in the last stages of lockjaw.)

Me: "I'd like 44 zebras, and 17 giraffes."

(long pause)

Acme: "What?"

Me: "We could use some elephants, too, but I'm waiting for an elephant sale."

(Another long pause)

Me: "Oh, wait. No, I just want 44 pounds of purge material."

(Another long pause with some choking sounds)

Acme: "Who would place an order like that? I mean, who would call and order zebras and giraffes?

(This is where verbal fiction can be dangerous. Every once in a while, someone thinks you are spouting off non-fiction)

Me: "Well, not me. I'd have to have my general manager sign off on the purchase requisition. So, really, all I want is 44 pounds of--"

Acme: "Who would even be able to sign off on a purchase requisition like that? And who would you place the order with?"

Me: (glancing at clock ticking nearer 5PM) "Well, I don't know. I just wanted to cheer you up. So all I need is 44 pounds--"

Acme: "Monkeys. How are you doing on monkeys?"


Me: "Um...we have plenty of monkeys." (holds phone away for a moment and stares at it) "I just need 44 pounds of purge."

Acme: "'Hello, God? Yeah, I need 44 zebras, 17 giraffes, and...um...better toss in about a dozen monkeys.'"


Me: "No monkeys. We don't need monkeys. Just purge."

Acme: "I wonder if there'd be a back order on the Giant Anteater."

(I trained my voice to sound as though my dog had run away in a sea of molten magma.)

Me: "Um...I just want 44 pounds of purge."

Later, I realized my mother was right. She should have also included verbal fiction in with the warning. For three days, until the purge arrived, I expected a big, flatbed truck to pull up with a cage of screaming monkeys and several very tall crates.

Perhaps an emailed purchase order would have taken less time.


  1. Well he got into it, didn't he? It was probably the first fodder for dinner table conversation that he'd had for years. I think I just wrote a really bad sentence. Oh well.

  2. Dale,

    You are right. He got into it so much that I suspect he writes fiction. I should have asked.


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