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The dreaded 5:21 a.m. phone call December 12, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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So I was in a deep sleep this morning, dreaming about something I can no longer remember, when my phone rang at 5:21 a.m. It was some agency drone (I assume in Europe) who obviously didn’t realize there was a time difference between the U.S. and Europe. I had to have her repeat herself twice before I actually understood what she was trying to say, and even then I don’t think I really understood it. She asked if I was “still looking for work,” she had downloaded my resume from somewhere, and that she would send an e-mail to my Gmail account, which was a clue to me that it was an agency I had never worked with before. Needless to say I brushed her off and went back to bed. I don’t even think she realized she was waking me up – that’s how intent she was on getting her message across. Talk about a total fail! Still no e-mail in my Gmail account… but I have a raging headache and will be wrecked for the rest of the day.

I know, I know, I should turn my phone off, but these calls come so rarely that it really isn’t worth it. If it had been a legitimate client calling at a more respectable hour I would have been more than happy to talk with them. I suppose I should be grateful that it was 5:21 and not 3 a.m., which I have also experienced in the past.

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1. Irish polyglot - December 12, 2008

Oh boy does this ever sound familiar! Imagine changing time zones every 2 months and deciding not to bothering your outsourcers/clients with such information.
The huge disadvantage is that mid-morning wake-up calls are not so uncommon for me. Luckily 95% of my communication is email based, but occasionally they call. Even emails need an immediate response!

I found that the worst place in the world to work when you have European clients is the Western coast of the states (California for me in September). 9am-6pm in Paris translates to midnight to 9am!!! I had to have my laptop set to make noise when I received work emails, so I would be woken up to accept or refuse the translation. Sound drastic? It was only necessary for September. I get back to sleep quickly and I almost never get sent translations with a deadline for the same day from my outsourcers, so I can work local time.

Here in Buenos Aires there’s only 3 hours difference to Paris (getting up at 6am isn’t a problem for me), and from January I’ll be in India available for work until around 11pm.

Feel free to call me completely crazy 😀 All this timezone confusion is part of the fun for me. In Montreal if I was called before 7am I remember saying “Good morning” but after 7am I’d say “Good Afternoon” 😛

2. Werner Patels, M.A., C.Tran. - December 12, 2008

That was probably an agency in Germany that was looking desperately for someone to repair an unsalvageable translation of 35,000 words for Monday morning! (Details here)

As for the phone business, my business phone goes to voicemail automatically, for the very reasons you describe. People call at all hours of the day, sometimes with the most inane requests, while some cannot even do simple math to figure out the time difference between where they are and your location.

3. Judy Jenner - December 12, 2008

That’s certainly not a very pleasant way to wake up, is it? As a general rule, I don’t answer my office phone or cell phone unless it’s a reasonable time of day if I do not recognize the number. If I do recognize the number, I will most likely answer, even if it is early (people always forget I am on PST, which is why I now added “Las Vegas, NV” to my signature in Thunderbird). I definitely draw the line an answering the phone in the middle of the night from someone I don’t know. I am always stunned how people whom I have never met or never heard of call late in the evening begging for a translation and saying they are in a bind — but that’s a different subject. My standard response is “No, I am booked”.

4. Kevin Lossner - December 14, 2008

I think this happens to all of us who work or relate across time zones. I thought I was the exception to this until last night after the Nth bottle of wine making the round in the second day of celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday, be casually mentioned how I used to wake him up years ago in Germany with 3 am calls from California. Oops.
To avoid problems like this, we built a separate, sound-insulated apartment in our house, which serves us as offices. When the door is closed and the phone rings, it’s up to the answering machine to deal with it. It’s not even that I’m not “hungry” enough to ensure 24/7 availability as some seem compelled to do – I’ve just realized the hard way that we have got to fence off some time in our lives when we are not “on call” and can actually relax. I have actually learned to smile when missing out on “big opportunities” because I decided I needed a nap in the afternoon and got away from the phones to take it.


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