Answering the Phones on Capitol Hill

Okay, can we all agree on one thing in a bipartisan, bicameral . . . bi . . . whatever your personal or political proclivity? Answering the phone sucks.

What other government job in the United States comes with designated, professional, psychiatric assistance? Not even combat veterans have that.

A few weeks before the Christmas, I met up with a Democratic staffer working in the Senate. Over brunch in Columbia Heights, we discussed her job:

Oh, my God! Answering phones is like being a therapist. The people who call the most often are, like, the crazy people who go on and on …

We had this one guy who called every day.  He’s a veteran.  I mean, of course, you respect him for the work that he’s done. But he went on and on about how we need to be doing research with newts for regenerative medicine. And how we can grow limbs, and give them to soldiers who’ve lost them in war, and why our boss hasn’t done anything with regards to researching newts and how they can grow back limbs and tails and …

He’d call and then get very mad about that, and I didn’t know what to say.

Especially now, it’s holiday time.  Last year, I had this woman call, and she said, “Merry Christmas!”

I said, “Oh, happy holidays!”

She goes, “No, I told you Merry Christmas.  You need to respond, ‘Merry Christmas!’”

I said, “Well, I’m Jewish.  Our boss also doesn’t celebrate Christmas.”

She goes, “Well, I could tell you, ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ and you better tell me back, ‘Merry Christmas!’”  [Laughing]

You try to be as polite as you can and not take it personally, but I know people who actually have gone to … I haven’t gone to her, but there’s a person in the Senate you can go to.  I think she’s a psychologist. Because, there are people yelling at you, all day.

Sometimes it’s about the issues, but a lot of times it’s not about whatever’s going on, on the floor.  So sometimes you take on these problems, and you don’t know what to do with all of it, but you need to vent.

So, there’s a psychologist on board….

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