Optimism is my downfall. As well as overestimating my kid’s ability to be quiet for a 45-minute phone call during the summer, after school or any of the other seemingly 327 early-release or teacher workdays. Regardless of the fact that no one has moved from the couch or looked up from their phone in two hours, the moment I get on a work call, all heck breaks lose. My son decides to cook a grilled cheese sandwich resulting in the smoke alarms going off. Five extra kids show up at the door and camp out in my bonus room. My daughter gets a hangnail resulting in an Emmy-worthy dramatic performance of a shark attack.
And this means that I often have to take work calls in, um, unconventional locations that make me thankful most of my clients aren’t fans of video conferencing.
1. The Closet
My Plan B is to head straight for the closet. There are three locking doors between me and the kids. And if things get really desperate, hiding behind my winter coats creates an extra sound barrier. Not that I would know this from experience or anything.
2. The Backyard
Sometimes the closet is just too far away. The noise from my kids has risen. And the clock is ticking down before I can unmute myself. My closest escape is the backdoor. So I head outside and keep walking until I can no longer hear the noise of my son’s friends running through the house playing hide-and-seek. Yes, I’ve gotten strange looks from my neighbors about why I’m walking around in the woods behind their house talking on the phone.
But it’s not always my human family members who are the culprit. I will even admit to spending 20 minutes outside in the 20 degree weather—without a coat or shoes—while presenting at a teleseminar for 60 people while my dogs barked for 20 minutes at invisible ghosts that were apparently on my front porch. I now put on my shoes if I think I may have to pull the escape hatch.
3. Disneyworld/The Children’s Museum/The Zoo
This totally goes against my goal of focusing on my kids and giving them quality time. And each time I do it, I swear it’s the last. But it seems that each time I take off a random day, the world blows up. So, we find a quiet (yeah, right) spot, pull out the electronics, and I vow to make a quick call. It all goes well until the loudspeaker that I somehow failed to realize was directly over my head shouts, “Polar bear feeding in five minutes!”
4. The Car
There are two versions of this story—one is that I’m driving and a call that I have to take comes in. I yell the code words “work call” and the kids go silent (usually). Oddly enough, this has a 90 percent success rate, and I always end the call feeling like supermom for having such well-trained kids.
It’s the other type of work call that almost always bites me in the butt. I’m sitting in the car all alone and decide to take advantage of the silence to call someone back. It seems like a safe place. Until it’s not. Like the time my son hopped in the car after soccer practice and loudly announced that he had diarrhea for a conference of 10 people to clearly hear. I’m still telling myself that my coworkers have no idea whose child provided the comic amusement for the next six months.
5. The Woods at a Playground
OK, so maybe I’m the only one this has happened to, but at the fifth-grade graduation picnic, I found myself taking a last-minute call with a potential new client whom I had been trying to get for months. I walked down a paved path to get away from the joyful noises of kids now on summer break, and then I saw it. A snake. Yes, it was shorter than my arm. Yes, I know black snakes are harmless. But I don’t like snakes. I must have squealed because the client asked if I was OK. I blamed it on static. I took the rest of the call while standing on top of a bench with one eye on the lookout for the snake’s friends that I was positive were coming to join the party. Total Score: Me 1, Snake 0. I landed the client.