Maria had the best phone voice I’ve ever heard. You know how some people just have great voices, like Trace Adkins. I could listen to Trace Adkins read a phone book and be sad when he reached the end.
It turned out that Maria had once worked for the phone company and had cultivated her phone voice while in their employ. She didn’t sound particularly special normally, but when she picked up a phone her voice completely changed. It got deeper, well-modulated and calm. A bit like Anne Bancroft in The Graduate. She sounded like no matter what your question was, she had the answer. There was something both authoritative and utterly competent, and also completely soothing about her phone voice. I wish I came across like that when I answered the phone, but I suspect my efforts translated roughly to “Oh my God, what is it?!”
Maria had been an operator for years, eventually retired, and then acquired her current clerical position (the same job as mine). I couldn’t really tell how old she was because she was one of those energetic older people who don’t seem to be as subject to gravity as the rest of us. She had a whole slew of kids and grandkids. I got the impression she supported a lot of them.
Maria was kind of an ass. She played solitaire at her desk until she heard anyone in management coming. Then she’d be up like lightning to the nearest counter where she’d position herself to be seen staring intently at the contents of a file as though in the middle of solving some very prickly problem. I wanted to yank the file out of her hands and whack her with it.
She also never missed a walk with our supervisor, Barbara. Barbara took a walk around the block on her morning breaks. There was a small group of regular attendees, including Maria. The walks would get a little longer every day until someone in upper management commented, and then they’d go back to being about 20 minutes. If I’d had any sense, I would have joined them. No one who walked with Barbara ever got assigned to the staple pit.