Stress levels seem to be running high lately. So as we move into this holiday season, I decided to take a break from a more serious column to write about something a bit more fun.
At the chamber of commerce we answer many calls every day on a variety of topics. Given the vast breadth and depth of questions we are asked, I'd like to believe people think our staff is comprised of the most knowledgeable people in Alpena. However, I know reality is that we are the go-to organization when people don't know where else to turn. That leads to some very interesting inquiries.
Sometimes callers seem embarrassed to ask their question. If I answer and someone begins with, "This is a strange question, but ," I assure them theirs cannot possible be the strangest question we have ever heard. Usually it's not.
As I share some of our staff favorites, please don't be offended if your question is on our list. We truly appreciate the smile it still gives us today.
My favorite question so far was the caller who informed us he had a bug stuck in his leg and wanted to know where he could get it identified. If I had a bug stuck in my skin my first thought would not be to get it identified but rather, to remove it. On that same topic, a caller once told us there was a spider in her house. That wasn't too odd, but then she asked, "Can you tell me what kind it is?" Unfortunately our staff entomologist was off that day and instead we had to direct her to an online resource.
Sometimes I think because Alpena is alphabetically near the top of the list, we receive calls other chambers don't because people choose to call the first listed. This next call might have been one of those. The caller told us she was from Illinois and had decided to take a road trip to a place in Michigan she remembered from childhood. The woman was driving around southern Michigan and asked us if we could give her directions from the Illinois-Michigan border to Storybook Land. We are still stumped on this one but hope the woman found what she was looking for.
It seems we are sometimes viewed as the "keepers of all knowledge," including accurate dates and times. One caller asked, "What time it is? I think my television is telling me the wrong time." Several times a year we receive questions about holidays. Folks want to know when Easter, Thanksgiving, or other holidays fall in the coming years. Our favorites are when they ask about holidays that fall on specific dates. Like the callers who ask, "When is St. Patrick's Day next year?" This year we heard from someone who was very upset that Thanksgiving was not on the last Thursday of the month. She wanted to know, "Why did they move Thanksgiving this year?" I want to know who "they" are.
Many times callers want to know information about businesses. These are great questions, but can sometimes be challenging. Like the caller who asked, "What is that log place north of town, just past the Holiday Inn? Is that a restaurant?" Much like Storybook Land, we are still stumped by this one.
We also answer the phones for the economic development organization Target Alpena. This time of year it never fails that we receive one or more calls that start with us using our usual greeting, "Hello, Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, how can I help you?" The following are real requests we have taken from callers attempting to contact Target Alpena: "Sporting goods please," "Do you sell men's suits?" "Do you have sheets and comforters?" and "Are you hiring holiday help?" What's especially entertaining about these calls is that we always answer the phone with, "Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce," and still get questions as if we are Target the department store and not an economic development organization.
Things can certainly be crazy and stressful around here, like many of your offices and homes. We purposely take time to have some fun and appreciate things like the "strangest question we've ever heard." During this time of thanks giving, I encourage you to take some time to appreciate the little things that make you smile as well. Life wouldn't be manageable without them.
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her columns appear bi-weekly on Tuesdays.