Today I needed to interview one of our branch managers to get his opinion on… well, on something businessy and therefore boring to pretty much everyone except us. Possibly including us.
I’ve spoken to this branch manager before – in my prior role here in the company – so we have a little history and a decent rapport. But a lot of our engagement at that time was via email, with only the briefest of phone conversations. The half-hour we spent on the phone today was the longest conversation we’ve ever had.
And it felt a bit… odd.
Not because of the call itself. For all I can be a phone-phobe, I can suck it up when I need to. Besides, I’ve done a bunch of these calls already and they generally go well. Plus he’s a genuinely nice person to talk to.
No, it wasn’t the business that made it weird. It was the surreal sense of disconnection I started to feel that did me in.
Mostly, I suppose, it was because of the part of the country he’s from. I’ve never been there. Other than a handful of colleagues with whom, like him, I’ve had little verbal interaction, there’s really no one I know from there.
Except that one person.
A person that I have long found myself respecting a great deal and liking very much despite not knowing very well.
So I was on this very official business phone call and we were having a very helpful conversation, but at the same time, I was having a very strange, disjointed feeling.
Because although by voice alone this person really didn’t really sound like that person and there were moments that virtually no accent at all per se was coming through … other times there definitely was a hint of that accent.
And throughout the conversation there was this very distinct rhythm to his speech that I had never before identified as being a regional thing. But hearing it from someone else, I recognized it immediately.
I was listening and asking questions and taking my notes like I was supposed to, and intellectually I knew exactly who I was talking to. But at the same time, the underlying feeling that the timbre of his language stirred was associated with someone else. There was a part of my brain that was registering as if I was talking to an old and long-lost friend. It was the sort of juxtaposition of feeling and reality that one gets in dream states. I wanted to be friendly but professional; I wanted to grin like a moron. When the accent and the rhythym would sync up, I wanted to curl my toes.
And then, just to make it a little more interesting, I realized that it was entirely possible that the two of them might, at that very moment, be within miles… even feet… of each other, for all I knew.
Yeah. I’m sure I was really coherent on that call. Suuuure.