Or at least, that's how I picture him. I've actually never met him. I just know him as a voice on the phone. His voice is deep and he definitely has the Bronx accent, although I sense in him a continual struggle to break free from that accent, as if he fears that it's holding him back. I am a person who fights hard every day to smother my Rhode Island roots, so I can certainly relate.
Oh, and one more thing. There's something about the two of us that just doesn't mix. Despite the fact that we only know each other through the phone line, there's an unspoken dislike, an internal war that somehow manages to linger beneath the surface.
I know Ramel because of the fingerprint clinics we hold. I don't do them (thank God), but one of our coordinators has been away a lot lately, so I've been troubleshooting her stuff. Every time we talk, I've tried to help the guy with his clinics, and have broken a number of the rules we established just to help him out.
That's all well and good, but the guy's cocky attitude on the phone somehow manages to get to me every time. Even though I'm helping him, I find myself matching the tone, mimicking the playful cruelty that I hear in his voice.
For example, last week he called me, bright and early Friday morning. I recognized the voice immediately. "How are you doing, Ramel?" I asked.
"I'd be okay if you weren't killing me, man!" he replied.
"How am I killing you today, Ramel?" I asked.
"You didn't call my man back yesterday!" he replied. "My man said he didn't hear from you."
His "man" was an older, barely articulate guy who had called me the day before, when I had been out straight in back to back meetings. In fact, I had called him back, about a half an hour before Ramel called me, and had left a message, which is what I told Ramel.
"Well, anyway," he said. "How can I get those three free ads for the fingerprint clinic?"
"Who says you can get three free ads?"
"That's what I've been told. In any paper I want, man," he replied.
"Mmmm, no, not exactly," I said. "We will send out press releases to your local papers, though. Up to three."
"You're not going to pay for three ads?" he asked, sounding insulted. "After you just let me down?"
Now keep in mind, we've been given strict instructions that promoting these clinics are no longer our concern--that was up to the agents. I've got way too many other things to do to worry about that. I tried to explain this to Ramel, but said that I'd work on sending them out to his papers out of the goodness of my heart.
"Mmm, okay," he said. "And can you send the ad out in the next ninety minutes? The person at the paper's under a deadline."
Even though I was under a deadline, myself, I dropped everything, created a release, and got it out with two minutes to spare.
The result? A call that following Monday. "Where are those three ads?"
"I told you, we don't pay for ads," I replied. "You'd need to--"
"Ah, never mind," he cut me off. "But when am I going to get my supplies?"
His supplies were on their way, but he hadn't received them today, and called me to yell. Now keep in mind, I had just returned from holding an early morning training session, and was trying to prepare for another meeting I was overseeing a half an hour later.
"Where are my supplies, man?" he demanded. "This clinic is next week! I need my supplies, and you're letting me down!"
"Jen told me they were on their way," I replied, "I can track the order, but did you check your mailroom today?"
"No, but I did yesterday, and..." He paused for a minute. "Oh. Look. I think that's them."
"Hmmm," I replied, wishing I had a shotgun that would reach through the phone lines.
And then it occurred to me.
I did have a shotgun.
"Ramel," I purred, pleased with myself. "I've been meaning to ask you a question. You're from the Bronx, right?"
"Hmmm." I paused, looking to draw out the torture. "Then you must be a Yankees fan, huh?"
His voice, which had been playfully aggressive, grew a shade darker. "Well, yeah. I am."
"Heh. Watch the game last night?"
"Well. Some of it."
"Tough loss for the Yankees, huh?"
"Well." He paused, suddednly at a loss for words. Yeah."
"Must be tough, watching them win three and then lose it all like that. They must have really let you down."
"Well, yeah." He paused, and then said. "Are you a wannabe Red Sox fan or a fantical Red Sox fan?"
"Fanatical, Ramel," I said, dripping velvet in my voice. "Totally fantatical. It was a great game last night."
It felt really nice to be able to silence one pushy New Yorker, all on my own, today.
Just another fringe benefit of lifting the curse.