Thursday, July 24, 2008

Be careful with cell numbers

I was up to my ankles in mud and ashes as I tromped through a forest fire when I got an urgent call from a reporter about a possible school shooting in another city.

After I explained I was in the middle of a burning forest, she said she'd get more info about the school incident and call me back if it was something they needed.

I kept working the fire.

A few minutes later, my cell rang. I answered it expecting to hear from the reporter. Instead, it was a (semi-famous) model from a commercial shoot.

Not wanting to upset the model and lose access, I tried to delicately say I was indisposed at the moment. It didn't work. The model wanted to talk about getting prints.

Finally I said, "Can I call you back? I'm in the middle of a forest fire right now."

The model said, "Yeah, we're all trying to put out fires..."

Fortunately, a firetruck's speakers blared. When it finished, I said, "No, I'm surrounded by flames at the moment and need to concentrate on staying alive please."

The model said, "Oh yeah, you cover the news," and let me get back to work.

While this one incident is memorable, it's not unique. I've answered strange calls from literally around the world - including some completely unknown-to-me languages. I've even gotten a panicked call from an 8th grader who needed to interview any photojournalist "right now" for a forgotten homework assignment.

Cell phones are for work
It's not difficult to find my cell number. It's listed on my Web site and printed on my business cards and invoices. I want clients to contact me when something is urgent.

For non-emergencies, I prefer e-mails.

My family rarely calls my cell because they understand what I do for a living. They'll call my home number or drop me an e-mail. They know I'll return the message. Not everyone understands the life of a pro PJ.

Before I post my next entry, I needed to clarify this issue about mobile phones.

PJs often don't know what we'll be doing in 10 minutes. Anyone with our cell number certainly doesn't know what we're doing when they dial our number.

Unless it's urgent and work related, we don't need our cell to ring when we're in the middle of a courtroom. We really don't want it to ring while we're sneaking up on a bear or dangling off a mountain. While it's wise to set our phones on vibrate only, even this minor noise could get a PJ killed.

Often, we're surrounded by too much noise to hear it ring. At other times, we're surrounded by destruction or simply too far away from a signal.

So, PJs should carefully select the people who know our cell number. We don't want to make it too easy for everyone to dial our cells. PJs considering a completely wireless life might want to hire an answering service as a main number.

While we want clients to contact us, they can e-mail or leave a message on our main work number. This also means it's vital to quickly return messages via e-mail or from our voice mail.

Enough for now,


Tomas Stargardter said...

I got my AP job way back when in Costa Rica in the middle of an ongoing riot. My future AP boss called to the only phone line available in this little town, out in the middle of nowhere, enmeshed in a two day riot and the guy who answered just screamed my name out. I was lucky enough to hear him and incredulous that somebody could actually find me out there. And the rest was history. No cell phones available back then.


Mark M. Hancock said...

I couldn't top your story. If they can locate the only phone in town during a riot, they're good. ;-)