Over the course of an average work day, I take quite a few phone calls. When the phone rings, I never really know what I'm about to get myself into.
Most of the time, the callers want to give us a legitimate story idea or ask if they can send over a news release, and I'm able to help them to the best of my abilities.
Once we start getting too far away from my job description, though, in the nicest way I can think of, I have to explain to callers that I need to get back to work.
Every now and then, someone will call asking for my email address or the newspaper's website. I'm happy to help. The next question is frequently, "How do I send an email?" or "How do I use the Internet?"
I understand many people aren't great with computers. It's OK; I avoid the fax machine like the plague.
But, if I taught an Internet 101 course over the phone every time someone needed help, I would never go home. I explain that I can't teach them how to use their computer and suggest a relative or friend might be able to help.
On more than one occasion, a reader has asked me for personal advice over the phone. They're planning to write to "Dear Abby," but they want to make sure they're on the right track first. I don't consider myself qualified to tell someone how to deal with her sister-in-law, so I keep it short and sweet and assure them Abby will be of more assistance than I would be.
Then, there are the times when a caller wants us to do a story on a UFO that supposedly crashed into the lake. I could grab my wetsuit and head toward the door, but I don't. (I don't actually own a wetsuit, by the way.)
I'm here to help, but sometimes, I just can't. Unfortunately, I'm not a strong swimmer.