Victory! I thought I had become a technical dinosaur, bested by the mechanical beast. A few months ago, the staff convinced me to have a new phone system installed in the parish offices. On Friday, with the phone already ringing non-stop, I asked about changing the voicemail greeting to include the Christmas Mass times. “No problem,” came the response from our wonderful parish team, “How hard can it be?” This was, as we learned, THE WRONG QUESTION TO ASK.
3 hours later I saw the entire staff huddled over a user’s manual and a
telephone, pressing buttons randomly and chanting what sounded like
Mayan curses in a low hum. One of them went over to light a candle in
the church as a form of prayer, or perhaps to appease the telephone
gods. Another stopped just short of sprinkling the phone with holy
water, thinking twice about the admixture of water, curses, and
electricity. I swear I saw someone hide a sledgehammer when I walked
through the door, but I couldn’t find it later when I wanted to use it.
The aroma clearly revealed that one of them had put garlic around her
neck to ward off the phone gremlins, and I'm sure I saw someone walking
in cirles around the phone with burning sage. When the staff finally
gave up and left, I know I heard laughing in the equipment closet, from
the corner where the guts of the new phone system reside.
Saturday morning saw me poring over the manual. I ended up hunkered
over a phone and a manual, randomly pushing buttons and chanting in a
low hum (staff, please forgive me for ever doubting you). Sunday
between Masses and baptisms I kept picking up the manual, hoping that a
few new pages had been added since I last looked through the index.
Today, when the phone started ringing at 4:45 AM, I determined to
conquer the challenge. I searched the web and found the programming
manual for this sophisticated new VoIP system. "Aha!" I thought too
quickly and naively, "Now I've got you cornered." I found several
entries for programming the auto-attendant voice functions. One of them
went like this: "Enter programming block E1600F6B and select message
number from 001 to 255, with numbers 001 to 070 being reserved for
programmed system functionality and numbers 132 through 185 being
volatile for station functions."
Well, THAT WAS PERFECTLY CLEAR!
Back to the cloud to find another manual. Bear in mind I had the
188-page station manual on my desk, and had already downloaded the
312-page programming guide. Now I found the 277-page "Features and
Functions" guide and downloaded that.
Eureka! On page 235:
"Press the TRANS/PGM button and hit the # key twice, then select system
message number from 001 to 255 (see chart of reserved numbers in
appendix E) and press the HOLD/SAVE button, then select options 1
through 5 for recording (see page 181 for feature explanations). Listen
for the double confirmation tone and press options 1-7 (see page 201 for
feature explanations), followed by the * key, and listen for a verbal
confirmation of your selection. Once received, press the # key followed
by the SPEAKER key to begin recording, and when finished recording
press options 1-7 to indicate save and propagation selection (see page
203 for feature explanations), followed by the # key. Listen for the
single confirmation tone, and once received press the HOLD/SAVE button.”
I switched to decaf for my next cup of coffee, then using a combination
of skills that Sister Ellen George, IHM, taught me in fourth grade
English and that Father Sebastiano Grasso, SJ, taught me in a Roman
course on Renaissance chancery Latin, I sat down to diagram the
instructions. Two hours later, reasonably certain that I had the
progression of button presses and options mapped out, I marched
confidently to the Master Phone Station to show it who was boss. An
hour and ten minutes later, following five failed attempts, continually
tweaking my outline and checklist, after twelve people had tried, and
with about 33 combined man-hours behind us, the parish voicemail now
reveals to callers the times of Masses for Christmas:
Christmas Eve at 5, 7 , and Midnight (with a festival of Christmas music beginning at 11:15), and Christmas morning at 10:30.
The problem is, callers in April, July, or September will likely hear
the same message and not be grateful for the advance notice of Christmas
Mass times. Pretty sure I still hear that little chuckle in the
December 24, 2012
Msgr. William J. King