Monday, January 25, 2010

Lou Tennant Alexander

     Sissey has been busy working on a rhetorical analysis for her first English essay of the semester. For her project, she selected a weekly ad from the "Pet of the Week" column to use as the basis of a visual analysis. To complete the assignment, she needed to gather some background information from the animal shelter in order to establish it's legitimacy as a valid organization.  I offered to call the shelter to find out to whom she needed to speak and to get the hours that person would be available.      
     When I made the call, an assistant answered the phone and informed me that the person in charge was Lou Tennant Alexander. She was currently in a meeting, but he would be glad to have her call me back as soon as she was finished. I told him that would be fine and hung up the phone.
    I couldn't place who Lou Tennant Alexander was, couldn't remember that name from my high school days, didn't know her from church,  couldn't picture her face. The name didn't trigger any recognition, and I wondered if she were perhaps a newcomer to town.
    "Do you know Lou Tennant Alexander? L-o-u T-e-n-n-a-n-t?" I asked both my parents, spelling the name out for them.  "She is running the animal shelter now, but I just can't place her. The name doesn't ring a bell."
     They both thought for a few minutes, but said no, they didn't know who that could be.  There were some Alexander's in town, but they didn't know anyone named Lou. 
     Later that afternoon, the phone rang.
    "Hello?" I answered after a few rings.
     "This is Lou Tennant Alexander," a voice pleasantly responded. "I'm calling from the animal shelter."
      "Oh, hi Lou! Thank you for calling me back. I'm trying to find out when my daughter could talk to you about your shelter....."
      The conversation lasted several more minutes, as she gave me their office hours, her availability, the location, directions, and other pertinent information Sissey would need to complete her research.  She informed me that the shelter operated under the authority of the Sherriff's Department, and that she was in charge of running the organization.   After each bit of information, I politely said, "Thank you, Lou," or "That is just great, Lou," or "One more question, Lou."  She finally gave me her cell phone number so that Sissey could reach her directly. She said to tell her to ask for the lieutanant when she called.
    I don't know when the neurons started firing, or exactly what it was that triggered the sudden realization, but seconds after I hung up the phone, I had an epiphany.
   "Oh, no," I groaned. "I just realized something."
     It was only after I hung up the phone that it clicked. I realized that the person I had just been speaking with, that  the person I had been calling "Lou" for the past ten minutes, that that person was, in fact, not named Lou at all. She was Lieutenant Alexander.  Officer of the Sherrif's Department.  Enforcer of the law. Hired gun.  Legal defender.
    I had mistaken the assistant's drawled out version of her title, "Looo-tennn-ant"  as her first name -- "Lou Tennant".  There was nothing unusual about having a double first name. My own daughter had one, we were in the south, double names were common here. It never dawned on me for a second that the assistant was referring to her by her title, her rank, her order in the chain of command--not her name.  She had let me call her "Lou" the entire time, not once correcting my mistake, not embarassing me as I rambled on. She had endured my ignorance quietly and politely. I had presumed that the female superior to which the assistant referred was simply a gal named Lou. The rank and authority which she had earned had been completely ignored by me. I was humiliated by my presumption.
      The only thing I could do was pick up the phone and dial her cell number. When she answered, I began babbling and fumbling through an incoherent explanation, nervously laughing  to disguise my embarassement. I managed to explain my mistake, of which she was obviously well aware, and  apologized profusely.
    "I am so sorry," I tried to explain. "I didn't realize until after I hung up that your name is not Lou! I am so embarassed. I hope I didn't offend you, I apologize. I should have known he meant Lieutenant....."
      On and on and on I went, offering every form of apology I could concoct, trying to cover up my stupidity and embarassment. She graciously laughed at my mistake, but I hung up feeling as foolish as ever.
     Sissey is scheduled to visit  the shelter sometime this week.  I graciously declined to attend with her. You will be able to reach me in the dog house, just me and a dog named Lou.

1 comment:

  1. We are so thankful that we are not the only ones who have done that! We laughed until our sides hurt! Of course, I worked for years with Tennant Bryan, so it made perfect sense to me!

    Gary & Janet