Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is that S as in Frank?

There are a number of things I've learned from the Army at this point. Here are just a few:

  • How to eat a meal, change clothes, and get to the other side of the world in 5 minutes

  • How to speak the military language of acronym

  • The importance of the phonetic alphabet (the necessary alphabet if one expects to be fluent in the language of acronym)
For those of you unfamiliar with that last one, that is the list of standardized words used to clearly identify letters, especially ones that can easily be confused on the phone or radio (e.g. - V and B). Here is a diagram of that alphabet.

So far, I have actually used this more in my civilian life than my military one. I work in the accounting department of a travel agency and all day long we take customer calls. The quickest way to identify the specific travel in question is to give us what we call the "record locator" which is a combination of six numbers and/or letters. One day a client called in and gave me her locator but I was unclear whether she had said F or S. The two options of the clarifying question merged in my mind and what came out was "Is that 's' as in 'Frank'?" Of course over the phone, the error was completely lost on her but I had a full comedic meltdown the second I hung up with her ... as did my co-workers who heard me say it.

Today was another similar scenario. A lady called in for invoice help so I asked for the name of the traveler. She said she had the locator as well and I said ok. Not sure which she was about to give me, I sat with my fingers poised over the keyboard in anticipation of the necessary info. The first word out of her mouth was "Peter" so I assumed she was about to give me his name. Of course in the system we enter last name/first name, so I continued to restrain my anxious fingers until I heard her say his last name ... information, by the way, that never seemed to come. It went something like this:

"Ok, go ahead. I'm ready."

"Peter Sam Thomas Joseph ..." (What the heck? How many first names does he have??) "... India Frank" (Thank God for the "India" in there which was the only tip off that she was not giving me his name.)

[ light bulb! ]

(beginning to snicker) "Oh! I'm sorry ma'am. I thought that was his name! Let's try this again."

"His name is ___________." [insert extremely ethnic name no one can spell except the man himself]


"Um, can you give me that locator again?"

You see kids, all this confusion (and hysterically uncontrollable fits of laughter) could have been prevented had she just learned the Phonetic Alphabet. Protect your family today. Don't let this happen to you!

Author's note: I could have deduced some profound life lesson out of this or waxed poetic about how we as Christians often speak in a language the world doesn't understand, but instead I opted just to share this embarrassing moment that you might have a good laugh at (I mean with) me.