Never again.

It is commonly held as my responsibility in my current job to answer phones.  I don’t like phones- I don’t like talking on them, I don’t like other people talking on them, and I really really wish we could throw them all away and forget they ever existed.  Sometimes as a part of my job I have to answer other people’s phones, which is particularly annoying.  Answering Corina’s phone in particular has often embroiled me in some interesting situations (no, sir I do not know where your pension has gone, let me transfer you.  No, we do not make statements to the press – let me transfer you to our news office).  But the one I got this afternoon takes the cake.

A gentleman called from Scotland trying to get in touch with a member of a twelve-man delegation.  At first, I thought his connection to Corina’s phone was entirely accidental.  The automated operater’s number at MIT is notoriously bad here at the Oven Glove.  You would think some of our technology could go towards fixing those issues, but oh no.  Besides, when you have peons to directly handle the matter, why bother?  Anyway, I thought at first that he was speaking to me due to one of the quirks of that system.  He did, after all, have an accent – Autovoice no doubt misunderstood him.

Alas, I was mistaken – it would not be such a simple immediate transfer to another department.  The gentleman in question had no idea who he wanted to talk to.  Though he did have an emergency on his hands, he had no names of anyone at the Oven Glove who the group might be visiting.  He wasn’t even all that clear as to the reason for their visit.  Of course, the man was distraught from his emergency, but he also wasn’t thinking to clearly.  No, there was not some magical overlord who kept track of all the Scots who happened to be in Cambridge at a particular time.  No, transferring him to a dean was not going to help the situation – unless he could maybe tell me WHICH dean I could transfer him to, possibly the dean of the department the group might be visiting?

To be fair, he did know some things about the visit.  He knew the group worked in ‘development’.  He knew which dates they were travelling and the flight information for that travel.  He did not have the name of their hotel, but there couldn’t be that many hotels in Cambridge, right?  Ok, so now we just triangulate which hotel in a 5 block radius it could be by taking into account when the flight got in and when they called from the hotel…Unfortunately, I left my triangulation software in the OTHER computer.

Thankfully, I did manage to weasel out a few gems from the situation.  I found out that yes, there was a research and development conference on campus yesterday and today.  I even found out where it was being held and which office was involved.  I should have just transfered the man at that point against his will.  However, I made the mistake of asking him to write down a number in case we got disconnected.  No, he really didn’t want to talk to someone on campus, he just wanted the hotel where they were staying.  As he said, we weren’t really sure this was even the right conference anyway.  And if he calls all the hotels in Cambridge, eventually something will work.  So, after all that, I gave him the names of several hotels in the area and sent him on his merry way.  I do wish him luck.  But, as in many cases, I think he and I both would’ve been better served if we’d taken a deep breath and really examined the realities of the situation.  He would discover that a group of 12 people in a city of 7.13 square miles are generally hard to pick out.  I would discover that it’s generally hard to reason with people who are legitimately worried and frustrated.  Alas, maybe next time.

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King Solomon’s Copper.

I’m not really up on my Biblical history.  This could be a flaw in my education, or perhaps just in my interest.  Somehow, the lineages of the Kingdom of Edom and when the Israelites were where don’t really pique my interest.  Despite this, occasionally I wish I knew a little bit more about the timeline, mostly in places where it would improve my knowledge of certain stories or would help in trivia games.

One of the areas where I have limited knowledge is about the ‘real’ reign of King Solomon.  This is probably partially due to H. Rider Haggard and various associated movies.  Why did the king bury bunches of treasure in a mine?  Who ends up dying as they leave?  Was there a previous lost love?  Is it a friend who is taken in the unfairness of African life?  Does a safari end in melancholy?

Well, archeology is trying to answer some of those questions.  A copper mine has recently been dated to the time of King Solomon.  It is possible that this mine, therefore, had some connection to the king and may even have been one of ‘King Solomon’s Mines’.  However, both the Bible (which is one of few written sources we have) and early archeologist linked the area to the Edomites at the time the site was dated to.  So to me this indicates that despite it being during Solomon’s rule, it was probably not under his direct control.  Edom was basically a vassal state, but I’m guessing that any mines in question would have been the governor of Edom’s, rather than Solomon’s.

However, that’s niether here nor there.  The real question is, how far will fact follow fiction?  In this particualr set of mines (which are probably not the only ones for an entire kingdom), is there any ‘buried treasure’?  or was that all relegated to other mines?  is there romance, or monumental loss, or ideal friendship that is about to unfold in this story of rediscovery?  And what about the Queen of Sheba?