Conference Calls

Sometimes, ya just can’t trust stuff!

Unfortunately, it’s “too” common with people…once is often more than enough, especially from the same offender…but when it comes to inanimate objects, we’ll usually trust them blindly.

Especially technology…ATMs, websites, phones.

And rarely get burned!

When Laurie got really sick back in the summer of 2000, after cancer raised its ugly-ass head again (after a short remission), I got permission from Citi to work from home.

(I’ll be forever grateful to them for that privilege, to be able to spend every single day with her as I took full care of her.

Hospice would visit for an hour, once or twice a week, to bathe her, but that was only during her last few weeks.)

Turned out that I worked from home for a full year, plus a week or so. She had been given 12 months to live…she passed the day before 9-11.

During that time, I was on hundreds & hundreds of conference calls. My normal job responsibilities involved interacting with so many different groups at our U.S. Citibanking HQ in NY (@ One Court Square in Long Island City in Queens).

Seemed that I was constantly on my phone.

(Note: Even before I started working from home, I was closely tied to my phone. And while I always tried to deal with my fellow hoo-mans as often as possible, I was working pretty independently on a lot of stuff.

I even had to have a second phone instrument installed in my office in San Antonio as I was regularly double-booked with conference calls!

While my phone instrument was multi-line capable, you can’t be on 2 simultaneous conference calls, on the same set, that is, as one of them will always be playing “music on hold”.

And while it’s physically impossible to listen to both calls at the same time – – and actually fully understand everything that’s happening – – you get pretty skilled at jumping back & forth between the two & figuring out which one deserves more of your attention!)


With WFH nowhere , I spent even more time each day on the phone!

Working closely with Systems, Marketing, Retail Bank, Legal, Compliance, Fraud Prevention, etc. was just part of my daily routine, but now, my physical absence from the USCC also necessitated my calling into meetings that I normally would attend in person.

I would always use my speaker phone when on a conference call & naturally, always use “mute”. I believe every call I’ve ever been on (or meeting I’ve attended where others called in) began with “Can everyone PLEASE put their phones on mute?”

I had this extra (wired) phone at home that was equipped with speakerphone capabilities so I used it constantly.

One day, I was on a conference call with quite a few people from NY. It was a major program endeavor & there were dozens & dozens of participants, both on the phone as well as in person @ Court Square.

As always, I had my phone on mute, as clearly indicated by the bright red light.

⭕️  <  <  Pls color it in as necessary

I remember someone in the room asking a rather-stupid question.

(Yes, I know, I know, there is “no such thing as a stupid question…just stupid people who refuse to ask questions” as I would always tell my new people.)

But this particular one was, indeed, a pretty silly one as that exact topic had just been covered…at length…no more than 5 minutes earlier!

I let loose with a “What a freakin’ idiot!”, knowing full well that no one could hear me.

Until, that is, I heard, “Did someone on the phone say something?”.


I immediately looked for the red light & yeah, it was shining brightly…but it was pretty clear to me that somehow, some way, mute was NOT working.

I completely panicked…and hung up!!!

Thank goodness no one took roll call of the meeting/call participants this time (which is pretty customary to do at most calls/meetings, especially those involving multiple groups).

But, then again, I got this NY voice & (supposed) accent thingie going on…and I’ve been in countless meetings & on way-too-many calls with some/most of these people so I wouldn’t be surprised if…

Pls raise your hand if you caught me!

🙋🏻‍♂️  🤚  🙋🏼‍♀️  ✋🏽  🙋🏽  🖐🏾  🙋🏿‍♂️  👋🏼

I immediately placed a call to Michelle Miller (who always helped me out, while juggling her own responsibilities…a true Angel sent to me from Heaven!) and while her line was still ringing, I pressed my Mute button.

The red light came on.

“Hello, this is Michelle Miller.”

“Hi, Michelle, it’s me!”

And then the dreaded reply, “Hi, Mike! What’s up?”


All this time, it became instantly apparent that the mute feature never really worked. I mean, I wasn’t positive, but I did have that sickening feeling.

Kept thinking to myself, “How many inappropriate things have I said, or how many dumb-ass noises have I made, on conference calls with this damned phone?!?” over & over & over again.

Jeeeez, Louise!

OK, not as bad as, for example, giving a green light to all lanes at a busy intersection, but still…

Be careful out there! I just thank God there was no Zoom back in those days & videoconferencing was pretty limited to certain business sites!

Thank you for listening!

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