Dad's Service Center and Miracles of the Night

by Tim Bete

When God created Eve, he put Adam into a deep sleep. The deep sleep served two purposes. It kept Adam from feeling the removal of his rib. It also gave Adam the rest he would need, since he would soon be up all night with baby Cain and baby Abel.

Like Adam, I've worked the graveyard shift. My kids have a knack for calling me in the middle of the night and, for a while, I catered to their whims. But then I found a solution to my problem.

When I wake out of a sound sleep because one of my kids is calling for me, I no longer jump out of bed to see what the problem is. Instead -- taking the lead from the major catalog merchants -- I stay comfortably warm under the covers and shout back, "Thank you for calling Dad's Service Center. If you need a drink of water, press or say, 'one.' If you need to be escorted to the bathroom, press or say 'two.' If you need...."

When I hear, "Two! two! two!" then I know it is worth my while to get out of bed.

This new policy is just one of the many ways I'm attempting to interact with my kids more like a business interacts with customers. I had to take this step because my daughter couldn't remember when Thanksgiving was.

One night I awoke to Maria's shouting. I made my usual dash to her bedroom, stumbling and bumping into things the entire way. When I reached her bedside, she had this dreadfully important query: "Is tomorrow Thanksgiving?"

Perhaps she thought she should be up making pies at the crack of dawn. All I knew was tomorrow wasn't Thanksgiving, she had no broken bones, and there wasn't a burglar in the house. My slumber had been interrupted for nothing. It was on my way back to bed that I decided to adopt business hours for my children. Here's how it works.

Businesses have long separated their customer service departments from their order-taking departments. You can call an 800 number, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and order anything your heart desires. Just don't try to ask a question about a previous order -- or anything else for that matter -- or you'll be told to call the customer service department during normal business hours -- nine to five, Monday to Friday. By coincidence, nine to five is also a time slot when I'm awake and free to answer questions about pending holidays.

So, when the kids call late at night, I respond to their pleas as long as they're ordering something. If they need a glass of water, a trip to the bathroom, or an extra kiss goodnight, I'll come running. But if they ask a non-order-related question, I simply shout back from my bed that they have to call back during normal business hours.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very pleasant when my kids are placing an order in the wee hours of the morning. In fact, since I've placed my share of catalog orders over the telephone, I know just what to say to make their ordering experience a pleasure.

"Good evening, my name is Dad, how may I help you?"

"I want a drink of water."

Could I get your zip code, please."

Dad, I just want a drink."

If you look on the back of your catalog, you'll see a promotion code beginning with the letter 'z' in the little yellow box."

"Come on, I'm thirsty."

"You might be interested in our other products that go quite well with water. For $1.99 we have a plastic cup that actually holds the water while you drink it. For $2.99 we have a glass mug, complete with a handle to help keep you from spilling the water in your bed."

"Dad, stop it...."

"For $29.95 we have a six-hour service plan for the glass of water. Should you need to use the restroom at any time during the night, we will excort you there at no additional charge."

My kids weren't thrilled with my new business hours, but they should be thankful I never instituted what I learned from the telemarketers who call our house at inconvenient times. I had considered waking them every half-hour during the night to ask if they needed anything. You know, "Are you sleeping okay? Thirsty? Having any bad dreams? Want to know if tomorrow is Thanksgiving? Well it isn't, now go back to sleep."

The one shortfall of my business hours was that they didn't help me with the mythical creatures that visit my kids at night.