The little victories

Marana’s interns share their summer experiences.

Anthony HunterIt’s the small things in life that count, they say. The little victories. We can’t all paint a grand fresco or make a billion bucks, but we proudly place our kids’ hand-drawn pictures on the fridge and help them build their lemonade stands. Such is the good stuff.

What they don’t say is that those victories often come after long stretches of difficulty.

Today I felt the yin and yang of this hard truth in a simple act that we all run into at some point: the cold call.

A little background: Growing up, I had trouble speaking fluently. They called it a mild stutter, but it is more accurately described as a voice block. I’d be in the middle of speaking when, with no apparent cause, my throat would tighten, locking the words away. I was a shy kid to begin with, to be sure, but it became a sort of chicken-and-egg discussion about whether the disfluency caused the nerves and shyness or the other way around.

The thing is, as I got older the problem didn’t go away like it does for most kids. To be honest, it’s still hanging around. So, I got good at sneaking my way around certain parts of speech. For the most part, though, I got good at keeping quiet. Eventually, when it came time to start looking out at the world and deciding which path to take, I summarily disqualified anything having to do with much communication, especially telephones. They would always been a big problem for me, and I wasn’t relishing the idea of a life of listening to the other end of a phone call repeat “Hello? Hello?” while my throat tightened.

The next few years were a long and winding road in which I pursued the only thing I had been able to excel at on my own terms. Music was something I felt I could own, and something that could speak for me. In the end, though, music is a business as much as anything else, and business is about communication. Living in Los Angeles in a crummy apartment, sleeping little and doing work that nobody wants isn’t really enough. The primary activity of any musician is getting in touch with producers, agents – sweethearts all. In the end, it all comes back to the cold call.

Eventually, the path before me faded away, and I moved back home to Tucson. It was a defeat, but one that was certain to teach me. I knew now that there wasn’t a way to escape the problem, but only to own it, absorb it and make myself whole with it.

So I took up a quarrel with it at every opportunity. Calling the pizza guy instead of ordering online. Then, working up to calling a faculty advisor at the U of A to see about grad courses. Bit by bit, it got better, and yet it always comes back.

Which brings me to today. Fellow intern Heath and I are trying to wrangle together donations for our Arizona League of Cities booth this August. Now, there probably isn’t a cold call harder to make than one in which you’re asking for donations. The mere idea of it makes me sweat.

So when it came down to making that call today, I almost didn’t do it. I almost tried to sneak my way around it, pawn it off on someone else, send an e-mail instead. But the way was shut. It was the telephone or bust.

However, with a shaky hand, I headed down to the second floor terrace and dialed the number. A lady answered, and the call went all right. I got caught on a word for about 10 seconds, and almost lost the reserve I had, but it came forth at the last moment. We ended up probably getting a good donation out of it.

More important, it was a little victory for me, personally. A very big little victory.

Anthony Hunter is a Master of Public Administration candidate at the University of Arizona. 

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