Next to a pen and paper, the telephone is one of the most essential tools of a journalist.

But, I must admit I dial wrong numbers regularly. So often, in fact, it's almost a sport. And it doesn't matter if it's local or long-distance. Really, what's four more numbers - other than additional charges on the bill?

Before you start thinking, "Oh, she must be dyslexic," I must tell you I PURPOSELY dial every wrong number I call. I can't help it if the person at the other end of the fiber optics (or whatever it is these days that connects me with another human being after punching in a sequence of numbers) isn't the person I wanted to talk to.

I'm not easily deterred either. If you think you're safe because you have an unlisted number, think again. I've surprised many people - leaving them wondering how I got their phone number.

Several of my friends have said I'm like a dog after a bone when it comes to following up on news leads.

And, like I said earlier, I'm not philosophically opposed to calling wrong numbers. If the person I'm looking for has a common name, I merely begin systematically calling numbers listed under that name - either until I can reach the person or I've exhausted all known resources.

During some of the recent remodeling of our office space, Photojournalist Sarah Britain's phone didn't ring when people called her direct-dial number. After she tried futilely to call her cell phone from her desk phone, only to get the generic office numbers, she gave up.

I saw this as a challenge. Unbeknownst to General Manager Jeanne Hoffman, I began dialing all numbers that weren't assigned to someone else in the office. Jeanne was warmed up and ready to play softball after going from one ringing phone to the next throughout the newsroom and office only to hear a dial tone or the sound of someone hanging up.

I've had various responses when I call people - everything from being immediately hung-up on to not being able to hang up.

Most of the time I identify myself to whomever answers, while other times I merely ask for the person I want to talk to.

Recently when I called Kurt Bendixsen, I thought his wife, Susie, recognized my voice, so I merely asked, "Is Kurt available?"

When she said no, I said, "This is Tammy Malgesini from The Hermiston Herald."

Susie then told me he was there; she just thought I was a telemarketer. So when Kurt picked up the line I asked him if he wanted to buy something.

Just when you thought it was safe to answer the phone ...

Tammy Malgesini is a reporter at The Hermiston Herald. Readers may call her at (541) 564-4539, but don't be surprised if she asks a lot of questions.

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