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The other day I lavished praise on the Sun-Times for a major back-to-the-future initiative: live telephone operators. The Tribune, I added regretfully, still fields phone calls the new-fashioned way -- electronically.
Let me correct myself. Live operators do exist at the Tribune. Although there's no guarantee that you'll be able to reach one, some callers have had success by taking the following steps. First, dial 312-222-3232.
Cheery recorded male voice: “Thank you for calling the Chicago Tribune. Please listen closely to the following options.
“For questions regarding home delivery of the Chicago Tribune or its Red Eye edition, please press 1.
“To place an advertisement . . . please press 2.
“If you would like to speak to the operator, please press 3.”
Press 3. But no need yet to clear your throat.
Cheery recorded female voice: “Welcome to Chicago Tribune Company. Please say the first and last name of the person or department you would like to speak to.”
You let them know you wanted to speak to the operator but you’re not speaking to the operator. Hang in there.
“Please say the first and last name . . . ”
You say nothing.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. Please say the name of the person you wish to contact.”
“Sorry. I didn’t understand. Please say the name of the person you wish to contact.”
“Please hold while I transfer you to the operator.”
At this point you might be connected to live, no-nonsense “Virginia.” Victory! Or you might find yourself speaking to a security guard. Frequently there’s silence on the line and you’re disconnected.