Hotline Wing: Answering The Call Of Distressed Thanksgivers Everywhere

Nov 27, 2015
Originally published on November 27, 2015 6:48 am

Marge Klindera spent decades teaching home economics to kids in Illinois. But in the early 1980s, after she had retired, she was looking for another way to pass along her knowledge.

That's when she decided to join a Thanksgiving call center — where thousands of panicked home cooks call every year, hoping for last-minute guidance in cooking their dinner.

"We like to say we kind of deal with turkey trauma," Klindera, now 79, tells her longtime coworker, Carol Miller, on a recent visit with StoryCorps.

The pair of holiday-hotline experts exchanged stories from their many years answering the desperate questions of questionable cooks.

"I always remember the call from a young bride," Klindera says. The caller had been whispering into the phone, and when Klindera asked her why, she says the young bride responded, "Well, I don't want my mother and mother-in-law to know I'm calling you, but they're having this argument about which was the right way to do things."

"She was very relieved when I told her it was her mother who had the right solution," Klindera remarks.

"Yeah but she had to go tell her mother-in-law she was wrong," Miller laughs.

Miller, for her part, recalls a man who'd wanted to pop the question on Thanksgiving — by putting a diamond ring in the stuffing, then putting all of that inside the turkey.

"So, you know, I convinced him that that wasn't a good idea for a number of reasons. We decided together that he should tie it on a drumstick, get down with a platter on one knee and propose," Miller says.

"Every year I think about him, and it's my wish that some day maybe he might call and say, 'Hey! We made it for 30 years.' "

It's not always the hapless betrothed who are calling in, Klindera says — often callers are just lonely, looking for ways to talk to someone, even if only by phone.

"It really is heartwarming to hold their hands," Klindera says. "We're kind of like their mom or their grandma."

"I think that's one of the best parts about our job. They are so grateful that you're there," Miller agrees.

"People say, 'You mean you've given up Thanksgiving for all these years?' And I never feel like I've ever given anything up."

"It makes them feel good," Klindera says, "and it certainly makes us feel good, too."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Liyna Anwar.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps, Marge Klindera spent decades teaching home economics to children in Illinois. Thirty years ago, she retired, and looking for another way to pass along her knowledge, she joined a Thanksgiving call center. That call center gets thousands of calls every year from panicked home cooks looking for last minute guidance. At StoryCorps, Marge, who's 79 now, sat down with her longtime coworker, Carol Miller, to remember some of the best advice they've given over the past three decades.

MARGE KLINDERA: We like to say we kind of deal with turkey trauma.

CAROL MILLER: It may be as simple as they left the giblets in the turkey. Oh, my gosh, I've ruined Thanksgiving.

KLINDERA: I always remember the call from a young bride. She was kind of whispering on the phone, and I asked her, why are you whispering. And she said, well, I don't want my mother and mother-in-law to know I'm calling you, but they're having this argument about which was the right way to do things. Well, she was very relieved when I told her it was her mother who had the right solution.

MILLER: (Laughter) Yeah, but she had to go tell her mother-in-law she was wrong.

KLINDERA: She had to tell her mother-in-law (laughter).

MILLER: I remember one time I talked to a guy who wanted to propose on Thanksgiving Day. He wanted to mix the diamond ring in the stuffing and then stuff it inside the turkey. So, you know, I convinced him that that wasn't a good idea for a number of reasons. We decided together that he should tie it on a drumstick, get down with a platter on one knee and propose. Every year, I think about him, and it's my wish that someday maybe he might call and say, hey, we made it for 30 years.

KLINDERA: Right. You know, we do get people who are lonely, and they're almost making up a scenario that they want to share, and they need to talk to somebody. It really is heartwarming to hold their hands. We're kind of like their mom or their grandma.

MILLER: I think that's one of the best parts about our job. They are so grateful that you're there. People say, you mean you've given up Thanksgiving for all these years? And I never feel like I've ever given anything up.

KLINDERA: Anything up.

MILLER: Do we think we were going to do it for over 30 years?

KLINDERA: Right.

MILLER: No (laughter).

KLINDERA: It makes them feel good, and it certainly makes us feel good, too.

MONTAGNE: That's Marge Klindera with her coworker, Carol Miller, in Chicago. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress. And now it's easier than ever to be part of history yourself. Record your story this Thanksgiving weekend. You can find the details at npr.org. Search the great listen. You can get the StoryCorps podcast on iTunes and at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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