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Off The Hook

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It was quiet—too quiet—at CIA USA's Chicago office last Tuesday when a flip of a switch directed the media shop's phone lines to the offices of Monsanto several blocks away.

A glitch in a T-1 line was the cause of the trouble, said Jim Surmanek, the Chicago media shop's director of new business development.

"Our phones were down all day. It really disrupted business," he said. Some employees missed lunch engagements because callers could not get through.

Adding to the aggravation was that the misdirected line led to an automated answering machine system that did not allow callers to leave a message indicating there was a problem.

Another dilemma was that all of CIA business cards contain direct phone numbers and not the main line to the switchboard, which was not impacted by the mishap.

The problem was finally solved when technicians at Monsanto's Merchandise Mart headquarters merely flipped a switch.

The system is supposed to speed the transmission of calls, not misdirect them, Surmanek said.