Give an inch, they take a mile. Anyone who's worked with customers is aware of that: with certain customers (not many, thank goodness), answering more than the absolute minimum of questions will generate more questions, of the "Well, what about..." variety, and it keeps growing like topsy on Jenga: clingy and wobbly and likely to collapse. (That's the weirdest analogy I've come up with lately.)
I spent nearly nine minutes on the phone with someone needing to get from Point A to Point B via Transit Leg 1, Transit Leg 2, and Transit Leg 3. She actually knew most of what she needed to do, but was hung up on how to get from Leg 2 to Leg 3. And she was asking questions based on what two particular bus routes usually do, but one of those routes is cancelled for the day and the other one is detoured (and she knew this), so why was she using those for references? At one point we were going around in circles enough that I finally asked "Ma'am, ask me your question again; I want to be sure I'm actually answering your question, because I don't think I am answering your question." A litte bit of straightening out later, I brought up an online map of downtown Portland and told her the simplest way I could think of to get from Leg 2 to Leg 3, which involved walking seven blocks. "That's a long walk," she said. "They're short blocks," I said. I added that she would be near the Hawthorne Bridge, "and that's your landmark." "Well, what about when..." and she was back to asking about the bus routes that didn't matter today anyway.
*headdesk* I actually headdesked. I rarely actually headdesk. (I love that the Net has made "headdesk" one word.)
I wanted to tell her "Where's your sense of adventure? Walk! Pretend you're in Dr. Zhivago! Seven blocks in Portland is nothing! Do what you already know what to do and you'll see the Hawthorne Bridge! You'll want to head towards the Hawthorne Bridge. Please tell me you actually recognize the Hawthorne Bridge. It's one of the most iconic bridges in Portland. It starred in a movie. (A bad one, but still.) You already know 90% of what you need to know to get to where you want to go, you can figure out how to get there!"
And what I should've said was: "This line's open, that line's open, that other line's open. That's what you need. Figure it out from there."
I now vow not to still worry that maybe she got lost in the black hole that's apparently the part of downtown where she'd have to walk.