It started like any other day. The sky was dark because I hit the clock at 7 am on a Friday morning. But it wasn't just another day, it was the day. For six years I had come here over and over, punched the clock, drank the bad coffee, listened to the voices in my headphone drone on and on.
This was the end of it. I had dreamed about leaving. There had been so many versions, from the dramatic Dead Poet's Society version where I stand on the desk and make a grand speech to the Chuck Norris version where I kicked someone's ass on the way out and then every version in-between.
At one point, I reconsidered the Chuck Norris verson. My boss gave me a set of multiple trades that I knew would go wrong and then he coldly told me to remember why I was leaving. I told him he didn't need to worry about me forgetting that. He didn't speak three words to me for the rest of the day. I couldn't have cared less.
I told some of my customers that it was my last day, those that I had a relationship with. One of them, one of the hard-ass demanding people I had become used to, told me that I could call him if I ever needed a personal reference.
One of the girls from accounting brought me a bag of M&M's. Someone bought me some ribs for lunch. The girls on the floor bought me a cake. Finally, it was time to pack up. One of my best friends came over and spoke to me. He had been there the same amount of time I had. He was sort of emotional, and I could see he was sad.
"I know this sounds sappy, but I'm proud of you. You went after your dream of getting a degree, and now you are leaving this place."
We hugged and he was gone.
What I never told anyone on the blog was that I went back to school to get a degree so I could leave this place. I knew I had no skills that would translate to a better job. Half of the time spent here at Call Center Purgatory was spent biding my time until I got my degree.
I carried my cardboard out the double doors to the parking lot. I stood there and looked up at the ugly building I had hated for so long. I actually felt more than a twinge of sadness. How would I survive in a new job? I had been here so long, I had friends here, Now I had to start all over.
I remembered the speech Morgan Freeman gave in Shawshank Redemption,
"These walls are funny. First you hate them, then you get used to them, until it gets to you depend on them. That's institutionalized."But I also remembered the one quote from Shawshank that was the real message, "Get busy living or get busy dying." I'd had enough of this place. A life outside of here had to be better, no matter what. If I failed, at least I failed trying. And I would give all I could. If I stayed here, I'd always wonder what could have been, what might have been. There had to be a better world somewhere outside of this place.
I took one last look around, incredibly, it started to rain. I have made up details in my writing to keep you off my trail, but not this time. This really happened. I finally loaded up my car, and rolled up to the security gate. It rolled open on a chain and I drove through.
I turned on the CD player and found a song by Tom Petty that made the day complete...
"It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
I had the radio on, I was driving.
Trees flew by, me and Del were singing,
Little Runaway, I was sublime.
Yeah running down a dream,
That never would come to me.
Working on a mystery,
Going wherever it leads.
Running down a dream..."
Thanks for reading,
Here's a dusty old post that I found laying arount in the corner of drafts file about a bad customer. I thought it should come to light before I turn out the lights for good.
Today was one of those days that working in customer service makes you hate humans in most of their forms on this planet. I spent the day being abused by people as I tried to collect money to pay for their mistakes.
Its amazing that people can be so ingratiating at the start of a transaction, but then when things go wrong, how few people are able to really keep their cool. They become petty, mean, abusive and downright nasty.
A customer had a transaction that went way wrong. When I called him to explain why he had lost so much money he explained to me that he cancelled that transaction and should not have to pay for it. When I asked him for a confirmation number, a time, a name of a person he spoke to, he had none of that. I reminded him that our calls are recorded and ever entry is time stamped as notes are put in the computer and there was nothing to back up his claim.
He would have to pay.
If he refused willing payment, his escrow would be emptied and he would be banned from any further transactions with us. He explained that he did so much business with our company that would never happen. He was going to call the vice president of operations and I would be sorry.
"Fine. I don't care who you call. I called the vice president and HIS boss before calling you. No one in this company is going to change this."
"We'll see!" was followed by a loud click and the asshole was gone.
I felt very tired, very sad, and very ready to hit the door. It's not grumpiness that really gets me mad, I can handle that. It is the continual dealing with these, "people" that think customer service means I am in a lower caste than them. That it means I want to be abused by them, and the money they possess entitles them to act any way they want.
If you are grumpy and having a bad day, I can understand that. If you explain to me in direct tones why you think this is unfair and speak to me as an equal, I may even go out of my way to help you. But when you speak down to me and explain how the rules never have to apply to you and that you are probably the single most important and valuable customer that ever pried a dollar out of that titanium tight wallet of yours, well, I think less than charitable thoughts about you.
But the thing that gets me every time is that these same people think there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I imagine some fat-cat, robber-baron type in a charcoal pin-stripe suit with a Trump-wanna-be haircut appearing in vapor before me to explain why its ok...
"Because it's simply the way business is done. Its simply the bottom line, don't you understand that son? Maybe if you took business as seriously as I do you would not be a call center employee, and instead be a captain of industry like me, feared by men and adored by women, even if I do have a sloppy combover."
He grins slyly and disappears into nothingness...
Being a good man or woman of business does not negate being a good person. If you are a liar and cheat who refuses to keep their promises, you still suck ass as a human being no matter how much money you have.
Thanks for reading,
Extra sweet ending-four months after writing this post, after the company actually stood up to this schmuck and refused to do any more business with him, his assistant called me and sheepishly paid all the penalties and we reinstated their account after they agreed to abide by our practices. It was a good day.
Scene: The large office of a CEO at a major worldwide distributor of anonymous widgets somewhere in the Midwest. He was tall and had shiny shoes, pressed slacks, a warm tone and a kindly face. I, on the other hand, was nervous as Hell.
"AC, we've looked at your resume, and your qualifications. I believe you will be a great addition to our team. Welcome aboard!"
He stood up and shook my hand firmly and grinned. I tried to look smug and casual, but I knew I probably just looked shocked. At least I wasn't drooling. He led me to the Human Resources Office where we negotiated a salary and benefits.
"We want you to be excited about working here, AC. That's why we are offering you this amount as a starting salary."
He slid a piece of paper across the desk with a number that represented a 23% raise to what I was making now. It was more than I had asked for! Who does that? Who gives you more than you ask for? Tell me this!
He explained a set of generous benefits including dental, life, vision, everything! It was like a dream. They wanted me, and I was going to not have to work overtime or weekends or stay over or even eat at my desk! There was a freakin' lunch hour! There was voicemail and email-no damn ACD reports, or green strobe light going off for calls missed! I finally had the chance to work for someone that wanted me to do the job right, not just half-ass. It was all too good to be true.
When I got home, Mrs. Cog and I put on our best clothes and went out for Chinese food. She had the Empress Shrimp, I had the Garlic Chicken. We had Hot and Sour Soup, Egg-Rolls, Shrimp Toast, Potstickers and Strawberry Ice Cream for dessert.
It had been one of the best days ever.
More to come later...
Thanks for reading,
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Click this link to read a Christmas post on my other blog:
"Poverty, Politics and Faith"
Here's some other past Christmas posts from the archive of this blog, if you want something to read. Click the link above for a public domain copy of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens-my gift to you.
"Interfering for Good"
"The Christmas Program"
"A Ripe Little Mouth..."
"A Grinchy Cog"
"Quotes From A Christmas Carol"
Thanks for reading,
655 posts, 2 years, 7 months, 3 days-I've had enough...
If you might not have gathered from reading the end of "The Malfunction", I am not going to blog anymore about the call center. I'm not deleting the blog, there's too much of my heart and soul in this place. There will be bad call centers, bad bosses, and certainly bad customers, around long after I leave my call center, so someone may enjoy reading it. I will still answer emails and comments,(not so quickly though). I'm leaving the blogroll up for now, and I will be glad to link to anyone who links to me. If you liked Call Center Purgatory, I've created a Cafe Press Store, click the post title link above to get to the store.
I'm ready to live life, and there's no room for Call Center Purgatory anymore. It takes too much time, and has become counter productive. Check back from time to time, or keep an eye out on Technorati. I will let you know when I finally leave the call center, and I may give you some actual details about who I am and where I worked.
There are so many of you that have been very kind and gracious to me. I could not begin to name all of the wonderful people who have commented, emailed or linked to me. I care for many of you like dear friends who I have known for years.
Thanks for reading,
I really mean that.
I found myself still on the floor, my face still wet from crying, back in the white classroom with Mr. Brown. I stood up and faced him.
"Is that it? Is it over?"
"Yes, it is. Sit down for a minute."
I sat down in one of the chairs. He leaned on the desk and began to speak.
"You've learned a lot, but there's some other things you need to think about. Most people are thrown into something like Purgatory. Moses spent many years wandering through the desert, so did Paul, when he spent time in the Arabia after his conversion on the road to Damascus. David was left alone with his sheep for weeks at a time. John the Baptist wandered through the desert for years, living on locusts and wild honey. Jesus spent 40 days alone before he started his ministry. What about Matthew? How many years did he spend as a tax collector? He was abused and hated by both the Jews and the Romans, he lived a life as miserable as any call center worker. You're not the only one that has felt this way. The difference is they all came out of their Purgatory when they were called. It's time for you to do the same. Put all your energy first into your relationship with God, and then into being a benefit to those around you. Stop obsessing about the call center, put that energy into leaving it."
"Good...Goodbye for now."
He grinned, waved his hand, and everything blurred into a mixture of indigo and grey. I came to a start, and found myself sitting at my desk in the call center, the headphone had fallen around my neck. The screen was dark. The clock said it was time to clock out and everyone was getting ready to go. I took off the headphone and opened my desk drawer to put it away. In my desk I found a cold can of Diet Cherry 7-up and a Cow Tails candy. I rolled up my sleeve, and there were scars that looked like bite marks. I picked up my bag and lunchbox and got up to leave. As I walked through the long hall through the accounting department, I could hear playing low over the PA system was "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" by Neil Diamond.
It was time to leave this place, forever...
Thanks for reading,
To say it was black was an understatement. There was no longer any input to any of my senses. It felt like I had no eyes, no ears, no sense of smell or touch, wandering in cold nothingness. My hands in front of my face could neither be seen, nor could I feel the air produced by moving them in front of my face. I clapped, I screamed, I clapped my hands, I stomped my feet, all of it made no noise at all. I reached in my pocket and felt my cell phone, but the light did not work, and the ringer and volume made no sound. It was at this point the silence became very loud.
I sat down. At least I think I sat down. I was not vertical and was mostly relaxed, except for not knowing where I was or how long this would last. If I were to venture a guess where I was at, I would say it was a part of Limbo called "Pascals Room". You may remember the quote from his book Pensees,
"All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone." For once in a long time I was totally alone with nothing but my heart and my mind to keep me company. I could not even hear my heart beating.
At first my head felt like it was humming, like my thoughts were producing some sort of noise of their own; thinking about my life, my wife, how I ended up at the call center and how I had come to such an empty life. The hum began to subside and I began to think slower and slower. All of the time I spent in the call center, just feeling sorry for myself that, "I wasn't fufilled". Yeah, the place is a bad place to work, and it brings out the worst in me, but I still am responsible for who I am.
I had embraced the anger, sadness and frustration in the call center for so long that I was comfortable with it. It had become my friend, the reason I used for not being useful to the world. It was not a good enough reason for not making a difference in other people's lives. I might not be able to have some dramatic job, or do all that I want to do, but I have to do something more than this.
I began to consider my actions outside of all those half-ass pseudo-intellectual reasons that I always brought up to justify my own selfishness, my own sin. I stopped trying to see "the bigger picture", and talk about my actions in the "context of a larger world view". I realized that so much of my own high-minded philosophy was just bullshit. Spending time trying to find truth in the world is important-but even a search for truth can be used to cover up your own selfishness. Absolute truth still lives. Sin really exists. Discussing all our own faults, trying to explain them away, or becoming obsessed with finding the root of your sins, does not cause them to cease to exist, it's just a convenient way to ignore the truth as you pretend to explore it.
I wept. I repented of my own self-centeredness. I asked God to forgive me and show me how to be useful to him and to those around me.
The darkness faded...
Thanks for reading,
Purgatory: A place of suffering and torment with an unknown duration. In Roman Catholic Theology-the place where the dead are purified from their sins.
By Rage Against The Machine