Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Friday, September 30, 2005
  Which Happy Bunny?

you're so dumb
you are the "you're so dumb" happy bunny.
you are brutal in your words and enjoy putting
others down.

which happy bunny are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, September 29, 2005
  Reflections of a Call Center Owner

Click the link above to read a blog by a man who has owned various call centers. I was pleasantly surprised. Very positive, and not just boring management-speak.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 28, 2005
  "What I Am?"

Let's begin with what I am not...

I'm not a number.
I'm not a statistic on the ACD,
I am not total calls taken,
I am not total transactions completed,
I am not average wrap time.

Figure out another way to define all that I am.
Standard deviation, mean, median, variance, trendline,
Outlier, random sample, and projected probabilities,
All fall sadly short of definition, truth or subtlety.

The language of math is far too limited to measure my worth.
The measure of virtue, caring, skill and craftsmanship,
Can not be measured through the interrelationships of the
Cells in Microsoft Excel.

Your self-righteous rants, condescending tones,
are evidence you define me your own way.

Your self-centered myoptic world has become fuzzy,
Your view of people has become blurred,
Changing from all shapes and colors,
They morph from flesh and blood to black and white,
integer, and decimals, positive and negative.

I am not the screw-up.
I am not the slacker.
I am not my hatred,
I am not my tears,
I am not my depression.

I exist outside of your world,
I'm a husband,
I'm a son.
My blood still runs red,
My heart is still touched by my customers.

You can only see them as numbers.

In the end, I am and you, are not...

Thanks for reading,



Got up early, and stayed until the last minute to leave for work this morning. Had a mini vacation I like to call a big-ass breakfast. Any regular readers know I am obsessed with breakfast-here's what I had today:

-three eggs, overeasy with a couple of squirts of hot sauce
-two pieces of toast, baked in the toaster oven like a crouton, then buttered heavily and fried in the frying pan for 30 seconds. This makes them both incredibly crispy, and extra buttery, excellently suited for sopping up the golden gravy.
-one big glass of ice cold milk.
-one big mug of Maxwell House 1892 blend(a real no-nonsense blend-not some biscotti-dippin'-can-I-have-some-caramel-syrup-in-my-latte?-taste, this is what coffee is when it grows up, this is the sort of coffee you put in your thermos when you go duck hunting in the dead of winter!)
-a bowl of peach jello with a generous dollop of cool whip. I have no idea where I came up with this as a breakfast food, but it makes me happy and cools down my mouth after the hot sauce and the bitterness of the coffee.

While eating, I put on some smooth latin piano jazz. For forty-five minutes, all was well. My world was sublime, beautiful and worth living.

Now the tricky bit starts, time to go to work...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 27, 2005
  Common Sense Now

Check out Common Sense Now, an excellent political blog with some real substance as opposed to so many other blogs, that generally run somewhere between "Bush Sucks" or "All Liberals Suck.".

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 26, 2005
  Is It The Job, Or Is It Me?

I'd be wrong if I told you every day at the call center was bad. I even have good weeks, and on very, very, very rare occasions, I have a good month(I think there have been three of those).

There are some days that I love the people I work with. We act like one big family, teasing and helping each other and joking around all day long. Then there are others where we seem to be running to the boss every time anyone sneezes and everyone is trying to figure out how they can pull the daggers out of their backs.

There is not really any clear leadership, and yelling at everyone and vague memos have to suffice for real training.

That said, I'm still here. I haven't been fired in the five plus years, I haven't been forced to sign any kind of oral or written warning, I have only had one review (I asked for more, they said they were coming). Then on the other hand, I haven't gotten any kind of raise, I haven't got one of those high performer plaques that they give out in the Friday morning sales meetings. I have had one really good ass chewing, and got yelled at across the floor a couple times, but nothing more than that.

Part of me is pragmatic enough to realize they aren't going to fire me, because they would have done it by now. Its more trouble than its worth to them to fire me. I've always called in when I was sick, and have very few sick days. I'm never more than five minutes late. Every year I am here is just that much more experience I have in a job that has high turnover (at least in normal people). I'm pleasant to customers. I want to help the people who call in here(to a point). The sensible part of me knows this. I'm fairly certain I would have to something on the level of waggling my private parts at the ladies in the accounting department, wearing nothing but a purple bow (hunter green would probably be an ok choice too), in order to get fired really fast.

The pragmatism and cold hard facts end there. After that there are rumors, innuendos, snide comments from people other than my manager, just a general uneasy feeling that permeates everything about this place. The atmosphere of uneasiness really seems to feed the other part of me. That would be the dark brooding part that haunts me. It tells me they are just waiting until I make a "real" mistake, and then they will pounce, and I will leave this place in shame of losing my job. The dark irrational side tells me that there are people all over the company that hate my guts, and are just waiting to find a way to get rid of me.

Pretty nuts, huh?

Sometimes I turn to myself and say, "Dude, how old are you? 16? Grow up! Stop acting like such a little drama freak!".

That's the beauty of this blog. When I have these kind of dark, irrational, stupid, ignorant feelings, just writing them down remove their power to haunt me and make me miserable. Putting those thoughts on "digital paper" shows them for the kind of trash they are. It also reminds me that a lot of my sense of being in purgatory is just that, my sense. I own it. I always try to comprehend, or at least ask the question, "How much of my purgatory is my own feelings and the way I see this world around me, and how much is really this place?"

I have a friend from college who is a missionary. He talked about how he was miserable for years in the mission field until he became willing to do what God asked him, he said after that, things changed for the better, and he had real results. I often wonder if that applies to me working here. The thing I can't tell you is all that happens outside the call center, everything that I'm arranging to make my life better, and facilitate leaving this place.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, September 24, 2005
  I Feel So Old...

I walked into my neighborhood Wal-Mart tonight and went to the electronics section to buy an ink cartridge for my printer. I walked up to the guy in the blue vest,

"Hi, Where's your printer ribbons?"
"Uhhh....I mean printer cartridges..."
"Yeah, that's funny. I thought you had a really old computer, Ha, Ha...behind the video games.."

I almost told him that my Commodore 64 has a real five and a quarter inch floppy drive, 1200 baud modem, and a Near Letter Quality Epson Dot-Matrix printer, thank you very much, but I didn't think he'd get the irony.

Man, I feel old..

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 22, 2005
  Larry! Come Home!

On Monday my boss Larry was sick and did not show up. As much as he yells and screams, he is the epitome of the old saying,

"Better the devil you know than the angel you don't"~Hama Tuma
I understand him, in some sort of twisted, Stockholm-Syndrome, co-dependant, way, I understand his crazy ass.

Some of the older veterans took over. It was not pretty. They were walking around, biting people if they dared to chat about anything other than call center related business. Calling out numbers to hit and keeping a sharp eye on the ACD screen for any sign of slacking. All of a sudden, I felt like the weeping prophet Jeremiah, crying out for my people as they suffered under the Capitalist Overlords of Telecommunication...
God! Wouldst thou deliver me from
enthusiastic middle management?!
My heart yearns that you would slay them,
The MBA's that are SOB's..
See the plight of your people Lord,
as we weep into our keyboards,
Bring back the mediocre one,
He may have been Purgatory,
But he wasn't Hell,

Thanks Lord,
And another thing Lord,
please let Mrs. Cog be in the mood tonight,

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, September 20, 2005
  The Atheist

"The notion that everyone would like Christianity to be true, and all atheists are brave men who have accepted the defeat of all their deepest desires, is simply impudent nonsense."~C.S. Lewis, Encounter with Light
I met a man once that changed the way I looked at things. He said he was an atheist. That may have been his chosen moniker, but he exercised this belief in such a zealous way, this one label was not enough to cover his explosive relationship to God and all things supernatural. To simply say he was an atheist would be like saying Che Guevarra had an active interest in Latin American politics.

When I was in my twenties, I thought I knew a lot about being a Christian. I had read the bible all the way through, I had read things like systematic theologies, Old and New Testament survey books, bible commentaries, and anything I could lay my hands on. I even led bible studies and taught Sunday School classes. I thought I had it all figured out. I was working in a senior center as a volunteer while I continued with one my many Joe-jobs to make a living in the meantime. All my time spent studying the bible, reading doctrinal books, and spending so much time in church made me think I knew everything about how the world around me operated. I was just waiting for an opportunity to share all of my incredible knowledge about how the world and all things spiritual could be explained so easily.

The Atheist was a remarkable man. Many of the rest of the residents were kind of out of it, but not this guy. He was sharp, sharp as a razor blade just out of the little cardboard package. He never allowed any of the staff to treat him with that sort of patronizing treatment you find so common in people dealing with the elderly. He expected, "Yes, Sir" and "No Sir" ,and he would not be put in arts and crafts classes. Instead he would give lectures and roundtables on things like nuclear war.

He was in his late 80's. He had almost transparent skin, with a shiny bald head shrouded by fine cotton-like hair, and a beard of the same white, but what was amazing about him was his eyes. They were bright blue with the darkest pupils. He carried himself like a gentleman, but there was also something about him that said he would not suffer fools gladly.

There were little apartments connected to the senior center by wings, like spokes in a wheel. He was in the assisted living, but he needed very little help. One day he invited me into his room and we spoke for a while. Even though I was bursting at the seams with spiritual wisdom, I knew a man like this was not going to change easily, certainly not because of anything I would say, I also knew he had been arguing against Christianity for years, he wasn't just some teenager in an anarchy shirt and greasy hair trying to be an atheist this week because it sounded rebellious and chicks might think he was dangerous. This guy was an Old-School-Bad-Ass-Infidel.

He gave me some books on apologetics, he said he didn't need them anymore. I'm not sure how we got on the subject, but he proceeded to tell me why he became an atheist.
"It happened when I was younger, about your age. I had been a salesman for a long time. I was having a rough time and could not make any sales. Every thing I did went wrong. My wife was sick, the baby was sick. No matter how hard I tried, nothing went right for me.

One day as I was sitting at the kitchen table thinking about my lot in life and how little God had done for me. When I stood up and cursed him.
'God! God! Do you hear me?! You are a fake and a fraud! Your Son was just a bastard and the Virgin Mary was a just a little whore!'
After that, everything got better. I started making sales, life became easier and I never looked back...'
I was speechless. I had never heard such a thing. Beyond the obvious blasphemy, it was so shocking that he just didn't give a shit...about anything spiritual! Even more than that, he was happy! Things went got better after he rejected God!

I didn't know what to think. "He should be miserable.. He should be convicted of his sin.. should be..can't be..shouldn't be..will be..can't be..", I couldn't put it all together. Then he turned his intellectual guns on me,
"So how do you believe there is God?", he said.

I should have been ready for this. I should have jumped in there with both barrels blazing, but I didn't. I realized that all of my religious education had been based on the assumption that everyone believed in God and would kowtow to my superior knowledge. Not this guy...

I finally stuttered out an answer,
I-I believe in God because I see him everywhere I go, in everything I see, in the world around me. Creation speaks to me that he is and he loves me. I believe in God because I know him in my heart as my friend.
He looked at me sort of pitifully, but with some measure of respect. He didn't berate me, but it became clear that our little visit was over. I thanked him for the books and shook his hand and left.
"Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbably: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable"~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I'm still not sure of what really happened there. I still think about it now. On one hand, his espoused atheism was just as fervent as my faith. He really wasn't a purely intellectual atheist, he had experienced a conversion to atheism, just as sincere and just as real as my own conversion to Christ. He didn't want God to exist, he didn't want God to have anything to do with him. I won't be so bold as to judge all atheists this way, I'm just saying that I have met one who wanted God to not exist. His desire to not believe in God was as strong as my desire to believe.

I still felt bad about how I had responded, for years I felt ashamed that I had not been more forceful and strong in my response. Several years later, a friend of my Dad said something that really helped me to put it all in better perspective,

"A.C., When you were in your twenties and thought you knew everything, at that moment, you knew more than you will ever know. From that point on, you started knowing less and less."

It took me a while, but I got it. Systematic theology is great for academics, but it doesn't always translate into real Christianity. You start to retain less and less of superfluous knowledge, and start keeping only the things that help you. When push came to shove, I fell back to something more basic, something more familiar, something like..."Jesus loves this I know, for the bible tells me so.", something like "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life." Something simple to the ear, but substantial to the heart.
"The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."~Blaise Pascal
The other thing that occurred to me after this conversation was this: People who state strong beliefs aren't always all that they appear to be. Before our conversation, the Atheist stalked my world like a wolf who would overtake me and make me come face to face with the doubt all Christians experience from time to time; the doubt that all my beliefs could be wrong. He was so cock-sure, so intelligent, so passionate, but like so many people in this world, nothing is as it appears...

Thanks for reading,

Monday, September 19, 2005
  "Dancing Waters, Chili Dogs, Its All Here At Retail Heaven!"

This is part V in the series "Self Examination", where I look back on all the jobs I have had. I wanted to make a real attempt to stop just blaming the call center for all the problems I have at work, and look at my own failings. Consider it a short biography of mediocrity.

Click here to read Part I

As you will remember from the last post, I had found out that they actually want you to sell stuff at a retail job, and I was not winning best salesman of the month, instead I was doing the opposite...

I knew working for this "superstar", I would not find happiness at work. He was nastier and nastier to me, as was the district manager. My days were numbered at this store, and didn't think any amount of bullshit could sharpen my resume at this point.

Then salvation arrived from an unlikely place. The crew from our store went to help out another store with their inventory. I had met the manager Steve before and really liked him. We spent one day there, and worked into the night counting everything. We went home about 1 am. Talk about retail hell.

A week later, I was told I was being transferred to Steve's store. I didn't learn until six months later that Steve stepped up and took me in because my manager and the District Manager wanted to fire me.

Steve's store was in a very strange mall. It only had one anchor store, and then a lot of smaller stores. There was a huge fountain in the middle with dancing waters and polished steps of stone leading to the water. It was a nice place, but it had more senior citizens walking than actual shoppers. To add to the strangeness, there was a poll taking company on the top floor that would stalk potential customers like Jehovah's witnesses on commission.

Still, it was a nice mall. There was a bank to cash my check. There were cute girls working at the shoe store. There was a great candy shop that made peanut butter fudge to die for. Then there was an Orange Julius where I went for a special payday lunch of potato wedges with cheese, chili cheese dogs with onions, and a strawberry Julius every two weeks. I even liked the Tom's brand vending machine with the twenty-five cent barbecue potato chips. The store was never the most profitable store in our area, but it survived. During Christmas, I would make enough commission to really do fairly well.

Steve is on the short list of the best bosses I have had in my working years. He could get pissed off and yell at you, but most of the time he didn't have to. That was because you just recognized the human decency of the guy and wanted to do a good job. You had his best interests at heart because he had your best interests at heart. At one point Steve confronted me about what is one of my real failures; spending more time with a customer than is reasonable.

"AC, you spent twenty minutes with those people, and you only sold fifteen dollars worth of merchandise."
"Yeah, but they were doing a project for school and needed some extra help."
"You essentially did the project for them. Besides that, there were other customers that needed help. You taking that extra time lost us some other sales."
"I'm sorry Steve. I just wanted to help..."
"Hey, there's nothing wrong with helping people. But you need to look at what's going on around you before making that sort of commitment of time. You could have told the people that you would help them some more if they could wait until you took care of the other customers."
"Ok, Steve, I'll do that next time."

That's the kind of boss he was. He didn't put you down and he understood the balance between profit and taking care of people. After a year there, he went on vacation and left me in charge. I felt very responsible, even if I was just making minimum wage. After he eventually left, I started thinking about going elsewhere. The new boss was ok, but he wasn't ok enough to make up for the low wages.

Next in the series-"Spreading the Gospel and Getting the Sack"

Thanks for reading,


Other posts in this series include(newest to oldest):
"A Cog In Retail Hell"
"Mini Skirts, Lucky Strikes and Shiny Floors"
"Would You Like Fries With That?"
"Self Examination-Part One"

Saturday, September 17, 2005
  Corporate Insanity

Click the link above to check out a new blog by a programming consultant. I like this guy. I wish I had his job!

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 16, 2005
  "A Taste of His Own Medicine"

I feel smug today...

The reason why is that Larry, my direct supervisor got called on the carpet today. Its nice to see him on the hot seat for a while.

In the morning, one of our huge corporate accounts called in just freaking out because some trades were delayed. The veteran trader that set it up never made sure it was handled right, he just entered it, submitted, and forgot it.

The customer called back. She is a very serious lady in her 40's, but has a voice that is high and squeaky. She was livid that her instructions had not been followed. If someone would have stepped up and apologized, she may have let it go. Instead, our veteran agent just made her madder when he made excuses. She demanded to speak to a supervisor.

"Larry, that squeaky chick from AJAX investments is on the phone. I'm not going to talk to her anymore, you can try to calm her down."

Larry picked up the phone, and I could hear her screeching. Larry let his anger get the better of him and he barked back at her.

"Don't talk like that to me or I won't help you! I am not going to have you abuse my people just because things didn't go your way. I will look into this and call you back!"

We didn't hear from her for the rest of the day on the floor, but something else happened to show the incident was not dead.

The GM plus three people from Sales, Marketing, and H.R. walked through the floor...

"Larry, can you stop by the conference room, please?"

He looked up, turned off his phone and left without a word. After, they left, I decided I had to hear some of this. I waited five minutes, then picked up my dummy paper and headed for the copier. Its right next to the conference room.

Yes! The door was cracked open, the hall was empty and I could hang out for a couple minutes. The GM was speaking, I was only catching every few words.

"Very important customer....Disrespectful....Bad example to staff...."

At first Larry was not talking back, but then he spoke up.

"12 years!....Question my authority....Don't appreciate all that I do!"

I finally left before anyone caught me. But I had heard enough to have a grin on my face the rest of the day. Finally, some karmic justice dealt out for once. Someone who had sowed meanness and coldness was getting the sort of harvest he deserved.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 14, 2005
  "A Cog in Retail Hell"

Part IV in the series entitled, "Self Examination", Click here to read Part I

After leaving the last job, I made a real effort to find something more suitable. I wanted something that where I wasn't judged on how many burgers I flipped, or how many fries I wasted, how many windows I washed, or how many pieces of scrap paper I had missed in cleaning the foyer.

Because I've always been such a freakin' people person, I naively wandered toward a local mall. I found a store that I always liked. They sold all kind of products, both expensive and cheap. I interviewed with a really nice guy that reminded me of a kind John Cleese, not the John Cleese in Fawlty Towers, who is probably the worst example of a boss ever seen.

They didn't have an opening at the mall, but they sent me out to one of their satellite stores to work with a new manager. The pay was minimum wage or commission, whatever was greater. I was sure that I could make big commissions, and do really well with my charming personality.

Soon after I started, I was sent to an employee training session at some mid-priced motel meeting room. There I met the district sales manager, I disliked him after the first five words he said. He was a most excellent weasel, not an average weasel, who wanders in and out of human decency. No, he was all weasel, all the time. Sales were all he lived for. I soon learned that being a good salesman was not about truthfulness, or making the customer happy. No, it was all about the numbers. Lying was wrong, but only if you got caught. Pressure the customer to make a decision now, tell them that the sale won't last. I had a bad feeling in my stomach.

After the sales meeting, I started working in the satellite store. The manager was only a little older than me. He got the job because he had been a superstar at the mall store. Soon after I started, he cut my hours. I asked him why, and he said I wasn't selling enough and I didn't get a shipment put away the last night. As weeks went on, he made it clear that I had attracted the attention of the district manager with my lack of sales.

I tried to sell hard, but it wasn't in me, I couldn't pressure people to buy something overpriced. If they wanted something, or were interested in something, I would go out of my way to help them.

I didn't know what I was going to do, it was looking like I would lose another job...

More in Part II: "Dancing Waters, Chili Dogs, Its All Here At Retail Heaven!"

Thanks for reading


Previous entries in "Self Examination":

"Mini Skirts, Lucky Strikes, and Shiny Floors"
"Would You Like Fries With That?"
Self Examination-Introduction

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
  Mini-Skirts, Lucky-Strikes, and Shiny Floors

Part III in the series "Self Examination",Click here to read Part I.

During my time in college, I worked as a janitor for a large company cleaning office buildings. I had a family member that worked for the same company who got me an interview. I was still so extremely young and naive, I didn't see all the signs that everything was not as great as it looked. Yet when I interviewed, I thought, "Great, sick days, benefits, uniforms, finally, I've got an 'adult' job. I won't go home smelling like burgers and fries!"

I should have known something was up by the way the guy that trained me was so excited. Hell, he was giddy. He had given notice, and after I was trained he was out of there. He even showed me the places to hide, and how to slack and not get caught. I was appalled. I considered myself a fine upstanding citizen and an exemplary worker, why would I try to find ways to slack off? This information eventually came in handy a couple of times though,(thanks dude!).

Training days over, what little romance had been there was gone as quickly as finding out that hot chick you met last summer was really your cousin. I worked every day with a crotchety old man who smoked un-filtered lucky strikes. He didn't seem to like me at all and took advantage of any opportunity to chew my ass. Our manager was a short Asian lady with fierce dark eyes, a bob-cut and a penchant for wearing mini-skirts. She was easy on the eyes, but she was as friendly as an ice pick. Any time I did something wrong she was all over me screeching like a banshee. The people in the offices were derogatory, condescending, and mean, but sometimes they mixed it up some and were stupid and ignorant also. There were some nice people, I even made some friends that I was glad to see every day, but they were the exception.

Most of the time was spent working without our manager underfoot, just me and the crotchety old man, but she had this way of sneaking up on you, or having other people spy on you.

I'd do the floors and the bathrooms and empty the trash and he'd do light maintenance, like replacing light bulbs. I got into a rhythm there, and I even liked it. I liked leaving and having the floors shine. I loved the smell of the disinfectant that smelled like oranges. I liked running the buffer once I figured out how to keep it from smacking the baseboards. I liked putting things in order. When I finished the floors shined, and the bathroom chrome look liked a mirror. I was really proud of my work. The old man eventually softened up and even pulled me aside one day and said I kept everything real clean, and did a good job. That meant a lot to me.

But there were a lot of extra things that my boss wanted done that I never got done. She wanted things done super fast, and she had a list of chores I never seemed to get to. Things such as weeding around the doors, wiping baseboards with pledge, and any other busy work she could think of.

When my review came, she and her boss sat down and told me I was not getting a raise and they were not happy with my work. They said I didn't manage my time well, and I was not meeting their expectations. I could tell things weren't going to get better. I had done all I knew to do, I wasn't sleeping on the job, but still, it was never good enough for her. With the wages I was getting there, and a year with no raise at all, I knew I had better look elsewhere.

Even now I wonder what really happened. The guy who trained me, and the old crotchety guy did not seem to do more work than I was doing. They slacked off a lot time, big time too. What could I have done different? Was it just that I was slow, or a slacker? It kind of haunted me, like the first manager I had when I worked in fast food. It was the same old thing that has haunted me in so many jobs I have left. I took too long to accomplish some tasks, and other tasks suffered, that quick and half-ass perfection of Joe Jobs continued to elude me(still does today).

Next chapter:"A Mall Cog in a Retail Hell"

Previous Chapter-Part II, "Would you like fries with that"

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 12, 2005
  FEMA Chief Brown Resigns

"Today I resigned as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As I told the president, it is important that I leave now to avoid further distraction from the ongoing mission of FEMA," said Brown, who was also the undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response for the Department of Homeland Security.

It was the right thing to do. Even if he wasn't to blame, he had become a tremendous liability. I do believe he was partly to blame. Even if he wasn't he appeared clueless and callous, which for a leader cancels out any good he may have done.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, September 10, 2005
  "Would You Like Fries With That?"

Part II in the series "Self Examination" (Click here to read Part I)

The first real job I ever had was in a fast-food restaurant working the night shift. I felt lost for quite a while. I had worked for my dad before this and really wanted to do a good job. I ironed my uniform, made sure my shoes were clean and actually tried to smile a lot and really learn the job. I was so afraid I would not do a good job, I took twice as long to do every job I was given. I tried to make all of the dishes spotless and perfectly sanitized like they had taught me on the foodservice video. I wanted the dining room to be clean enough to actually eat off of the tables. I wanted the linoleum to shine in the bathrooms. All I did was make the rest of the closers have to work harder and longer to get out of there at a decent hour.

I remember my first manager riding me hard, he never really tried to help me, he just told me if I didn’t get faster I would be fired. For a 17 year old kid that was a big deal. I kept trying to be better but he was never satisfied with me. I felt like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. He kept promising that I would suffer, he kept saying I could lose my job, and then it happened.

He got fired...

I moved to the second shift. I never became super fast, but I improved. I went from dining room, and grill, to actually running the register and taking orders. I really liked that job. I excelled in dealing with customers. By the end of the second year, I had gotten a couple of 15 cent raises and the coveted employee of the month pin. I left that job feeling good about myself. I was never the fastest guy, but my sandwiches didn't come back wrong, and I was dependable and did it right the first time.

I did learn one thing with that job. Sometimes half-ass is good enough. I also learned that employers will put up with a lot if you keep showing up, care about your work, and don’t steal from them.

I left this job to head for college after High School.

More in part III,"Mini-Skirts, Lucky-Strikes, and Shiny Floors"

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 09, 2005
  Self-Examination Part I

Rolling over slowly looking at the clock, I was finally sleeping in for once on an off day. My wife had left early to go shopping or something, I don't really remember what, I just know that I was alone and wasn't getting up until I was ready. The cat wandered in, jumped up on the bed, and curled up on my wife's pillow, close enough to scratch his ears.

While I lay there, I thought about my job history. Since "It finally happened", I have begun to be concerned about having to look for another job before I have finished my plan to leave this series of "Joe Jobs" forever.

But as I thought back on each job since I was in high school, I considered that there had been some real problems on my part. Not every job, but it happened enough times to concern me. In the year and a half of blogging about my job, I have never really attempted to examine my own failures as a worker. So I thought it was time to consider that. Of course, the details will have to be changed some for the sake of anonymity, but the story won’t suffer.

And yes, this sort of thing is extremely self-centered and self-involved, that’s why it makes so much sense to blog it. Where else but on the internet can you find millions of words on thousands of pages blathering on and on about people’s lives you will never meet? Sometimes when I’m surfing blogs I will look at the huge posts people do about themselves and think, “Is somebody reading this stuff?”, and then realize I’m writing the same stuff. That’s why we should never take blogging too seriously, no matter how poignant a post you produce, there will always be someone on the other side of the screen laughing their ass off at your pain.

Just think of yourselves as my psychiatrist, sitting on a couch, chewing on your pen asking yourself, “When will this wacko shut up??”, or just click one of the links on the blogroll, its all good stuff. I’m also going to make this a series, so it will go on for a while. If you comment, great, if not, you won’t hurt my feelings.

Even before I joined the workforce officially, I knew that I was not a very motivated person. My room was always a mess, and I would do a half-ass job cleaning it until my Mom got disgusted and cleaned it for me. In school I wasn’t much better. I got B’s and C’s mostly, a D on math now and then, and A’s only occasionally. My teachers would go on and on about how much potential I had and how utterly brilliant I was if I would just apply myself and stop daydreaming. I remember my parents put me into a private school for a little while, thinking that the challenge would do me good. It was great, I could work at my own pace, which was a lot slower than everyone else.

I guess facing it in the end, I was a real slacker as a kid. As a teenager I only wanted to play video games, watch TV and try to get past first base with my girlfriend. I could blame my parents for “not providing the necessary impetus to make me a responsible young man.” But I’ve really got beyond that now. At some point everyone is responsible for their own character whether they were raised well or not. My parents taught me a lot of good things that make up for my lack of discipline. They gave me a moral foundation, rules for living, and a real love of books. My mom and dad always taught me a lot about how important people are, and how you should be sensitive to their needs. My folks never spoke badly about people just for kicks, I rarely heard them bad mouth people.

Part Two-"Would you like fries with that?" coming soon...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 07, 2005
  "You've got to be kidding, right?"

"So I live in Jefferson county, but my postal address is in Pisgah county, Ok?"
"Wow, that's different. How do you spell Pisgah?"
"What, are you one of those people from India or somethin?"
"No...You've got to be kidding, right? What gave you that idea? I'm even a freakin' native of the state you live in, I've just never seen it spelled."
"Well, I just thought 'cause since you didn't know how to spell it...."
"Dude, you're killing me here... I'm from the Midwest, just like you!"

There's no middle ground with my customers. Either they think I am a God of information, and can tell them where to rent a Dodge Viper(none available-but there is a nice Cadillac DeVille) , buy a good Szechuan Cashew Chicken and pick up an Angelina Jolie video in Parsippany, NJ, or they assume anyone who can't spell a county or street name must be from India.

I find the India cracks a little racist too. Do they think people from India are ignorant? Many Indians are better educated than the slack jawed yokels calling my center that have trouble figuring out how to dial an 800 number without a diagram. I've called Indian call centers before and have been well treated, thank you very much!

Here's an idea so incredibly crazy it might just work: when you call someone for customer service, don't piss them off by making comments that make them look stupid or make you look racist. Who knows? You might, just might get better service.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 06, 2005
  "Poverty was the ruin of the poor in New Orleans"

Click the link above to read a new post on my other blog, "Poverty, Politics, and Faith".

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, September 04, 2005
  French Tips

My wife sits in the recliner in the living room in a robe after her shower. She's doing her nails as we watch TV. Her hair is mostly dry, but has that wonderful tousled look that makes me think of sex. She has one leg over the arm of the recliner, so I can see her knee. I marvel at the wonderful color of her skin, it's like ivory with a shade of pink, like a white rose. She paints her long elegant fingers into the French tips that I love so much.

When she holds them up to her face and blows on her fingertips. I just feel weak and I don't know why. It could be the natural grace that she possesses when she moves her hands or the pucker of her lips to blow on the nails. Sitting here just looking at her, I'm wrapped around her finger and she doesn't even realize it.

She is altogether pleasant. Her voice is soft and friendly. Her eyes are blue and warm. She rarely nags, and if she does I deserved it because I was being a slacker. When I look at her, I still have that feeling of infatuation, adoration, admiration and plain ole lust that I have had since our first date so many years ago.

I'm the luckiest guy in the world...

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, September 03, 2005
  Real Leadership in Houston

During a week when we have been glued to our TV's, computers and any source of news we could get about the tragedy on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, what we haven't seen is a lot of examples of clear, decisive leadership we could get behind.

I'm not including the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin in this list, he has done the best he could with very little to work with. He has been a good spokesperson for the plight of his city. He has brought some much needed attention to a situation that should not have lasted as long as it has. I liked his very "direct" quote,

"They don't have a clue what's going on down there," Nagin said. "They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn -- excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed."

Nagin accused state and federal officials of "playing games" and "spinning for the cameras." He says he keeps hearing that help is coming, but "there's no beef."
~Newsday:New Orleans Mayor Fumes Over Slow Reponse"

The rest of the federal and state authorities have seemed to be just giving excuses why things weren't getting better. President Bush's speech did not really make me feel any better, but most can agree that he is not Reagan when it comes to public speaking.

But today, listening to Marketplace on NPR on the way home, I heard evidence of the type of kick-ass-no-excuses leadership we have not been seeing elsewhere, from Bill White, the mayor of Houston, in dealing with the influx of refugees.
Initially, the city thought it could house 25,000 in the Astrodome. But when 11,000 people were brought to the building, the city's fire marshal said "no more."

Mayor White overruled him and took in 4,000 more. But at that point it became clear that the dome was filled to capacity, causing the mayor to open up Reliant Arena and Reliant Convention Center.

Anticipating some legal problems from his decision to open up the convention center to evacuees, White said that he expected lawsuits from some groups that had planned their conventions there later this year.

"They can go ahead and sue," he said. "Let them explain to the American people why money is more important than lives."

Oh yeah! I wish he was my mayor! That's the kind of spirit that makes me proud of my country, and have some hope that things are going to improve. I wonder if he'd like to manage a certain call center...

Thanks for reading,

Friday, September 02, 2005
  New Orleans

Click above to read an incredible article by the San Francisco Gate about the looting and crime that has occurred after Hurricane Katrina.

What has struck me so strongly about the situation in New Orleans is how so many people are coming face to face with the horrible truth about law enforcement and the role of Government in our lives here in America.

The government at large, and law enforcement in general is not responsible for our individual safety. This is not because they don't want to help, it's just not possible to hold a law enforcement liable unless there is a real clear cut case of negligence, even then it can be rough to prove. It's impossible for them to be there for every crime, or get there in time to stop it.

Check out this quote from the article above:

Tourist Debbie Durso of Washington, Mich., said she asked a police officer for assistance and his response was, "'Go to hell — it's every man for himself.'"

Loud and clear, this officer expressed what is truly going on there. There are simply not enough resources or man power to control the situation there. Law enforcement is just trying to keep things from getting worse, and they are not going to put themselves into harms way if they can help it. Just wearing that badge makes them a big enough target without being a cowboy.

Security is like the economy, what we percieve affects how we react. If we think the economy is bad, we don't spend a lot of money. If we think its good, we are free to spend too much.

When we believe that we are safe in our homes because the police are just a call away, we are relaxed and believe we live in a safe society. But its all an illusion. Several days after a disaster, all of the perceptions of safety and security are gone. Any city can become like New Orleans if enough bad things happen.

I'm not trying to scare you. What I am saying is we should all take something away from this disaster. The government is not going to take care of us. We need to make whatever preparations to take care of ourselves if a time of disaster comes.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, September 01, 2005
  Anonymous Lawyer

Check out the Anonymous Lawyer blog above.
He's obsessed with lunches, billable hours, and
loves messing with the minds of the interns he recruits.

Whether you agree with his viewpoint or not,
he writes a good,honest blog that is worth the click.
I can really relate to him, we both work
in jobs where people don't always like us.

Thanks for reading,



Exploring the mind numbing insanity and childish corporate culture of an unknown call center employee.

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.

Email:anonymous.cog at

"One must know oneself, if this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better." -Blaise Pascal

The Cog is listening to:
"Wake Up"
By Rage Against The Machine

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