Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Friday, March 31, 2006
  Oh, Please, Oh Please Mr. Customer, Please Don't Threaten Me!

In the last couple of days I have noticed something about my customers. When they feel they are being taken advantage of, or think they are being ignored or just aren't happy with how things are going, they start making threats. Sometimes I wish I could let them know how I really feel. I wish I could make incredibly clear the depths of my apathy. Customers that threaten me cause this valve inside my head to be opened that fills an area the size of an Olympic swimming pool with properly chlorinated and perfectly heated, I-don't-give-a-rat's-ass quality brand of apathy.

"If I don't get better service, I will take my business elsewhere!"

"You don't see the severity of the situation, you are about to lose a customer because of these problems!"

"You guys better shape up! I'm not going to put up with this forever!"

"I guess I'm just going to have to call your competitor."

It just becomes so hard to take people seriously when they threaten me. I really want to laugh in their faces. They just seem like some wigged-out quixotic figure, spurring their donkey on to challenge the wizard of the evil call center. I cared before they called, but when they start making threats I just want to giggle.

Now before the guys over at start sharpening their pitchforks, let me explain some things. First of all, I do care about my customers. I want them to be happy, I want to do a good job, I want to make them and my company money through my good service.

The thing about making threats is this, while they are a good device for making sure that people know you are not happy, beyond that they do nothing to make the person on the other side of the phone feel for you. Threats do nothing besides make the call center worker feel powerless and alienated.

Why is that you may ask? It's because call centers are set up to provide multiple companies with service solutions at reasonable costs. In layman's terms, call centers answer the phones for multiple companies in the cheapest and fastest way possible at the lowest cost possible so we can buy things as cheaply as possible.

Let's give a more concrete example. Wal-Mart has great prices, and great selection. But when you want help to find something, or ask someone for help with a technical question you either can't find anyone, or if you do, you get a blank stare, or they tell you they will page someone and disappear into the underwear section again, hiding behind the leopard thongs rack until you finally give up and wander off.

You can blame the people that work there, but they are just like call center workers, they aren't paid to go out of their way and spend hours helping you and learning all they can know about the products they sell. Instead, they are paid to do as little as possible to take keep a large store stocked and clean so the everyday low prices can continue.

The fact that large call centers exist that take care of multiple companies means threats are not an effective tool in the long run. You are just one of hundreds of crabby customers that call every day. The call center worker can only do so much without getting in trouble. They have goals for calls handled per day, calls handled per hour, and average time per call.

There remains a better way to get service. I've said it before and I will say it again: when you call with a problem, approach the call center worker in such a way that they can be the hero. Remember their name, ask them if they can do you a favor, be the person that they will go out of their way to help. Yes, you can order people around because "you are the customer", but treating people like slaves creates the worst kind of service. Instead, be the person that they consider worth doing extra for. Be the person that they are willing to break the rules for, because you were kind, appreciative and grateful.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Thursday, March 30, 2006
  A Different Level of Purgatory
Purgatory, from The Dante Encyclopedia (c) (2000). Illustration by Robert Turner

Dante wrote about seven levels of Purgatory. Each level represented a different one of the Seven Deadly Sins and presented ways to atone for each sin. As the traveler progressed, he eventually would make it to the top of the mountain, which was Paradise. I chose the name Call Center Purgatory because no other job in my life has so exemplified the sort of hopeful suffering that I have experienced here at the call center.

When I started working here, things were worse. It was more like a boiler room, with cursing and intimidation, but more money than I could make in other places at that time. I spent years trying to please people that would not tell me what they wanted, who judged me on standards that were not explained to me. Any time anyone asked why, or when will things change, the management shrugged and said it was up to the corporate people.

Through the years, it has improved. Management changed little by little, until we have the present managers. For the first time since working here, I know exactly what is expected of me. I know what my goals are, and I am reaching them. I sit down with my supervisor every two months and go over my calls and performance. We make plans how I can be a better worker, and I explain my own concerns.

It's a long way from Paradise. My customers can still be arrogant and unkind. I still can't get a real lunch. I still feel frustrated and depressed sometimes. I still have not got a raise. It's still much better. I can't remember the last time I clocked out muttering and cursing under my breath as I walked out the door. I think I have gained at least two levels in my climb out of Call Center Purgatory. Life is not great, but it is better...

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Sunday, March 26, 2006
  "Christian convert must not escape."

I'll write something about the call center tomorrow. Meanwhile, I've got something stuck in my craw about the case of the Afghan Christian I need to say. Click the link above to read how some of the lawmakers and clerics in Afghanistan are reacting to the release of Abdul Rahman.

"The convert was freed in secret on Monday night but has been kept under tight security in an undisclosed location after protests in Afghanistan called for him to be executed in line with Shariah law." ~Daily Times-Afghanistan
I've been following this pretty carefully, because the idea that the state will execute you for changing religions is really foreign to most of us.

Now, first things first, Islam is not alone in doing this. There was the Inquisition in Catholic Spain, there were the Salem Witch Trials in the Good Ole' U.S. of A, and if you will remember the Jews used to be pretty quick with a stone or two during the Old and New Testament. Killing someone for their religious beliefs is a fairly old practice.

Old is the active word here. The majority of the religions in the world have left this practice behind. The idea that our government is ruled by our priests or clerics diminished more and more throughout the centuries. While religion still pays a part in Western government, it has certainly diminished in power. Most people would agree that Martin Luther and the Reformation was the beginning of this weakening.

The thing that is interesting is that we can see a direct correlation between the rise of democratic rights to the individual compared to the weakening of the power of organized religion interfering in matters of the state. When we have the right to question what we believe in matters of faith, it has an effect in all arenas of life. This works to our benefit and to our detriment sometimes.

This leads me back to Islam. There are many people in our government and in other parts of the world that speak of bringing democracy to the Muslim world. How is that possible with countries that are under Shariah law? Check out this quote:
" 'We are an Islamic country and should implement the rule of the Koran,' said Shah Baran, a tribal elder in the eastern province of Zabul. 'He must be killed.' "~Daily Times-Afghanistan
There are Muslims that say that Islam was not spread by the sword. In the face of this type of law I find that sort of hard to believe. It makes me wonder how many people truly can believe in Islam if the only alternative is to be executed if you don't.

Now don't misunderstand me. I don't doubt that there are sincere and devout Muslims in this world. I know in the United States there are people that have converted from Christianity to Islam. There are true believers, that's true. But how many are Muslims are just trying to not be executed, or choose Islam because that is all they have ever known? Let's face it, Muslim society is not "seeker friendly" and the Unitarians aren't sending any missionaries to Kabul any time soon.

Look, my real point is I seriously doubt democracy can bloom in Muslim countries if fundamentalist law stays the norm. No matter how many computers they get, no matter how many cable stations come into the country, no matter how many colleges there are, democracy will not bloom.

October 31, 1517: History recalls that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church, condemning the corruption of the Catholic church. Will Islam ever have a date like this, or will they stay in the 1500's forever?

Thanks for reading,

Anonymous Cog

Saturday, March 25, 2006
  Linkage, Coffee, and Chickens.

Check out this excellent cartoon blog called Savage Chickens. Very funny stuff.

Also check out this blog by an anonymous office worker called Office Life.

I finally went to McDonalds today and checked out their new Premium Blend Coffee. Don't bother, it was not worth the extra money. It had the beginnings of good taste, but finishes bland and boring. Spend the extra money and get a Kona blend at a real coffee shop if you want a blend with some oomph. Just my humble-over-caffeinated-eight-cups-a-day opinion...

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Thursday, March 23, 2006
  Drowning in the Reservoir of Thought

I'm staring at the screen and I've got nothing. No inspiration, no incredible heart-felt things to share, not a damn thing. Not a joke, not a haiku, not even a naughty limerick.

Nothing is swimming in that incredibly dark reservoir of thought between my ears, not even those three headed fish and two headed dolphins that may be a result of the glue I sniffed during yearbook class in 1983.

The call center has sucked my energy and my intellect until my intellect is foggy and my heart is numb. The wave of consciousness rides like a cheap wave pool at a third-rate water park. I leap into the dark depths and just sink to the bottom.

Cheap coffee...Ring... Ring....
Spicy Chinese microwave dinners, Ring... Ring...
I like denim miniskirts...Ring...Ring...
Please drop something...Ring...Ring..
"How can I help you?"...Ring..Ring..
Take Five by Dave Brubeck...Ring...Ring..
"Here are your goals for this month, AC. You need to reach them more consistently, Hell, just try to reach them at all!"...Ring...Ring...Ring..
"Where is God in all of this?"
"Why don't I want to talk to him?"

The fog before my eyes clear, the water drains from my ears, I take a breath and crawl out onto the beach of some island in the middle of the dark water. Struggling to my feet, I stumble towards a non-descript door in front of me.

I walk out into the sun in springtime. It is about twenty years ago. It is my second date with my wife. We spent the day at the zoo. We chattered nervously, trying to get to know each other. I was never smooth at that age. We stop by the otter exhibit and lean on the rail as the furry little clowns slide into the water and frolic just because they can. Their mustaches appear to be hiding big grins. They have no purpose, no plan, they just enjoy life and revel in their own "otterness".

Now's my chance. I reach over and take her hand. She smiles and we are both in Heaven. We barely stop holding hands through the rest of the day. We leave the zoo and have lunch in a park with a green field nearby. She made brownies. I lay my head in her lap. We watch the clouds go by.

No matter how numb and sad I feel from time to time, these memories remain and bring me joy when nothing else does.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Monday, March 20, 2006
  Water-Tower Hill

Some days I am not interested in talking about the call center. Sometimes I just like to write about good days or bad days in my life outside of the call center. That's what I'm going to write about today.

When I was a kid I didn't have a lot of close friends. There were times I did, but we always seemed to drift apart, I'm not sure why. Sometimes they moved, other times they did something that made me mad, sometimes, there was just no real reason. I spent a lot of time on my own, riding my bmx bike, hunting, shooting pop cans with my Daisy Red Rider BB gun. I was happy spending time on my own. Sure, I had friends over for sleep-overs where we had marathon Monopoly parties, or I went to the movies or the mall for dates, but I just didn't have that need to always be with someone.

There was one day in particular that I will always remember. There were some hills near my house, not mountains, but they rose at least three to four-hundred feet with some woods around them. I remember this day because it was right before I moved away from the town I had grew up in. My mom and dad had found different places to work at about 500 miles from my hometown. I set out to spend one last day in the woods at the top of the hill behind my house. It had no real name, we called it Water-Tower Hill because there was a water tank on one side of it.

I loaded my yellow Jansport pack with all those things I kept hoping I would need if I got lost in the woods, and left the house on my epic trek. After about ninety minutes walking, I arrived at the top of the hill, sweating and panting a little. The entire world I had known during my short life was spread out before me. It was all there, places so normal and boring, but precious to me. I could see the church to the West where I stole my first kiss from a pleasingly-plump brunette. We met in the trees behind the building after a Wednesday night service. There was a park by the river where I fed the ducks bread when I was little and fished off the bridge when I got older. To the South was the 7-11. I visited there as often as I got my allowance or could make a little money scrounging up pop cans or beer bottles in the trash cans and alleys that lined the route from school to home. Normally, I spent my proceeds on a cherry and cola slurpee, a Charleston Chew or just fed the quarters into the Galaga machine. To the North was the Dairy Queen whose special was French fries with bacon gravy,(outstanding in their greasy goodness). In the middle of town was my elementary school that was across the street from my Grandma's house. I remembered going there after school and enjoying the best sweetened sun-tea and Jello-pudding cakes this side of heaven. While I could not see it, I knew that to the South were the fields where Dad took me rabbit hunting and where I really felt like we were becoming friends, not just father and son.

As I turned around to the East, the other side of the hill, I saw the land I had visited before, but didn't really know. Spread out before to a horizon I could not see. Part of me felt scared, part of me was angry my parents were leaving all that I loved, and yet another part of me was excited to find some real adventure outside of this town of 30,000 people. All those feelings coalesced together, so it was indistinct which was the strongest. In the noisy autumn wind, it all sort of melted away, and for about thirty minutes I was seized with a feeling that is so common at that time of life: I felt more alive to everything around me than I ever remembered before that time. Up above the town and people that defined all I knew about the world, I knew there was more out there than this town, and I was finally ready to leave to find out what else was out there on the other side of the hill for me.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Sunday, March 19, 2006
  The Funeral

I went to a funeral this weekend for a woman that I knew for some time. She was quiet, she did not say much. But she loved people. She sought out kids that society had thrown away or was not interested in, and she packed her minivan full and brought them over forty miles every Sunday to attend a youth group. I remember I prayed with one of those kids to accept Jesus as his saviour. He was this big ole, redneck farmboy, who had a tender heart. That was her triumph more than mine. She was an everyday hero in my eyes in that the world was a better place because she had been here. She was a good wife and a mother who loved people.

Everybody thinks about what life means and how they will be remembered, or even what this world is all about. There's one part in Ecclesiastes that I always remember:

The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem: " 'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.' What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look! This is something new?' It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow."~Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
This is one of those rough passages, because you have to read the whole book to "get it". Solomon tried to fill his life with everything that he thought was important: riches, knowledge, grand accomplishments, and none of it satisfied him.

In my world all that the people at work think about is how to improve sales, how to improve numbers, how to cut hold time, all of that. I know they have to think about that if we are all going to stay employed. But someday the call center will close, the call records will fade from the excel files and we will all look at our lives outside of those things.

Someday all of us will meet mortality, in a cold shock and quicker than we ever thought. Then all that will ultimately matter is what we did in the lives of others. Mercy, love, justice, compassion, they will be what we are remembered for, and the average hold times, call metrix, average transactions will mean nothing.

Thanks for reading,

Anonymous Cog

Friday, March 17, 2006
  Problems On The Inside

This was one of those days I had no problems from my customers. They were all pleasant and reasonable, even funny. They were patient and appreciative.

It was scary.

Nevertheless, the nature of Call Center Purgatory is that when you are not bothered from those outside the call center you will ultimately be bothered by those inside the call center. We have three people,(two men and one woman), inside the call center that cannot keep from bad mouthing everyone else around them. It's non-stop. They hate the new manager, they think everyone is lazy except them, everyone is out to get them, they are the only ones that ever get in trouble, and that's because the big old world is just unfair and they are being picked on.


I find myself letting the dark side take over and make a grocery list for behavior modification.
-A dark room
-3 chairs
-3 sets of handcuffs
-1 200,000 volt stun-baton
-1 roll of duct-tape
-1 bottle of habanero hot sauce
-3 ferrets in a "randy" mood...Crazed furry rodents are always a good accessory to this kind of operation.

That's all that would be necessary to make a real difference in making them think more seriously about opening their mouth...

I know, I know, way over the top. It would be like if the CIA ran a call center. Wishing them harm would make me much worse than them. It's just so incredibly frustrating being around people who hate, belittle or despise everyone that crosses their path! This place is tough enough to work in without that kind of bullshit.

The rest of my team has developed the sort of relationship where we put up with each other. We don't always like what the other person does, but they are our friend and we need them. We may tease them to their face, but we never just assassinate their character like nothing good exists in them.

In a way, the people in my team treat each other like married people or a family does. You know the bad traits they have, but you overlook them or try to help them change. But you don't nag them, or talk bad about them outside of your family, that never helps, all it does is poison the atmosphere and destroy any chance of a real relationship.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Thursday, March 16, 2006
  "There Remains Credible Evidence That I Still Hate My Job."

Lately I've been telling you how things have improved at the Call Center since Larry (my ex-supervisor) has left. We heard from him last week. He's very happy at his new position with the company. I guess it was a win-win situation.

Even though things have changed for the better, I still want out of here. Just the nature of the business is what drives me out of my mind. Every time I sit down to eat my lunch the phone rings and my food gets colder and colder. Every conversation I start with my friends is interrupted by that phone. Every thing I do, everything I say is judged by that phone. It's always there, looking at me, smirking with it's liquid crystal display, telling me to get off this call because three more people are waiting.

You remember that scene in Office Space where they take the laser printer out in the field and bash it to pieces with the baseball bat? That's how I feel. I just hate the phone. It's like a parasite that has put some plastic tentacle into my ear and sucks out my life and energy every day. It's never satisfied, never satiated, it's always wanting more and more time.

I guess that's the difference in working in a call center. You can't say, "Hey, I answered all the calls today-no more until tommarow!" It doesn't work that way. They never stop, as long as there are people buying my services the phone will ring.

I know there is someone out there about to make the comment, "Hey now, that phone is your bread and butter, mister!" , or "If you don't like it you need to suck it up and leave." I've heard it all before. I am leaving, sooner than my company knows. I don't know what I hate more, the pain of my job, or selfish ass-holes who want to tell you how they understand your life and it would all change for the better if you just followed their moldy, trite advice.

People like that make me sick. Go trim your crew cut, do some push-ups, maybe you'll get lucky and find someone else you can spout your drill sargeant bullshit to. Don't forget to swallow any real emotion or compassion, so you can feel like a real hard-ass. While you're at it maybe you could try to understand the human condition instead of mocking any mention of pain or weakness real people make from time to time.

Damn...Don't know where that vitriol came from. I feel better though. Sounds like someone has some issues.

Thanks for reading, hope I didn't offend anyone who didn't deserve it.


Anonymous Cog

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
  Dry the Rain

Click the link above to check out another call center blogger.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog


Glad to hear that Blondie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were one of the first groups I liked that my parents found offensive. My favorite Blondie songs were "One Way or Another", "The Hardest Part" and "Dragonfly" and "Atomic Love".

I just found Blondie so original compared to a lot of the pop music during the 80's. I soon started listening to Devo, Talking Heads and the Police and Men At Work. All of my friends liked bands like Def Leppard, AC-DC and Scorpions. I really couldn't stand metal. I'm still not crazy about it.

I was such a geek about Blondie that I actually figured out a way to make "Dragonfly" play on a video game for my TRS-80 computer. I was sadly an uber-geek. Luckily, I did figure out enough about girls to actually not spend every Friday night typing in code into my 16K wonder.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 is a web site that has set out to make call centers better. If you go to their website you can find the IVR Cheat Sheet that allows you to get to a human operator on most major call centers faster-here's a quote from their home page:

"Our goal is to improve the quality of customer service and phone support in the US. This free website is run by volunteers and is powered by over one million consumers who demand high quality phone support from the companies that they use."

They even have a funny music video you can watch over at Google Video.

I support their plan to get to a human operator quicker. I think that as long as a customer is lost in the queue, pressing buttons, and trying to say their account number, many call centers managers think they don't have to take responsibility for helping them.

That said, this entry from their blog concerned me:
"We are a consumer advocacy site focused on improving the face of customer service. This movement is powered by over one million consumers who are angry about bad service.

We demand high quality, prompt, human customer support, by friendly, qualified people who we can understand, and who can handle our call without putting us on hold or transferring us again and again.

We will reward companies with good service by buying more products and services from them, and telling our friends and families about them.

We will punish companies with bad service by canceling our accounts with them and instead using one of their competitors who has better service."~Saturday, February 04, 2006 Blog Entry

As someone who works in a call center I feel qualified to comment about this. I appreciate them taking an active market-driven approach to getting good customer service. My question is what level of quality customer service is good enough?

Really, I'm not kidding here. I know I provide quality service. I am friendly and understandable. I know most of the other people I work with provide the same. There are always some exceptions, but there are many agents that provide good service ninety-five percent of the time. That said, good agents still find themselves being abused by people who "demand high quality, prompt, human customer support".

I want to know if there if sees the other side. Is there an inalienable right to high quality customer service in the Bill of Rights? Is less than thirty-second hold time mentioned somewhere in the Constitution? They certainly have the right to work to make changes in an industry that needs the help. I just want them to think about the people that are on the other side of the phone. We are not the enemy. We are trying to do the best we can and many times are being abused by management that demands low cost, affordable labor costs while our customers are demanding high quality,prompt, human customer support. We, the operators on the other end of the phone are getting caught in the middle.

I'm not asking them to stop. It's a good cause. There are call centers that need improvement. But if this search for high quality service is just becoming another arrogant voice that demands all for nothing and is never satisfied, then I don't support that. Service is not just short hold times and friendliness. There are people on the other side of the phones that are frustrated too. Who's helping us?

Thanks for reading,

Anonymous Cog

Monday, March 13, 2006
  This Explains a Lot...

Your IQ Is 135

Your Logical Intelligence is Below Average

Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius

Your Mathematical Intelligence is Exceptional

Your General Knowledge is Genius

A Quick and Dirty IQ Test

This explains why I'm comfortable discussing the differences in literature produced during the Romantic period compared to the Realism period but can't change my spark plugs without flames leaping from the air cleaner. I've since stopped doing any home auto repair.
Thanks for reading,

Anonymous Cog

Friday, March 10, 2006
  Various stuff...

Here's some links to other blogs and a great video to watch.
Nothing much going in the call center today except,oh yeah, there was this phone, and it started ringing, and it kept ringing, so I like, picked it up and talked to the guy, and then it happened again! I couldn't believe-it was like some weird coincidence or something.

Check out:
Right Hand of God
(what a cool name for a blog)

...Nothing Works.
(another denizen of call center purgatory)

Here's a great video called "Fear of Girls"-very funny.

Thanks for reading,

Anonymous Cog

  How's the weather?

How come Al Roker never made me feel like this?

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Thursday, March 09, 2006
  The Performance Review

Monday was an incredible day.

I say that because I finally got what I have been asking for: a performance review.

No raise, no surprise there-same for everyone.

No, but the new supervisor is actually determined how to look at our stats in such a way that he can make quantitative judgements about how we are doing-not just new trades, but overall how many calls and how we are performing.

What's always been rough for me is that I handle a specialized type of research for some corporate customers that seems to take all of my time. These customers are never satisfied and always want something for nothing, there's only three of us that handle this and I am the senior.

This customer has always taken so much of my time that I can't pull down the same numbers as my counterparts. It really annoys me. I can't stop this part of my job, but it makes me look unproductive to management.

Larry, my former boss refused to help me. He told me to do my best, then he would either yell at me that I was wasting too much time on the research or tell me I was doing a good job. When I asked for goals and real guidance he was useless.

Jeremy, my new supervisor is different. During my performance review on Monday morning he had real ideas. He rearranged how I do things and gave me real guidance and actual goals. I've got a plan now how to keep my time from being dominated by unprofitable customer requests.

Now we just have to see if he lives up to the plan or if this is another management phase that is quickly forgotten. I remain cautiously optimistic...

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Monday, March 06, 2006

Here's an excellent manifesto that was signed by Middle-Eastern Intellectuals in response to the furor created by the Muhammad cartoons. It is very well-written and explains so succinctly why Islamic hyper-fundamentalism is a danger to the whole world.

MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism

12 signatures

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammad in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilizations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject «cultural relativism», which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

12 signatures

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq

(Click the link to see the original printing and also to read short biographies on the signers.)
Thanks for reading,

Anonymous Cog

Saturday, March 04, 2006
  What My Customers Know About Phones...

There are two things that floor me in this world, how kind people can be, and how incredibly stupid they can be. Mean and nasty does not shock me any longer.

I've been reminded how stupid some of my customers can be lately. Of course, a big part of my business is spent talking on the phone, picking up phone calls and dialing the phone. Working in a call center, you have to know about phones. Yep...No real shocker there.

But my customers don't seem to have that same rudimentary knowledge that I do. Hell, I'm surprised some of them even figured out how to call me in the first place. Here's an example of some conversations I have had:

(Customer)"I want you to call my cell phone when you know the status of the trade."
(AC) "OK, What's that phone number?
(Customer) "572-6333."
(AC) "OK, What's the area code for your cell phone?"
(Customer) "Cell phones don't use area codes-just dial that number."

I am not making this up-more than one moron has actually said this.

Another one:
(Customer) "Here's my phone number 1-519-456-9087."

You would not believe how many people call us up and make sure to remind us that we must dial a '1' before dialing the area code. I figure they must write it down that way so they don't forget.

What I want to say is,"Ok, thanks for reminding me about that '1' part, I don't spend much time around phones so I'm always forgetting that bit-along with how to tie my shoes and walk upright..."

Another pet peeve:
(AC)"What's that phone number?"
(Customer)"It's 732-5648, area code 619."

Yeah, it's a good thing they told me that area code last-cause I always dial it last. You copy things down expecting the first three numbers to be the area code, and then they throw out that four digit number and you realize you have to start all over because they forgot the whole concept of long distance calling.

I know it's petty, but I'm willing to admit I am petty sometimes. It wouldn't bother me so much if it wasn't the same stupid bone-headed moves by the same boneheads day after day. You just want to reach through the phone and shake them by the head to hear that tiny piece of gray matter bouncing around in their cranium like some rubber super ball inside a five gallon paint can. I am sure that the spatial ratio is the same.

There, I feel better-maybe I can work up some kindness for my customers again. Some of them do deserve it contrary to how much I rant sometimes.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Friday, March 03, 2006
  There She Is

Check out this great flash movie. I'm not sure what language it is in, but it doesn't matter-you'll get it...

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Thursday, March 02, 2006
  The New Boss

As some of you may remember, I have a new boss. He replaced Larry the floor manager when he was mysteriously relocated to Columbus,(see "He's Gone!"). Since then I've met the new boss, Jeremy, and have been cautiously optimistic about him.

The management styles are like night and day. He doesn't manage by yelling. He's calm and collected. He tries to get us to act like a team. Which has been quite a shock to the veterans that are used to watching out for themselves and no one else.

This kind of management is hard for everyone to deal with. This is especially true in the cut-throat world of investments. This place was like a boiler-room for so long, and now it's becoming the exact opposite. Some of the older agents are complaining that they don't like him and the way that he does things. I finally spoke up to one of them the other day,

"You've got to be kidding! You want to go back to being screamed at?"
"Well..Yes. I knew where I stood with Larry."
"Yeah, and I remember he would chew your ass all day for the littlest things! He wrote you up and even tried to fire you before. Why would you want to go back to that?"

They had no answer and turned back to their phone hoping they would get a call before I kept asking them uncomfortable questions. They wanted the same, even though it meant going back to irrational and abusive management. The human capacity for wanting things to remain the same, even if the same is worse is amazing.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Wednesday, March 01, 2006
  102 degrees

I drug my sorry ass home Monday night with the sniffles, a sore throat and a temperature of 102 degrees. I've been cooped up in the house for the last two days trying to feel human again. I've had a reprieve from Purgatory for two days, but I'll probably be back to work by Friday morning.

Since then, I have been laying in bed with my remote control, sleeping or watching my old DVD's and VHS tapes. Here's what I've been watching.

1984-the movie. Excellent, it really looks like the book.

True Stories-The Talking Heads made this back in the 80's. It's a story about a week in the life of Virgil,TX with music videos in it. It's surreal, it's sweet and its funny. John Goodman was in this before he became a star. What's really cool is that its one of those movies filled with non-beautiful people in it-so it's almost like watching your neighbors doing Karoke. Also, seeing David Byrne in a Stetson and Bolo-Tie driving a Red K-Car convertible is just too funny.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I love this movie. Jack Nicholson is perfect. It really has a lot to say about the desire of society to control us and how each of us is crazy in our own way.

Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail-What can you say about this? It appeals to the 13 year-old boy in all of us-crude, rude, silly and vulgar. A masterpiece-especially the bit about the Knights that say NEE! and the Shrubbery. I just lay there giggling when Roger the Shrubber does his little speech. Then there's the killer rabbit. I think I almost wet myself from laughter the first time I saw that bit.

Slingblade-I'm not sure how to describe this movie. It is one of those movies that really touches me. It has love, hatred, redemption, kindness and cruelty. You could write a thousands essays on this movie. Its about so many different things.

Maybe I'll have something about the call center by Friday.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog


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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