Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Thursday, June 29, 2006
  Thinking too much...

What do people without blogs do when they can't sleep?

Warm milk?
Diphenhydramine?
Hot Showers?
Valium?
Re-runs of "My Three Sons"?

Rank amateurs...

Insomnia is caused by so many things, but with me its my brain going a million miles a second about everything and nothing. Sometimes the only thing for it is to drip the toxic brain poop onto the keyboard and then paddle off to dreamland.

I remembered tonight that feeling I so rarely feel, but am amazed when I feel it. It is that feeling when you realize how utterly small and alone the universe can feel. When you think of all the people that exist and all the worlds around us, its not to hard to feel small.

Even when I think about time, how eternity exists forever in both directions, and my cellular animation is a pathetic fart, not even a juicy, sonorous one, in the chemical composition of worlds that include such complex things as the smell of lavender and the taste of mangoes.

I am reminded of what C.S. Lewis said about these sorts of moments,

"Now that I am a Christian I do not have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable."
But several days ago, I sat in the pew at church, feeling utterly at ease, aware of God's presence, knowing of his great love for a schmuck like me.

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned in this world is that emotions are not reliable guides. Just like the magnetic field has changed through the years based on the magnetic orientation of lava on the earth, emotions change every day of our lives. If we only listen to our emotions, North becomes East, and South becomes West. Without looking to the stars, without looking at the map of those that have gone before you, we cannot find our way by just basing our decisions on experience and feeling. Its useless. Like using a GPS with no batteries, you will not know where you are.

The existence of God and the reality of truth are not what keep me up at night. What keeps me up is actually wondering who I am. Today I found myself wanting to sign my email to an important client with the initials "AC". It happened more than once. Anonymity is nice in that it lets you explore that part of you that most of polite society never sees, but sometimes it feel like a Jekyl-Hyde relationship. I don't know when he is going to try to appear. But even the anonymous AC is not truly real. He is still unable to exist in the light of day, only in the darkness of a black Courier font on an unforgiving white page.

Thanks for reading,

AC
Anonymous Cog



 
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
  You Need Some Limits.

I realized today what is wrong with my customers. They are spoiled. They are people who have been given everything that they have ever wanted. No one has ever taken the time to explain to them limits of what their money can buy. I really think that is why they act so rotten. Children without real limits run wild and act however they want.

Now look, I'm not talking about that large number of reasonable and polite people who call me every day and don't ask me to lasso the frickin' moon. No, there are many customers who not only understand the limits of customer service, they have the good sense to appreciate it when we go the extra mile to help them.

The problem is that there exists this other group of customers, the extra vocal minority. This past week I dealt with one and one of my co-workers dealt with another. What shocked me about these two customers was their utter lack of limits.

The first one, fortunately, I did not deal with. One of my co-workers did. A trade went bad, real bad. The customer lost a lot of money, it was his fault. We did everything we could, we tried to contact him, we tried to correct him, but none of it worked. So what did he do when he called back and was confronted with his own failure? He told us that we did not do enough, and our lack of rapid service was the cause for him losing money. He became abusive and said we would reimburse him for his loss when he had the investment sense of a rabid squirrel on crystal meth that had happened to become romantically involved with an old issue of Fortune Magazine.

The next ray of sunshine was mine. We actually screwed up on this one. Everything was set up, and I was twenty minutes late executing it when one of my newbies reminded me. When I called him, I was cool and collected,
"These things happen. I'm sorry it took awhile to process, there was a rush at the time."
"But why? Why did I have to wait? Why was my trade delayed? Why didn't someone call me back?"
"I'm do apologize for the delay sir. I will do my best to monitor it and call you back as soon as we know the outcome."
"I...I want a call every 15 minutes. I must know as soon as possible."
"Very good sir."

Every 15 minutes...What a putz. Your commission does not entitle you to that kind of service. You can look it up on the web or get a call back when its complete. I am not your freakin' concierge, and this is not the Waldorf Astoria! I am not going to get you front row tickets to The Pajama Game, a carriage ride through Central Park and a Frappachino to die for!

It's not that you aren't important as a human being. I believe in the dignity and worth of all human beings. What I don't believe is that you, personally, deserve more dignity, more kindness, more attention and more of my time and energy when other people are just as important.

In our attempt to give better and better service at less money we have created a super race of parasitic customers that resemble cranky toddlers with no limits. We can provide better service to more customers and quicker response times if we stop coddling these terrible two year olds that are masquerading as 40 year old men with comb-overs and platinum credit cards. There are people that deserve less service so we can provide better service to the majority of nice, reasonable people.

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Thursday, June 22, 2006
  On My Own...Conclusion

Click the above to read part I

Five minutes into my first day as a supervisor and I already had six calls in the queue holding over five minutes. They had left me with five fewer people than normal, and I was the only one on duty with more than one year's experience. I guess that was why I was left in charge.

Call volume is the strangest thing. It almost has a life of its own sometimes. You can try to study it, but many times it can't be counted on to be heavy or slow when you think it should be. It can come in gentle, like lapping waves on the beach, or like a Tsunami spawned by a 7.0 earthquake. What you almost never see at a call center,(at least mine), is that holy grail, "the nice rhythm", that mythical sort of traffic where there is always time to complete a conversation with a co-worker, always time to finish chewing or drinking before taking the next call, and never too many calls that you have to put your bladder on hold. That sort of phone traffic is a miracle when it comes and makes the job pleasant and carefree, except for the customers that is.

This was not a Tsunami yet, but it had the beginnings of a Nor'easter. I had about double the trades I normally took in an hour and no end in sight. We kept up a good fight for the first couple of hours and seemed to be keeping our heads above water when the "discriminating customers" started finishing their no foam decaf latte and decided they would drop a dime and see if they could make a casual trade or two.

"I've been on hold for way too long."
"Your customers deserve better treatment than this!"
"Do I get some sort of prize for holding this long?"
"You need to expedite this trade-Do you understand me?"


I managed to get most of my trades complete and decided that I needed to check out the situation before I took any more. If I just kept pounding them out and didn't check out what everybody else was doing, things would only get worse. The newbies were about two and a half hours behind on their post-trade customer calls and everyone else had many more non-completed trades than they should have. It was time to call in reinforcements.

I called Frank, the second shift guy, his little girl answered the phone and thought I was some stranger she wasn't supposed to talk to and hung up. I don't think he got the message. I left him voicemail on his cellphone. I called my supervisors cell phone-nothing. I sent him an email to his blackberry:"Need help-Frank not available-Calls holding 14 minutes and post trades are almost 3 hours overdue-AC"

The rest of the day was spent putting out fires, calming customers and just trying to keep from losing it. The staff did great, we all hung together, no one gave me a hard time, no one left. We all acted like some frickin' well-oiled machine, except that it was tumbling down an steep embankment, end over end, but a well-oiled machine none the less.

Frank and my supervisor showed up about three hours later, hardly the Cavalry. We made some sort of record for calls received in a four hour period. "Good job, AC! You held it all together.", my supervisor smacked me on the back lightly. I looked at him for about four seconds before I spoke. I wanted to tell him thanks for throwing me to the dogs with a small staff, but he's just as new as I am. He's still figuring it out too. At least with him, I know he doesn't have that core of evil like Larry and the previous GM did.

"You're welcome...Maybe not so much next time.", was the best thing I could say.

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
  On My Own...Part II

(click the title to read part I)

My direct supervisor spent about twenty minutes giving me all the information I needed: new computer access, emergency phone numbers, and a list of what I needed to keep an eye on.
"It should run smooth. Don't worry about it. Last year, there was below average call volume and I think they even played Euchre when it got slow. I'm sure you won't have anything to worry about."
"I hope you're right. Who do you have scheduled in? Well, your newbies will handle the customer service queue and then Rob, John and Patricia will help you with the new trades queue."
"Uhh...That's about five people less than a regular shift. What do I do if call volume picks up beyond that?"
"If you have more than 15 minute hold time, call Frank, the second shift supervisor on his cell phone, if that doesn't work, here's my cell phone and blackberry info."

As he walked away, I had a real sinking feeling in my gut. It didn't get any better Sunday night. The truth is I don't really like being in charge at all. I don't like to make snap decisions. I don't like telling people what to do. I never wanted to be that guy.

I started the day with this dark foreboding feeling. It was like the first three levels of Doom III. You know something bad is going to go down, but you just don't know when or how, or what type of monster is going to come through the wall to get you. Trying to be as ready as possible, I had a big breakfast with steak and eggs and an English muffin. I listened to Dave Brubeck on the way to work. I knew I had to get that Paul-Desmond-Saxaphone-Inspired-Laid-Back-mojo working if things went south.

I don't know a lot about being a manager, but I do know this one important thing: act like you are calm and know what you are doing even when you don't. People that you are in charge of want to believe everything will be ok, they want to think that no matter how stressed they get, there is someone who is ready to help them and is not an idiot. The more I thought about it, the more I realized taking care of them was more important than any numbers we did today. If they were calm and not freaking out, we would get through whatever came.

I opened the doors, turned off the security system and started getting everything ready. Everyone straggled in one by one and we finally sat down and proceeded to boot everything up. When the ACD(Automatic Call Distribution) came up one minute after eight am, it jumped to six calls with a hold time of five minutes.

There was my monster...

More in part III

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Monday, June 19, 2006
  On My Own...Part I

The new GM cleared his throat a little.

"A.C., We've been really pleased with how your group has been doing. They seem to be staying out of trouble and are pretty solid. You have done a good job handling the added authority."
"Thanks.", I didn't want to gush or say too much. I was still kind of nervous, and these kind of meetings still feel so alien to me.
He continued.
"On Monday, many of our larger customers will be leaving for a half day. We have picked that day to send our managers and the senior agents to a seminar. We want to you to be the supervisor for the first shift that day. You have the experience, and we think it would be good for you."
"Well...I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous about it, but I think I can handle it.", I tried not to sound scared to death. I knew when the raises finally came around this would be handy to have in my back pocket. Of course, on the other hand, I really never wanted to be a supervisor as my full time job.
"Well, that's great. We sure appreciate you stepping up. Don't think we don't notice all that you do."

He stood up. I stood up. We shook hands and I left the office. What had I got myself into now?

Click here for part II


Thanks for reading,

AC
Anonymous Cog

 
Saturday, June 17, 2006
  The Fog of War

There are times when my call center feels like a war zone. Because there are times when our transactions may take several calls inbound and outbound to complete, we may have multiple calls from different people before a customer is satisfied.

On Friday the call volume was brutal. Low on staff, problems with inbound servers and glitches in the software combined to make one of those days. Every call a problem, so few calls actually anything simple, and then there were the customers.

Screaming, yelling, crying, demanding, you would think the world had come to an end. It was like no one had ever heard that markets are volatile. Even the things we thought had been set up right went horribly wrong. My newbies were pulling the most incredible bone-headed moves I had ever seen in my almost six years in this business.

At some point I felt like I was in a war zone. The roar of noise from the voices and the ringing phones was like a wall of sound. Every call was a struggle, like trying to creep up some ridge pinned down by machine gun fire and snipers. Every decision made, every note taken, it was all wrong.

It reminded me of playing Call of Duty, the Moscow level. You start with no gun. There are Russian officers behind you threatening to kill you if you don't run into the machine gun fire ahead, and no where to hide, and no way to cheat. Probably the most realistic war game around.

The way it was unlike war is there was no camaraderie. No loyalty. No friendship. Sometimes we helped each other, but I couldn't depend on anyone to "have my back". Everyone was griping that someone else wasn't doing their job and why wasn't this person or that person helping them? We were just blaming each other for something that wasn't really any one person's fault, except maybe the people at the corporate office that have decided to keep our staff levels low, even though our call volume has become so high.

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Thursday, June 15, 2006
  Links Worth a Click

Some of you may notice that on my blogroll that besides blogs by other disgruntled call center agents, there are a lot of actually "serious" call center blogs on there. I didn't start out to link to those kinds of blogs, but after reading them and talking to some of their authors, I realized I needed to link to them. They are the type of blogs that can help make working in a call center not be purgatory. I'll do anything I can to help out my peeps in the trenches with the headphones chaining them to the cubicles, the whiny customers in their ears, and having to ask permission to go number one.

With that in mind, check out these two links:
CRM Lowdown
Service Untitled

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
  A Very Satisfying Click

One good thing about this job is how it makes you think about people in general, and what makes them act the way they do in particular. If you are an amateur sociologist like me, its like having your own laboratory where you can take samples from people all over the country. I've always wondered what makes people choose to be rude.

Rude customers are really not as common as you would think in my call center. Most people might be a little grumpy, but true vitriol doesn't come around that often. But, as they say, into each life some rain must fall and today was my turn. I really try to understand it, but every time I talk to rude people I feel in shock afterwards. The only good thing about rude customers is that if they curse, we can hang up on them.

When you get cursed at, belittled or verbally attacked, besides the obvious hurt feeling, there is this feeling of incredulity. You can't believe this person on the phone just said this mean thing to you when you were trying to help them. Its like when you see someone walking around in clothes that don't match or their underwear on the outside of their pants-you can't believe what you are seeing.

Here's how it felt today:

"Anonymous Investments, This is AC, how can I help you?"
"Yeah, I need to make a trade. I got this offer in the mail for two introductory trades at a reduced commission from my credit card company."
"Ok, Which credit card is it?"
"It's a Visa from NeverPayItOff Bank of New Hampshire."
"What's the offer code?"
"Offer 6392A6"
As I typed it in, I realized which offer this was. He had to sign up for an account and make a minimum of 20 trades a year. It was like some investment club for the same people that buy 20 albums from BMG music and then keep getting stuff they don't want automatically for years. This was one of those ideas thought up by people that don't realize most people don't like these kind of surprises.
"Ok, I found your offer, I'll be glad to take your trades, but I do need to remind you that part of this offer is that you have to make 20 more trades by the end of the year to keep the reduced commission rate."
"What!! It said nothing about that in the letter! It just says I get two introductory trades at a reduced commission! This is bullshit. I'm not getting stuck for something I don't want!"
"I'm sorry about the misunderstanding. I can send you the full details by email if you want to look over the offer before you set up an account."
"This is just bad business! You need to just give me the two trades at these rates and then I will decide whether I want to continue doing business with your company afterwards."
"I'm afraid I can't do that. We set this up with your credit card company with the agreement that you would make twenty more trades this year."
"This is bait and switch-you guys are a bunch of fucking crooks!"
"Sir, we aren't trying to cheat you, these details are listed on the back of that letter in the fine print. I have a copy of the letter on my desk. Now, if you are going to start cursing I will end this conversation NOW-What do you want to do?"
"Oh please, You little fucking retard, don't cry 'cause I said a bad word. Start living in the real world you baby!"
"Fine, You've made your decision.CLICK!!"

It felt good that I didn't lose my cool. I was the grown-up. I still had these hurt feelings inside. Everytime somebody speaks to me that way, I just want to clock out and go home. I still wondered who is this guy? What planet is he from? The rest of society goes about our daily business and do not start attacking strangers verbally because they won't give you something for nothing.

It wasn't really the cussing that did it. There is a lot of swearing in the call center. I have dropped the "F-Bomb" in at least seven posts that I know of, not to mention assorted other words. But I cuss after I get off the phone, or when I'm alone, or to express how I feel to my friends, but almost never do I go out of my way to make sure a person knows I am seriously swearing at them because I think they deserve it. That's something so different.

It's not the words, its the idea behind them. You have judged that person as not worthy of the same sort of respect we give everyone in society, that everyday kindness. Instead, you have told them you are so much better than them, and they only deserve to be spoken to in the crudest and most profane manner that can be expressed through spoken language.

I realize I may have made him look stupid. But after the third time he started calling me a crook, and saying we were trying to cheat him, I really didn't care. His cursing was my way out of a call that had no recovery. His potty mouth gave me the out.

Thanks dude, I was looking for a reason to not serve you-and there it was.

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Sunday, June 11, 2006
  An Eternity of Hold


I sat on hold today calling another call center. While I was on hold, someone yelled out, "AC, you have a call holding on line 201!"
"I'll get it in a second.",I yelled back.

Then it hit me, how many levels deep does the holding go?
People on hold for people on hold for people on hold, our modern life has become like holding up a mirror to a mirror and looking inside to a million worlds of the same people holding up the same mirror.

Someday it will become like a snake eating a snake. Everything will end as the whole world is on hold for everyone else in the world and we will all die there, dusty, hungry and cold, listening to a John Tesh version of "Crazy Train"...

Or we will all finally hang up and say, "Screw it! I'm going to go get a pizza and a beer. Then we will finally find jobs where there are no phones."

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Friday, June 09, 2006
  AC Hits Rock Bottom...


I wrote the following several weeks ago. Things are better now, that does not change the importance of this post. It expresses a reality we don't see or hear about in our churches, and many times we refuse to express it inside ourselves. I've often said I never set out to convert my readers, just try to represent the Christian struggle accurately. Keep that in mind if you read this.

I can't sleep. Besides getting ready for some big anonymous event in my life, I feel like I'm running from God. I don't want to pray, or read my bible or anything. All I want to do is play video games, blog, watch TV, anything to stay busy so I'm not alone with him. At this time in my life, I am the embodiment of Blaine Pascal's quote,

"All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone."~Blaise Pascal
What will I do? How have things become this nuts? I have went from a well-respected "pillar of the church",(oh, how I hate that phrase), to some kind of in-the-shadows slacker who tries to keep out of church as much as possible.

I keep thinking things will change, but they have not. I keep hoping some event will happen to change it all, some it's-a-wonderful-life bullshit, but it never does. Just me, and him, and this awkward silence like there is some elephant doing the Lambada in the middle of the room in a Christian Dior gown with far too much cleavage-even for an elephant. See, for those of you that are kind of "thick", that's me using humor to diffuse the subject and lighten the tone. It only works for a second, and then I have that brick-in-my-gut feeling again.

There is a guy at church who I like. He's a really sweet guy, even though I have taken him out to lunch twice and he's never returned the favor,(you can be so small AC). But he always comes up and hugs my neck and tells me he is glad to see me, he always seeks me out and asks how I am doing. He truly cares about me.

But he's just so intense, just so weird, I keep him at arms length. I never let him in, I always seem to be too busy to be his friend, and it makes me ashamed. That is how my relationship with God has become. There is not just one great big sin holding me back, there are many little ones, but they all go back to the root of all sins: selfishness.

I want my own way. I want to do what I want, but I know it's killing me. I want God to love me, but I don't want to love him back. I want all of the benefits without any of the responsibilities. I've always been this way, deep down. But I think everybody tends toward this. It's called carnality.

I know the drill, there are people in my church, and churches all over this world that would tell me what to do:
"Pray more."
"Read the bible every day."
"Witness to one person every day."
"Memorize these scriptures."
"Listen to this tape."
"Watch this TV show."
"Pray this special prayer."
"Go to this meeting with this incredible preacher."

On and on it goes. But my answer never comes. What do you do when you have no desire to do any of those things? When you feel lazy, hurt, and without the energy to open your bible, and you don't have time for these super-abundant, simplistic platitudes that people are able to drop out of their mouth without even thinking about the effect of overloading everyone with more "have-to's"?

It seems that when people share their struggles with other Christians, it becomes the equivalent of a bunch of men who aren't mechanics all standing around a car on the side of the road, throwing out stupid ideas they heard from other stupid men who also couldn't fix a car. Maybe, we should consider that there is more complexity to a person's spirit, soul and body than the sort of barely English, simple instructions you find in an instruction manual for hooking up your DVD player. Dropping a million reasons why "you suck as a Christian" is rarely helpful to anyone...

The psalm that has meant more to me than anything else in the world comes to my mind,
"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me; a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?" Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."
~Psalm 42:7-11
Hope lives on, like a fire barely smoldering.
Oh God, show me the way.
You are greater than my weakness and greater than my sins.
I want to have the "want-to", to live for you,
but I can't find the way right now.
Please, I know I'm not the only lazy slacker on this planet,
please show me the way out of my callous indifference.
Give me the kind of relationship that is real,
and vital and not based on religion, or politics, or money.
I just want you, but I don't know how to get to you, or how to find the energy.
In Jesus' Name I pray,
Amen.

I don't normally share this kind of thing with other people. Its really far too personal-but I'm willing to open myself up here, I think its worth it. Some people would say that prayer should always be a secret, well, it is mostly here. But I also want to confess how I really feel about my life to somebody, because I just can't seem to confess it to anybody in the flesh right now. Church just feels like some freak show some times. I read something over at Real Live Preacher the other day that really expressed how I feel about what is going in churches today:
"The whole thing reminds me of the kind of person who goes on and on and on about how great her children are and how they have straight A's and are perfect and all that stuff. Of course, she's talking to her friend whose children are making horrible grades and have all sorts of problems, but she just prattles on, either unaware or unconcerned about how this is making her friend feel.

Have you ever known someone like that? I have. And I'm sad to say it, but churches are often like that. All the shiny happy people are handing out awards and celebrating this or that. You can make the broken people feel even more broken if you're not careful. That would be bad enough, but it's even worse if you consider that the basic message of Christianity is that we're ALL broken and need help."


Thanks for reading,

AC
Anonymous Cog

 
Thursday, June 08, 2006
  Random Linkage

Hi,

Here's some links I hope you enjoy.
Mr. Jesse-Another caffeine-powered blogger.
Kate's Book Blog-interesting litblog.
Bittersweet Nothings-good writing-I love it when people share their journey with you-good stuff.
"A Journey to Perfection"-a blog by another call center worker.
Waterlilies-nice variety of fiction and funny definitions.
Jam-Butties-a nice variety of links every day.
Meme Therapy-Life from a science fiction point of view.

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
  I Almost Forgot...

Friday came early and ended late. But it was important because it reminded me what I hate about this place.

My wife called about 9:30 to let me know her parents were coming over. I could not be late, I had to be home by six. I normally get off between four and four-thirty, so I wasn't really concerned. I have a a 30 to 45 minute commute depending on traffic, so I had some time to play with.

The day rolled on and on, like trying to run up a hill during an avalanche, dodging most things and getting hit by others. I ate a couple of snacks, but never got to warm up my General Tso's chicken from last night. The queue times kept rolling, getting bigger and bigger. Twenty calls holding over ten minutes and one point and then falling to five calls at three minutes. All day long it was constant, never letting up.

I got some easy calls, but I kept getting calls that took way too long to do. I spent the day cleaning up problems and doing all I could to go the extra mile for my customers. I dealt with customers that called me back three and four times just to handle one trade. Then kept calling me, and kept calling me, and kept calling me. I felt like I had fallen into a pit of leeches and they would not come off.

Today was one of the few days that I fell into that horrible old feeling where I wanted to take more calls than I normally do, but I also noticed my calls were getting old. If I took more calls, the trades would be later and later, but if I didn't take more calls, people would have to hold longer. I've complained about this part of this job over and over. I just have such a block when it comes to this. I know policy is take four or five then start processing them, but the other people are taking seven or eight and then having things wait for sometimes an hour, which is a real no-no. We advertise that things are processed within twenty minutes, but that is certainly not always the case. This dichotomy is always what I struggle with it. It makes me vacillate between feeling smug because my average process time is quick, but sad because I don't handle as many transactions as everybody else.

Nearing the end of the day, I checked and my numbers were down, not enough to be fired, but noticeable. As I cleaned up my desk, one of my last calls was from a customer who started cursing about the high costs and his wait. I had to make a claim and give it to the quality department. It was 4:30, and this would take 15 minutes.

"AC, We've got twenty calls in the queue! We need you to stay until this rush is over!" my supervisor yelled across the floor.
"I'm sorry. I can't stay. I have people waiting for me."
"Are you sure you can't stay?"
"Yeah..I'm sure."
He looked really disappointed and didn't say anything else.

That's what really burned me up. I had already been there over ten hours. I had already given my all, and it wasn't enough. The other veterans had hit the doors. It's never enough for them. I give and give, I stay over, I go the extra mile, but its never enough.

The phones will keep ringing. I could stay all night. I could answer every phone that rings in this place, but it would never stop. They don't stop. There is no end. Its an eternity of that same high pitched chirp stored on the same solid state chip in the same grimy plastic phones. The phones will wear away to nothing, but the fucking phones will still keep ringing.

There are jobs in this world where you produce something. You put it in the mail, or on a pallet and it goes on a truck and that is it. There are jobs in this world that have a definite beginning and an end. There are places where when your time is done, people don't ask you to keep working. There are actually places where a bell or a buzzer rings and you drop everything, go home, kiss your wife and open a cold beer.

That's what so wrong here. We're a bunch of rats wearing little headphones, running on a wheel that never stops...

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Friday, June 02, 2006
  Hidden Evil

I've been thinking about evil again. I believe just like anyone can do good, anyone can be evil. Here's an earlier series that I did on evil:"What is Evil?". I've developed those thoughts a little more in the essay below.

The evil that humans do is rarely from a fully-actualized, eyes-wide-open, conscious sense of malice,(this does exist, thankfully its not common). For the most part, evil done to others comes from a mental exercise whereby we define the feelings, needs, and pain of others as much less real, much less vital than our own. Once we do this, all evil done to others becomes a simple matter of priorities. The amazing thing about this kind of exercise is that it never feels like evil, it can feel like nothing at all. You can whistle a happy tune as you destroy someone's life. Our needs, our conveniences, have so much more substance than these indistinct others, that no real thought is involved in doing evil to others.

In essence, others aren't as real. They don't have feelings, values or beliefs. They have become some sort of creature that only resembles a human being, except it does not possess the same spirit, soul or intellect as you. The mind-set becomes very similar to how slave owners saw their African slaves in the Southern U.S., or how Nazis saw the Jews in World War II Germany.

True evil does not start with raising oneself above others. Instead, it begins with lowering those around you to less than human. Its a selfishness that says, "I'm just an average Joe. Its all these other morons around me that are the problem. Why aren't there other normal, intelligent people around me? Instead, I'm surrounded by idiots!"

This type of "humble superiority" is seen everywhere. In the halls of government we see it both, Democrat and Republicans,(though sometimes it almost seems more common in liberal politicians). We see it in education, as educators decide to dumb-down curriculums, or expect less from us. We see it in the workplace, possibly clearer than anywhere else.

Returning to the ideas of the Nazis and the southern slave owners, this type of re-categorizing of others as sub-human leads to a form of patronization that is another form of this hidden evil:

Its an evil that knows what's best for us.
Its an evil that wants to "protect us from ourselves".
Its an evil that has decided we can't make our own decisions, or rule our own destiny.
Its an evil that appears forward-thinking, enlightened, and even benevolent.
Its exactly the opposite...

Whether it's expecting less from children in school, taking away personal rights in the name of safety and security, or so many other subtle actions, there are people that want to define us as so needy of their help. They would define us as a world of people that can't do anything without the help of some ivy-league graduate legislating morality or a well-meaning social worker with a PhD that feels they have to teach us how to raise our kids. There are those in the world whose mercy, pity and condescending attitude mix to form a curious compound that resembles hatred in a pretty shade of pink.

We don't need people ordering our society. I prefer the freedom to mess up my own life to some metric society that helps me every time I don't measure up to their insipid definitions of right and wrong-liberal and conservative. Democracy and society will always be a messy endeavor. Perfect order, cleanliness and everyone having the same cars, houses, lives, and thoughts is a crack-pipe dream that can only be accomplished through fascist means.

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Thursday, June 01, 2006
  The Conspiracy of Normality

Over my almost forty years of living on this earth I have heard so many people wish they could be normal.
"How does everybody else live right and keep it all together?"
"Why can't I be as organized as everyone else?"
"How does everyone else do so much more than I do?"
"I'll never be successful, skinny, rich, or loved like everyone else."

From the time we were little children and have been able to understand spoken language, everyone has been telling us what is normal and what is expected of us. The problem with this is we are told what is normal by people who aren't normal.

Everyone telling you what normal is tells themselves that they are the exception, but everybody else is normal. People think that either they are failures at being normal, or they just have to try harder. All the while, everybody keeps repeating the lies of normality. It seems that so few of us ever admit to anyone else that normal doesn't exist.

Don't misunderstand me. I understand the value of socialization, of teaching cultural norms and mores. We all need to at least have a concept of what society thinks is normal. I just think we should see them as what they really are: cultural ideals.

Normal is not the same as truth. They may cross paths from time to time at the Starbucks, or wave to each other at the Wal-mart, but they aren't neighbors, and they don't carpool. Normal wants to be everybody's best friend, normal is on the pep squad and plans the prom. Truth walks through the world making friends with the unpopular people, feeds stray dogs, and writes letters to the editor. Truth reads unpopular books, and asks unpopular questions. Truth doesn't give a rat's ass about being popular-it just wants to be understood, whether you like it or not. Normal changes minute by minute. Every PTA meeting, every pop star, every popular song, every new interpretation of morality, there are so many things that change what normal is. Normal exists as a continually changing vapor, even though it thinks itself a mountain of granite.

What does this have to do with call centers. Nothing and everything. What is important about the conspiracy of normality is that we don't take it so seriously. Do whatever is necessary for people to take you seriously, but don't become heart broken because you don't seem to have the ability to be normal. Don't buy into the lie that everyone around you is normal, and you are the freak or failure. That's the conspiracy of normality. What's important is that we live our lives seeking truth and not just trying to be normal.

Since I've worked in the call center, I've had days I suffered because I asked why I wasn't normal. Why don't I have the same call volume? Why don't I get the same numbers? When Larry ran the center, we all tried to be normal. Now, with the new management, they have begun to treat us more like individuals, and not just numbers on an ACD report.

Truth lives. Normal is overrated...
Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 





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