Never a dull moment

"Your call is important to us, please hold." That's a running joke in American life, but at the call center where I work, we really try to keep your hold time down. There's enough staff that nobody's on hold for more than a minute or two all day, until the last few hours.

What's nuts is, most people wait till the end of the day to call, so hold times get longer and longer in the late afternoon. And if you call before 5:00, when the call center closes, we stay late until the last call's been answered, which is often 5:20, or 5:30. It's overtime, a little extra money, but it's still frustrating, because holy crap I want to get outta there. Whenever anyone complains about the afternoon hold times, I'll remind them that, you know, we're also taking calls before 4:55 PM.

In a month at the job, there's been about ten minutes at my desk when I wasn't on a call. On the bright side, at least for an introvert like me, it means there's almost never a moment for chit-chat with my co-workers. I barely know their names, and some of them I don't.

I've come to kinda like the ordinary incoming calls, booking rides for the disabled, and breaking the rules while doing it. Talking to people makes me a little nervous, but I can cope, long as it's routine stuff — "I need a ride tomorrow," or, "Cancel my ride," or, "Tell me whether today's bus is running late."

The not-so-routine calls, though, are often borderline emergencies, like "I'm getting discharged from a hospital in another county, and need a ride home in an hour," or "My doctor's appointment ran late, so I missed my ride home," or "You sent an extra bus to get me after my doctor's appointment ran late and I'd missed my ride home, but I was still having blood drawn and missed that second ride, too," and on and on...

And there's also non-emergency stuff, crazy things that happen so rarely I can't remember what I'm supposed to do.

Like, someone cancels a ride for later the same day, so I've got to let the Dispatch Department know, so they can let the bus driver know. That makes sense, sure, and I can do it. But I'm also supposed to check to see if our buses were overbooked so the ride was outsourced to a taxi company, and if it was, I gotta click around and figure out which taxi company, and call them and let them know ... but finding out requires a twenty-click tour through software I'd otherwise never touch. And with maybe one chance in a week to do it, jeez, I don't think I'll never get it down.

And then there's another scenario nobody'd expect, and the impossible scenario after that. I'm on adrenaline edge through my whole shift, every day. It's an invitation to an ulcer or heart attack, and I keep wet-wipes handy to literally wipe the sweat from my forehead.

If it was only incoming calls I might eventually get used to it, but what's really unsettling is knowing that the bosses might be listening in. Even having decided this probably isn't a long-term job for me, it's obnoxious as hell having a 'lead' or The Boss on my back for giving away good pickup times instead of forcing riders to wait.

Plus there's my own slippery grasp of the rules I do choose to enforce. Like, If the caller won't take the times offered, we're supposed to mark the ride as 'refused' — and I would, but I can never remember the six-button pattern that accomplishes that.

And if someone calls back 'fishing' for better pickup or dropoff times than they've already booked, it's not allowed... unless the time they're asking for is earlier by an hour or later by half an hour in some situations, or the opposite in other situations, and I can't keep the situations sorted in my head.

Plus there's me, and I am definitely part of the problem. I try to put a smile in my voice and give callers my best and most polite effort, but by nature I am not a nice man. A caller complained about my demeanor a few days ago, and I was beckoned into The Boss's office to listen to the recording of the call. Wish I could tell you that the caller was ridiculous or the complaint was unjustified, but The Boss and the caller were right — I had been too brusque and argumentative. 

So back at my booth, in the four seconds of silence between back-to-back-to-back-to-back calls for the rest of the afternoon, I wondered about maybe working at Jack-In-the-Box, or finding an office job where I'd be back to dealing with paperwork, not people. I'm pretty good with paperwork. With people, not so much.



  1. I have a longish comment and a shortish comment, but I got six seconds to sing so it's the short: You've done a nice job of continuing your movie reviews (I know some of them are pre-reviews, but you're covering the waterfront, so what the hell?) The Mrs has been waiting for The Saint in New York, and I think it's pretty close to next on the list. I've explained to her that you're running Grand Central Station 30 miles north of us and Sainthood might not be in your future, but she has confidence in you. No rush. Just get those people who need your logistic help to the doc and back home again. That will be a gala day, and, as Groucho Marx says, a gala day should be enough for any man.

    as always,

    1. The Saint in New York is teed up, coming soon. Maybe as soon as the next few nights...

  2. Maybe a little usb powered clip-on fan attached to your collar and aimed at your face will get you through the day better. /s

    - Zeke Krahlin

    1. I prefer the cubical clip-ons, that grip office walls and blow air at your face until it makes your eyeballs hurt.

  3. https://youtu.be/TcTdmyibv3g?si=zxJhJ20-xHhtju6y

    1. A pleasant flashback — that's how I got to Mariners games back in the day. Only severe idiots go to games in cars.


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