“Good afternoon, you’re through to the city council, how may I help?” “Well,” comes the voice dripping with derision; “we’ll see if you can…” You’d be amazed how many people use that as their opening gambit when they ring a customer service number; it’s as though all logic has foregone them and they’ve forgotten that they’re being condescending to the very person they need help from. Although, I‘ll concede that I prefer that charming little intro to the man who’s opening line was “listen phone-monkey!” That was a class unto itself. But then so is being a professional phone-monkey, even if it is only to fatten the ISA in the limbo-land that is saving for travel.
It’s not what any child dreams of doing when they grow up but you fall into it as an entry-level position and pray like crazy that you can get out and move up before it destroys your very soul. They say nurses loose their empathy as a defense mechanism from being around so much suffering all the time. Call centre workers loose their empathy as a defense mechanism from over-exposure to arseholes. It wasn’t supposed to be this way; I did pretty much everything I was supposed to do. I got the solid academic degree, I did lots of extra-curricular stuff and I worked from the age of fourteen. I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of spiritual contract with the cosmos that means that after all that you’re not meant to spend 3 years flitting from one call centre to another and achieving very little other than a general contempt for humanity. Ah me, I suppose I was a generation too late for that.
Instead I get to talk to lovely people who tell me that they know I’d fulfill their request for free shit if only they were a ‘bloody immigrant’ and others who bring me lists of grid references for all the litter they saw on their walk over to the council office (I’m really not kidding). Take today for instance; I was covering reception – a welcome break from the relentless coil of the headset cable keeping me strapped by the ear to my computer. A gentleman walked in, drug-addled eyes darting suspiciously at the corners of the room and reeking of old rollies and a hoody unwashed since the rise of hoodies. “I wanna speak to the CCTV people, they’ve bin followin’ me and its discrimination just ‘cause I look alterna’ive,” he informs me with a smirk that makes it impossible to decide if he’s fun or trouble. “Get the guy I spoke to on Monday.”
“I’ll try for you, who did you speak to on Monday?”
“I dunno, but I wanna speak to ‘im.”
“There’s 600 staff here, do you remember his first name or at least what department he was from?”
“Can you remember what he looked like?”
“Ok, well unfortunately I was hoping for more of a physical description?”
“I’ve given you my description.”
“Ok, well I can’t help you very much without a bit more information. Can you remember what colour his hair was? Or how old he was roughly?”
“Age, looks – what does it matter? I’ve give you a good description. I didn’ know that there was gonna be some massive conspiracy to keep me from talkin’ to ‘im.”
All day, every day good reader. Every day. Fun times. This is why I shall be packing my bags and shimmying off to Thailand at the first opportunity, not that there aren’t horrible people there too but at least they don’t all have that hideous British sense of entitlement that we’re all hard-wired with from birth.