Most people want a lot out of life. They claim to anyway. Everyone I know says they want more money, more respect, responsibility, whatever. Not me though, I just want a job where I don’t have to take any shit. But realistically, that’ll probably never happen.
Everybody takes shit. I take shit from my manager, he takes shit from his manager, she takes shit from the area manager, and he takes shit from the agency. The agency takes shit from the client, the client takes shit from Ofcom, and Ofcom take shit from everyone.
You see, even the richest, most successful captain of industry takes shit; from his customers, from his competitors, from his shareholders. My manager says that’s just a part of life, and I’ll never ever have a job where I don’t take any shit. He says taking shit is a good thing, makes you do your job better, gets things done quicker. It’s all about how you respond to the shit, that builds character. You can crumble under pressure, or you can take charge and do something about it, pretty soon you’ll feel even better than you did before.
Now personally, I think that’s a load of bollocks. I think that everything would run far more smoothly if everyone had a little bit more respect, especially for the drones on the front line, the under-achievers, whose hands are so deep in shit they’ve forgotten what shit looks like, they’ve forgotten what their hands look like, they begin to think they are shit!
I’m a drone. Just another drone, drowning in apathy with the rest of the losers. I’m a cog in a machine, an arse on a chair in a 21st century factory, in this giant workhouse industry we affectionately call customer service.
“Good afternoon, you’re speaking to Daniel at the Phoenix Welcome Team, how can I be of service to you today?”
I’ve said these words so many times now, that they have lost all meaning.
“Yeah listen right” He states in his mockney accent, “I’ve had this letter right sayin’ my activation date is gonna be on Thursday yeah?”
He probably calls me a ‘Pencil Squeezer Geezer’ to his upper middle class friends.
That’s what we call a ‘verbal nod’.
“Well you need to do it today, I can’t wait ‘til Thursday.”
Not that simple, sorry sunshine.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that sir, the activation date is a set time for an area on a pre-set date. It’s not something I can control unfortunately.”
“Well it’s not hard is it? Just to flick a switch, can’t you do it now?”
Could it be you’ve overestimated the simplicity of connecting a complex series of underground wires and data signals?
“It’s not something I can control.” I reiterate.
“Just activate it now, it’s not hard, just click the button and-”
Synchronising millions of lines of data… one zero one zero one zero zero one zero one one zero zero zero…
“-Sir, it’s not that simple. If I could do it just by flicking a switch, I’d have done it by now. You’ll go active at some point on Thursday, any time up until midnight.”
“Midnight?!” He shouts, “So now you’re telling me I’ve got to wait until midnight to go active? Are you taking the fucking piss?”
What a nice fella.
“Sir, I didn’t say it would definitely take until midnight, I said it could go active at any point on Thursday-”
“That’s a load of bullshit.”
“Sir, if you continue to swear at me I will be terminating the call.”
“Let me speak to your manager.”
He’ll just say the same thing. He’s just a drone like me. At lunch, we’ll probably have a good old laugh about what an idiot you are.
“I’m afraid he is in a meeting right now.”
“Well to be honest, I don’t fucking believe ya.”
Believe it sweetheart. I wouldn’t need to lie to fool you.
“It’s irrelevant whether you believe me or not, it will not change the fact that I cannot get my manager on the phone, and speaking to him will not alter the conclusion of this phone call.”
“No, you’ve lied to me. You’ve lied to me and I want to speak to your manager.”
“How exactly have I lied to you?”
“You lied to me because you never told me it was gonna be midnight before I go active.”
“Actually, that’s exactly what I told you, less than a minute ago.” I pause, “No, in fact, I told you that it will go active at any point throughout the day.”
Telephone tough guy.
“Are you proud of yourself? You stupid little man, you fucking idiot.” He shouts,
Now that hurt my feelings. I’m not little.
“Sir, I’m going to remind you again that if you-“
“You’ve got a shit job because you’re uneducated, you’re lazy, you’re a loser.” He growls, “I run my own business, I’m losing three hundred pounds a day because of you. I’ll sue you for loss of earnings. Give me your name.”
I’ve got you now, big man. That sounded like a threat to me, and I don’t respond well to threats.
“You are using your service for business and commercial purposes?” I ask.
“Yeah, and you’re costing me-“
“I feel I should remind you that it is illegal to use this product for commercial purposes, you need to buy the business package, which is eight times more expensive. As you are currently breaching your contract, you won’t be able to sue me for loss of earnings, and I am within my rights to terminate your account.”
…So shut the fuck up.
“So I can upgrade your account to the significantly more costly business package, or I can terminate your account completely. Which would you prefer?”
Now that’s what I call ‘putting the customer first’.
“I’d also like to remind you that these calls are recorded.” I smile weakly.
A brief interlude of silence follows.
“Fuck off you prick.”
My smile fades.
It is half past 11 by the time I get home. Another day, another headache. I make a cheese sandwich and hastily eat it, smoke a cigarette, then change out of my work clothes and flop on the bed. My mind fades to blank for a while, before I remember that I have to return to work tomorrow at 11am for another 12 hour shift.
Life could be worse I guess. Better to be a loser than an arsehole. Or is it?
Maybe he was right, maybe I am a bit stupid for going back to that place everyday to swallow shit sandwiches with a smile. Maybe I am a bit stupid for salivating like a Pavlovian dog at the prospect of getting my monthly bonus.
Well, at least I’m not completely stupid. Maybe it was my accent, my dopey northern accent that tricked him. He’d have never guessed I lived in the south. He’d have never dreamt I lived just three miles away from his house. His road is actually on my bus route home, it goes right past his front door actually. Over the phone, everyone’s a tough guy. To him, I was just another drone, another customer service slave, who needed a good whipping. How foolish to talk that way to somebody you’ve never met, especially when they have your name, address, bank account details, phone numbers, and email addresses right in front of them. It’s just madness.
The first time it happened, I couldn’t hold back. I snuck into the house through the back door, and stabbed him with a screwdriver a few times. But this one, I’ll take my time, work him over for months on end. I’ll start by reporting his business for those little tax evasions he seems to be so proud of. Then I’ll jackpot his bank account. I’ll wear him down with phone calls, emails, and parcels containing all sorts of foul things. I bet I could get him on the Sex offender’s register, or destroy his credit rating with repeated loan applications. Then, when I’ve worn him down to a pathetic little nub, I’ll slip into his house at night and bleed him dry. Guys like him have always made more than just a few enemies in life, and who would ever expect that an anonymous phone operator would ever take things that far. I guess that’s my problem; I’m petty. Childish. I’m tit-for-tat and toe-to-toe, and I’ve got nothing better to do. But I guess that’s life really isn’t it? And you’ll have to accept it, because you’ll never be in a position where you don’t take shit. It’s all about how you respond to the shit, that builds character. You can crumble under pressure, or you can take charge and do something about it, pretty soon you’ll feel even better than you did before.
And I feel great.
© JC Axe 2014Follow @jc_axe