I had been out of work for a while, so when I finally got a new gig, I was excited. The only bad thing was that there was a two week lag period after I started work but before I got my first check during which I couldn’t afford to go to lunch at a restaurant like everyone else. Instead, I got in my car, drove far enough out of sight of the building to make it seem like I went somewhere (but not so far as to use up much gas), parked the car, and ate the free snacks that I had snagged from the break room.
Yes, a man can live for two weeks on Ritz crackers and pop tarts.
The company made software that did things for cable companies. I worked in the call center, which is a hellish place for anyone to work. On top of that, I had no idea what our software did or how our customers used it. Despite this, my new employers put me directly onto the phones and encouraged me to answer them.
Calls came in, and all the phones in the room would ring loudly. If you were already working on an issue with a customer, you didn’t have to answer another call, but there was a lot of pressure for the ringing to stop. That downward pressure on me to do my part to stop the ringing was equalized by intense outward pressure to not to have to talk to another customer.
The phones would ring, and the dozen or so other techs in the room would enter a silent war of attrition to see who could stand the ringing or pretend to already be busy the longest.
Occasionally I would figure that I couldn’t get away with it, and I would grab the phone and answer. The customer would immediately detail a problem with our software that they were having. I had zero frame of reference to even understand what they were talking about, let alone untangle their situation. It was as though they were asking for directions on another planet in another language.
I would take feverish notes, and then put them on hold, and then ask my supervisor what I should do.
“I’m not gonna spoon feed you guys,” he’d say, testily.
Failing that, I would get up and go down the hall to where the strange, hairy people wearing garish clothes and fanny packs worked. Yes, I had to ask the developers.
They too were highly annoyed with being interrupted, and not at all inclined to help me.
“The source code is the documentation,” one said, then turned back to his monitor.
“What does that even mean,” I exclaimed to the heavens, represented in this case by fluorescent lighting and acoustical tile.
Somehow I managed learn enough to be able to answer questions over the course of a few months. I don’t think there are any customers still on hold waiting for me to return with an answer, but if there are, I apologize.
One night, working late with my buddy Tom Vines, one of our female coworkers showed us photos of herself at a party the previous weekend, bent over and pants down, ass in full view. Tom and I looked at one another. His eyes were wide, so he must have been wondering what the hell was going on around that place just as I was.
Months later, after I got fired for not properly handing a customer issue, Tom forwarded me a photo of that girl in an honest-to-god porno, holding a man’s sausagish penis in her hand as if someone had told her to hold it. It looked more like a still-life of naked weirdos than a sexual moment caught on film, but what do I know?
At least she didn’t have to answer the phone anymore.