Work Narrative

“Ladies! It’s almost Friday!”

My boss walks into the break room, clapping her hands with far more enthusiasm than is actually warranted. Her hair is frizzed out around her face and her eyes and smile both seem so big today that it’s like she’s trying to be a caricature of herself. Which, I suppose, she kind of is.

Bev, standing at the microwave, raises a skeptical eyebrow. “Yeah? ‘Kay.” She’s speaks in that careful, wary tone you hear people who work with wild animals use. She’s waiting for the punch line. And there should be a punchline.

It’s only Tuesday.

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By this morning, there was no enthusiastic clapping. Only a lackluster, “We made it to Friday, people,” as my boss walked into the office with the rest of us trailing in behind.

Between my six coworkers and myself, we had already worked a cumulative 271.25 hours this week. I hit overtime at 10:15 this morning. Which, on the one hand, is nice. When I’m making time and a half for OT, it means I’m making $15 an hour. And it’s nearing the first week of the new month, so bills are due. But if I have to listen to one more person say, “Oh, uh. No. Thank you. I’m . . . busy.” And if I have to make one last attempt to save a call by going, “Not a problem at all, sir! Is there a better time I can try back to reach you?” Only to hear the end click of the phone line disconnecting, I might just lose my mind.

Granted, working in a call center has its advantages. The customers I talk to aren’t actually in front of me, so I can’t actually see their looks of disgust and chagrin when I call them to do a “customer service follow-up” that is – in reality – just a thinly veiled attempt to suss out whether or not they’re ready to spend thousands of dollars on a new vehicle. Sometimes the customers are content to just answer the “few quick questions,” but more commonly they tend to speed the process along by simply hanging up. It’s not as effective as they think it is.

Company policy requires me to call back, unless they clearly tell me not to.

And, according to the company, hanging up isn’t clear enough.

_________________________________________________________________

Lunchtime took forever to get to. A wonderful thirty-minute window in which I didn’t need to do anything, but play a free game on my phone and eat Chef Boyardee  mini-raviolis straight from the can.

Bev wandered over to my cubicle. “Sup?”

It made me smile, because Bev is nearly in her fifties. All of her children are older than I am. She’s worship leader at her church, was the wife of a member of the US military. Yet, she asks, “Sup?” with all the head-tilting, arm crossed, attitude of a gangster.

“Is it time to go home yet?” I asked. Not hopefully. Just sarcastically.

She smiled and suddenly looked just like grandmother in a blazer from Target, but she was really frustrated enough to tear her hair out and on the verge of tears of boredom. I understood. It really is like Janice – one of our newer coworkers – says sometimes. This is day five of the hostage situation and negotiations are not going well.

_________________________________________________________________

“Sammy-Sam!”

My boss was over-caffeinated.

“Yes, ma’am?”. I try to reinforce the fact that we are boss and peon by being as polite and professional as I can. It isn’t very effective, as far as cluing her in to the fact that I don’t like being called Sammy, let alone Sammy-Sam, but it does tend to focus her a bit.

“Little muffin! How are you?”

Well. Sometimes it works, anyway.

“. . . I’m good. Working . . .” You should try it.

            “Good! That’s good. What’re you on?”

“Round 5.” Thank god.

            “Oh! Good. So, listen, what if I –“ She cut herself off and I heard her mutter, “Oh, damn.” There was a second-long pause and she said, “Hold on I’ll call you back,” so quickly that it became one word. In the next instant, our connection vanished and I heard her shriek, “Grampy!”

The man on the phone wasn’t really her grandfather, of course. He’s her supervisor.

But definitions and office boundaries get a little blurred around here.

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