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Colony of Losers Day 5: Call Center Part 1: The Cycle

Posted on | April 8, 2010 | 4 Comments

The Cycle:

 I staggered down the street towards the walk in clinic. 

People stared at me wondering if  Macauly Culkin had finally taken that fatal line of coke.  I looked like I was having an aneurysm or a very painful shit in a very public place. I pushed open the glass doors, stumbled past the Star Bucks and into the  walk in clinic. I told the nurse I was sick with a weak voice that said I hadn’t slept or eaten in days. 

 I sat down and was quickly doubled over in agony.  My face was tensed. My hands covered my eyes, keeping even the tiniest glint of light from passing through. My pain appeared greater than all of the sick people surrounding me. Strangers would have assumed I had the plague. 

 I tensed, listening to a dozen people sucking spit back into their swollen throats. Through my half closed eyes I saw the words: Mumps vaccination. 

 Fuck.

 A recent mumps outbreak had struck the local university and the clinic was filled with panicked students looking for their vaccination shots. Some were too late and were painfully swallowing saliva to coat their swollen saliva glands.

Fuck.

Gripped by paranoia I struggled to remember my sales pitch. I had a migraine. I had all the symptoms listed on Wikipedia. The sound of saliva being sucked into sick throats and shivers went down my spine.  
  
 It was the day before my 23rd birthday and I was faking sick, incredibly scared that I would come down with the mumps. 

Why?

I needed a way out. 

 Everyone has gotten stuck in a job they couldn’t leave.

 We all have our reasons.

 The best ones include words like rent, food, debt and the money is too good.  As you get older they include words like kids, college funds and too late.

 For the lovely ladies working the service industry the job and all the sexual harassment it entails becomes an abusive boyfriend they can’t leave. Sure he hits her but damn the sex is good. He tells her she’s a piece of shit and she believes it. The tips are the great sex that keeps them there. Bosses hand out the abuse that lowers self esteem and adds to the general inertia that makes a summer job stretch into a career.  Anyone who runs a restaurant or a bar is crazy and often has serious self esteem issues.  So to fill the holes in themsleves they make holes in other people.  

 Coping with customers and asshole bosses bonds the staff together. Friendship keeps them sane and makes the job tolerable.  Alcohol is the first taste of freedom and the clean slate after a long day. The later you work the more likely you are to drink to celebrate the end of your shift. The more hungover you are in the morning the less likely you are to look for work. The more money you spend at the bar is less money you have to put away for savings. Waitressing is about feast and famine. Making tip money is seasonal. Waitresses live like queens until the season changes and then they have to use their savings to live. The longer you stay in the industry the more scared you become. You don’t want to leave during the good times and you don’t have the money to leave during the bad. 

 Quitting waitressing is like quitting drug dealing. 

 No straight job you get will ever offer you the same money to start. You have to work for years at a straight job to get that kind of money and your salary gets taxed.

 Job hunts also have a habit of lowering your self esteem. You honestly don’t believe you could do any better and you accept the shit you eat and the eyes that take off your clothes because after awhile the shock wears off.  Your idea of humanity changes. After extremely old and young men try to fuck you it’s hard not to look at men a little differently. After being at yelled for the tiniest infractions its difficult not to feel like a fuck up. It’s hard not to be jaded when everyone is looking to fuck you or fuck you over.

An old friend of mine has the best quitting story I have ever heard. After a year of disrespect and sexual harassment from her un-Spartan like Greek bosses she decided she had enough.  She  loudly announced to the entire restaurant that the chiefs were cooking rotting meat that they had picked up from the floor.  Customers looked distinctly ill. She gave the family the finger and walked out of the world of waitressing. 

 I worked at a Call Center for little more than a month. My exit was less dramatic. 

  The only sexual harassment I faced was from an elderly lady who laughed when I asked her if she needed phone sets and she asked if I had asked her to have phone sex.

 My job in the outbound call center was ridiculously boring and demanding of constant attention. Phone sex with the elderly rarely makes the time go any quicker. As soon as you finish dealing with a customer the computer system connects you to the next call. There is little time to think real thoughts. Your mind is filled with your constantly repeated sales pitch. You know the words to keep them on the line. You have a reply ready for every rejection.  Write down your comments on the call. You convince them or you don’t. Nobody really cares and the corporation profits. Call ends. Next call. Repeat.

 Autopilot breaks down during a hundred glances at the clock at top right of your computer screen. The clock becomes your own method of self-mutilation. Days become inhumanely long. By the end of your first day  you have decided to break it up into small manageable compartments.  The two hours before your first break. Have a coffee and get through it. In two hours you get to have your first smoke.  Next is the three and a half hours before your half hour lunch break. Fantasize about that greasy food court meal. Now it is only the two hours before your next break.  Then its that never ending hour and half before you get to leave. Your day has to be broken up into these compartments because when you think of it as a whole day, when you can conceive of it as a whole week, a whole month, a whole life it becomes overwhelming. You tell yourself you only have to do this for another hour. You never tell yourself you are coming in tomorrow.

 By the time you get home most businesses have already closed their doors and it’s too late to pass out resumes.

The people I know who stay at Call Centers all seem to have drinking problems.  I assume this is to wipe away that feeling that you’ve become the automated voice on the other end of the line. The amount of repition makes you into a robot. Booze makes you feel warm and compassionate after a day of talking to people who have no interest in talking to you about things that you and they do not give a shit about. You need to be reminded your human. 

 In most jobs your customers will not care about you. In the wonderful world of Call Centers they actively hate you. Being told to eat shit and die is a routine experience. Being called a cocksucker is a medal of honor in accounts receivable. No one gets that you get paid an hourly rate and just want to go home and get wasted. 

 I worked five days a week. I couldn’t get a day off in my first three months without a note from my doctor.

 I needed that note because I needed to get out.

 Turn into the next segment to find out why.

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Comments

4 Responses to “Colony of Losers Day 5: Call Center Part 1: The Cycle”

  1. Sharbel Karam
    April 8th, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

    Vote for Miley Cyrus on the Mostly Awards 2010
    http://gossipedia.wordpress.com/mostly-awards/

  2. GRVM
    April 8th, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

    Love it.

  3. GRVM
    April 9th, 2010 @ 12:31 am

    That too.

  4. Colony of Losers: Call Center Hell# 3: Homicidal first day at work | Colony of Losers
    October 3rd, 2010 @ 11:55 am

    [...] out the next Call Center adventure here.  Check out the first and second parts as [...]

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  • About

    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

    Really obvious disclaimer:
    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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