the shitty dayjob

That’s what I called it: The shitty dayjob.  “Dayjob” was always one word, and always preceded by the very clear, very descriptive adjective.

At about the six month point, when I thought I might implode from the mindless tedium of endless phone calls, when I thought that my soul was being sucked out through my ears every time I put on that headset, I received a respite: a transfer into the technical services department.

Initially, my job was to sit in a cubicle and wait for my headset to beep; once it did, there was an unhappy customer thrust into my life.  I didn’t have the luxury of actually answering the phone – I’d just get a beep, as if I was receiving some technological warning that an asshole was about to begin speaking at me.  

More than 100 calls a day, more than 100 beeps in your ears, and you begin to hear the beep in your sleep.  It’s difficult to imagine, but if you’re reading this and you’ve ever had this sort of job you will understand what I’m writing about here.  You hear the beep when it’s not there; it sort of becomes omnipresent.

Back then it was very common for new cellphone users to experience what was called an ESN mismatch; essentially, the cellular company got the electronic serial number in a new customer’s phone wrong when they entered the new customer’s data into the computer system.  The end result of this was that the cellphone wouldn’t work – it was easy to fix, but the customer had to actually be on the phone in order to fix it.

Once I received a call from an irate doctor who clearly had an ESN mismatch.  This was back in the day when cellphones were actually installed in cars, and this doctor finally dialed 611 from his phone to reach the customer service department.  And he got me.  He explained to me that he wanted someone from the cellular company to come to his office and fix his phone.

I explained to him what was happening, and told him I could fix it in just a few minutes if he remained on the line.  He refused, and insisted that I send a technician to his office.

After explaining – multiple times – what was wrong with his phone, he finally agreed to let me track his phone for him, and read his ESN.  And then the call dropped.

That night, he left me a voice mail on my work line.  He was irate because the cellphone did not work properly in his parking garage.  He left a number for me to call him back – his office number – so I called him the next morning.

When I got him on the phone he once again insisted that his phone was broken, and he wanted a technician.  Once again, I explained that he had an ESN mismatch, and if he simply went down to the parking garage and called me, I could fix it.

“I can’t go down to the parking garage!” he screamed.  “I’m a fucking doctor!  I have patients!  I can’t just leave!”

Of course.  Asshole.

I convinced him to call me from the car at the end of the day, and told him that I would stay late to make sure that I fixed his problem.

At about 6:00, he called me.  From Connecticut.  He dialed 611, and had the cellphone company from Connecticut transfer him to me in New Jersey.  However, because he was in Connecticut, he wasn’t registered on the cellular system in New Jersey – so I could not read his ESN.  He was in another state.

He lost his mind, screaming at me to the point where I had to hold my earphones away from my ears.

I told him I’d have a technician at his parking garage in the morning, to fix the problem.

The next morning, a technician went to his parking garage and called me.  We read the ESN, updated the system, and made a test call.  The test call worked.  The technician left, and I called the customer and told him the problem was solved.

Except the idiot service technician left the keys in the customer’s ignition, left the door open, and the car battery died.  The doctor went to leave at the end of the day, and his battery was dead.

So he called me the next day, absolutely raving.  “YOU RUINED MY CAR!” he screamed.  “YOUR COMPANY IS INCOMPETENT!  I WANT TO CANCEL MY SERVICE NOW!!!”

No way.  It was now my personal mission to keep this guy as a customer.  I stayed late for him; I wasn’t about to let him quit.  So I issued a $100 credit to his account, talked him off the ledge, and at the end of the conversation he thanked me for all my help, apologized for being mean, and wished me a nice weekend.

On Monday morning, he called me again.  “This fucking phone is a piece of shit!  Do you know what happened to me this weekend?!”

I guessed that his phone didn’t work.  “What?” I asked.

“THE PHONE DIDN’T WORK!  I WAS HOME IN CONNECTICUT, AND I HAD AN IMPORTANT PHONE CALL, AND THE PHONE DIDN’T WORK!”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I empathized.  “What was the problem?”

“The problem,” he said in a very low tone, “was that I had a critically ill patient that needed urgent medical attention.  They called me on my pager, and I went to call them from my cell phone, and the fucking thing didn’t work.  The patient died.  I hold you responsible.  Not the phone.  Not Cellular One.  YOU.  PERSONALY.”

My first reaction was “Holy shit, I killed someone.”  Then, I snapped to my senses.

“Why am I responsible?” I asked.  “Because I gave him shitty medical care?”  I couldn’t believe it came out of my mouth.

Anyway, about five seconds before I finally went postal due to gross boredom and frustration, I was advised of a job opening in the technical services department.  Technical services was a much smaller department – just five people, working in a small room (as opposed to more than 150 robots working alongside me, phones beeping in their ears 100 times each day).  Our job was to resolve the more technical problems that were not solved by the regular customer service group.  When a problem was too tough for them to solve, they’d fill out a Technical Report and forward it to our department.  We would dole out the reports and spend the day solving technical problems.

Instead of talking on the phone to 100 customers a day, we might receive 25 Tech Reports a day.  They took longer to solve, and often needed help from the engineering department.  Our office, which was called the “Switch Room,” had a lockable door, and windows overlooking the parking lot and lovely Route 17 in Paramus, NJ.

The other four people I worked with were fantastic.  There was Willy, who was more of a techie type but also very cool and very nice.  There was Tina, a nice lady who was fairly harmless.  And there were Chrissy and Rick, who were both my age.  Chrissy, Rick and I became fast friends.  

The Switch Room was pretty cool because we could listen to music inside the room, and nobody would hear.  We would sit in the room and talk.  Usually there were only two or three of us working at a time, and we’d lock the door and just bullshit about life. We could also receive personal calls without any trouble – nobody was “observing” our conversations.

The best part about the job was that we worked shifts.  The idea was that there should always be someone working in the Switch Room so that a customer would never have to wait til the next day to speak with a representative.  We had a 7AM-4PM shift, an 8:30AM-5:30 PM shift, a 12PM-9PM shift, and a 3PM-midnight shift.  We would alternate shifts each week, so nobody worked the same shift two weeks in a row (except Tina, who always worked 8:30-5:30, if I recall).

What made this cool is that with the exception of the 8:30-5:30 shift, each of the other shifts gave me the ability to get Dromedary work done during the daytime.  

The job was slightly more challenging, the hours were great, I made some great friends, and I got a $6,000 raise for taking it.  

And best of all, in this job I couldn’t kill any more patients.

~ by Al on January 15, 2009.

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