This episode is a follow-up to Ophelia's Nightmare.
Both episodes are based on this aspect of my real life:
For about a year I worked in a call center in the collections (pardon, "financial services") department of a cell phone company. I won't tell you which one, just in case somebody out there is in a suin' mood. And I'm not sure it makes a difference anyway. I get the feeling they're all pretty much the same. One phone company is like another phone company is like a credit card company is like an Internet retail company is like...
For that year, whenever anyone asked me about my job, I would mention that I hated it. But I would try to be funny. Partly, it's because I believe all whining should be done with at least a modicum of humor. And partly, it's because I was trying to jolly myself out of being as miserable as I really was. You know. Exaggerate to the point where it seemed absurd even to me. Oh, of course not, it's not really like a cross between George Orwell's 1984 and a Junior High School Pep Assembly. Ha, just kidding. It's more like...
Spirit Week in Hell.
I don't know why I stayed in the job so long when I hated pretty much every minute I was there. I don't know why I took it in the first place, knowing I would probably hate it. It looked good on paper. Good benefits and all. And there's hating and there's hating, you know? Everybody kind of hates their job, right?
Actually, I do know. I took the job because I'd been looking for work for months, when the software industry where I'd spent the last ten years of my working life seemed to have collapsed utterly, when I had no faith in the economy or the administration or myself. I did not believe I could do better. And I was scared. Of bankruptcy. Of my entire life collapsing in a complete financial meltdown. Of being just a little too old to start completely over, but far too young to be a washout.
And I stayed because I remained scared. I was scared that if I left before a year that it would look bad on future resumes. I was scared that my husband was going to lose his job. I was scared that if I left, it would mean that I was an even bigger loser than I already thought I was.
So I tried to convince myself that it wasn't so bad. I tried to be stubborn. Make up my mind that I would master the job. You don't have to be a genius, after all. I could be above the job. And move into something more technical after I'd been there a while. Yeah, that's it! It would be a new career direction, maybe something really exciting would happen down the road!
With all due respect, past self, what a crock of ppphbllt!
You see, there's one thing the job absolutely requires that I couldn't possibly have without a lobotomy, or something. The job requires somebody who keeps their cool under emotionally confrontational situations.
(People who know me well are now laughing hysterically.)
Because if you're the sort of person who gets all stressed out when people yell at you, personally insult you, won't let you get a word in edgewise, and won't listen to reason, the call center world is not for you, baby.
So, near as I can figure, I spent a year or so in an absolutely constant state of stress. Because you can never forget about the job, in part because it's so punctuality-driven (to the minute, not kidding). So in the morning, on breaks, at lunch, I was constantly having to watch the clock, which meant that I stayed at a low level of stress the whole time -- like I was perpetually taking the SATs or something. And the stress is constant while on the phone, because you have to worry about adhering to a "quality" checklist (that is constantly being revised) and keeping your call times down and keeping your work times after the calls down.
So I dunno. Maybe some people don't actually feel stress as they worry about all that, don't feel stress knowing that a faceless quality department is listening to their every word and cameras in the ceilings watch their every move and at night the cubicle gestapo come in and rearrange where you have things pinned to your walls in order to comply with the new guidelines. All I know is that I do, and so when a caller was trouble, my emotional resources were already strained to the snapping point.
Plus, they always had the Fox News Channel going in the lunchroom.
Anyway, I tried to make it work -- like somebody who gets married while drunk in Vegas. I kept telling myself if I just tried a little harder...
But eventually I snapped one too many times, and on the 14th of July (Bastille Day, which seems significant) I gave two weeks notice.
And, wow, it worked out okay for me. Within a week of my last day at the phone company I had started a regular job I really enjoy 1. And it left me wondering what I was so scared about.
I left Ophelia in hell longer than I stayed, because I'm mean.
But she's ready to leave now.