Author Topic: "Reading Room"  (Read 2072 times)

SirCumference

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"Reading Room"
« on: 28 Apr 2013 09:49PM »
I see that never got off the ground.

Sunshine Meadows

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Re: "Reading Room"
« Reply #1 on: 28 Apr 2013 11:56PM »
Quote
I see that never got off the ground.

I blame ballon rationing  >biggrin<

How about a moment in time from me,

Call Centre.

As I ride to the next floor the lift creaks and growls like it is servicing an apartment block full of impatient, demanding people and not just one woman in a wheelchair. When it gets its destination the doors open with a series of jerks as the lift flinches at what it is about to see. The open space that used to there is gone and so are the desks that the out of town bean counters would sit at during the day. Paper cut outs, who would sit heads down, working hard, rattling at their keyboards like they were wooden abacuses.  People in suits who never smiled or said hello and whom I never got to know, forever gone. Even the potted greenery that somehow represented nature’s foothold is no longer there. The space is now tense and gloomy.

A grey partition wall now stands between me and the daylight that creeps its way through the venetian blinds. The wall has five doors in it and each door leads into what is called a Meeting Room. More cardboard and plaster separates each room from its neighbour.  For all the good it does the partitioning might as well not be there. The occupants try to talk in low voices, but the thin walls too easily give a sense of privacy which turns the volume of most conversations up to the level of a stage whisper. These little cells have barely enough room in them for two chairs and a small table. Whenever a 'one to one' meeting is held the team leader and call agent have to do a freakishly polite dance deciding who sits where.  The last step of the dance always leads to an awkward  side by side conversation like one you would have with an ex girlfriend on a bus - far too close to be comfortable.

As I exit the lift I can see that all but one of the meeting rooms is occupied. I don’t want to linger here, but my mouth is dry and I need a drink before I start my shift. A large vending machine sits in the corner next to the lift and as I wheel myself around I see it is staring blank faced straight ahead.  Tonight is a typical one. The last cup of hot chocolate that it vended out has been split all over the drip tray. The drawer is now jammed and so it will be getting a beating later from a thirsty ops manager. There is a frothy bubbling noise and a grinding gears as the water is boils inside. The drinks will be too hot for even the calmest tongues.  If the machine had been equipped with a microphone I suspect it would have been able to record: a girl weeping over her call durations; another getting asked out on a date and one bullet headed man being told to leave the building immediately. 

I sit with my back to the wall. It is like being in the dentist’s office I need to be here but I want to leave. Using both hands to hold the paper cup I take sips of straight black coffee and force my body to calm down.

‘Stop shaking, you are ok, just take a few minutes’, I whisper to myself.

Before the wall went up this had been the quiet corner that was created when the tide went out bringing an end to the day shift and allowing the paper people to rush to their cars. For the most part my co-workers assumed this part of the building was out of bounds after six. I never told them otherwise, because it was my place to catch some peace when I arrived and during a precious break from phone work.  In the summer I sometimes watched the sun go down behind the trees and listened to the birds saying goodnight. When winter came and the dark nights carried more customers in with them, I would still come here; maybe sit gazing out the window at the headlights came and went along the road outside. This used to be a place to get away from sight of paint peeling from the noise of the people confirming customer warranties; asking if cables were plugged in and apologising for mistakes they had not made.  I will still come back here at nine to hide in an empty cell, eat a granola bar and take pain pills. I can no longer see the trees outside or feel their presence clearing the air, but sometimes a window is left open and a cold breeze touches my arm.

The paper coffee cup goes into the recycling bin and my notebook goes into my bag It is time to go to work. I push myself into the central area of the building and take my place- row one, desk area two.  It is hard to describe the noise that is now all around me but it is like someone is trying to tune a medium wave radio into a channel. I can hear bits of conversation but mostly there is a roaring static that drowns out the sound of the computer fans and their clicking hard drives.
I don’t need the chair that is waiting for me and take a brief childish delight in the way I get to bowl the vacancy towards the wall.  Crazy green desk partitions block my view of other peoples’ bodies and from where I am sitting I can see the top of people heads bobbing back and forth, up and down as they talk to customers. David sits opposite me and because he is taller than the rest of the people in the team and he was able to see me roll in. He stands up and gives me a little wave. I see his arm move and know he just flipped his phone onto mute.

‘Hey how you doing’, he says, then adds ‘give me a second.’

He goes off mute and says ’Yes Madam we are here to help you, but if you look at the details on your warranty you will see we are not responsible for the personal data you have stored on the machine.’

He pauses.
‘Yes, yes I know but the computer has now been wiped and it has a new clean software build so there is no way to get those baby pictures back.’

He pauses again.

‘I know but there is nothing I can do.’

‘No there is nothing.’

‘No I am sorry.’

‘Yes I am sorry but there is nothing we can do.’

I make a sad face at Dave and he responds by giving a thumb down sign. I smile and he grins, it is all part of the gallows humour. We both know there are options that Dave wants to take in dealing with the woman who is currently crying and screaming down the phone. He wants to terminate the call but he can’t; he wants to tell her the previous call agent’s advice was rubbish, but he won’t and he could try to help her get those baby photos back but he shouldn’t.  If people like Dave worked for himself he would go bankrupt because there is no profit margin without corporate procedures or at least that is what we are told. Dave does what he has to, he repeats himself over and over again until he senses a pause and then he asks ‘Before I go would you like to take part in a customer satisfaction survey?’
I don’t have to hear the line go dead to know it has and Dave is straight onto his next call.

A screensaver bounces back and forth on the computer monitor in front of me. It announces that this Friday is Dress Down Day and so we can wear jeans and sneakers to work if we wish. I have no use for sneakers (nowhere to run) but I will still put on my Nikes tomorrow after all it is a privilege the company expects us to take part in. My favourite black boots will have a day off without me. The air conditioning thinks the building is too hot and has banged out too much cold air, which has caused the central heating to blast itself on. I don’t have to be able to see the people around me to know what they are wearing or how they look – I can smell them. Black, white and grey polyester gives off a statically charged odour of low wages and a smart casual dress code. I wear brown or grey corduroy slacks and blouses that still hold some colour in them. I look more like one of the short timers who are here today and gone tomorrow than someone who has been here for 4 years and refuses to wear Asda or K-Mart clothing.

My computer is not responding to my requests and as I wait for it to read my words I glance at the guy next to me. His hair is sticking to his head like tar and he needs a shave. I can see Monday’s ketchup stain on his shirt and four day old creases down his back.  When he comes into work tomorrow his clothes will be clean and ironed and so will he. I think his name is Steve or Simon something like that..

‘I guess the dress code is working but just in the wrong way’ I think to myself and smile.

My gaze lingered a bit too long and Steven felt my eyes on him as he was about to wrap up his call.

‘Yes Mrs Jones it will be back with you by Wednesday’, he tells his customer and then blushes.

‘It’s Friday tomorrow, last day of shift, it will be over soon’ I say as I hold my smile for too long.

Like a deaf mute trying to scream Steven jabs his pen at his computer screen to tell me his engineer booking system is down and frozen. His mouse scrabbles to verify the program, but we can both see the computer needs rebooting. The thumbnail is a stark white with a dirty crescent as he presses and holds down the power switch – hurry up.

‘Actually Mr Jones let me just check something before I book the machine in’ he croaks.

My computer screen has loaded the correct page so I can input my passwords and click enter.  It is almost six thirty and I need to be ready. The customer support page loads into place, it looks eager to please and hankering for the taste of receipt details. Looks can be deceptive. Next a messenger box drops itself into the left hand corner of the screen and flashes orange so I open it.

‘Hey how you doing’, writes Dave

‘I am fine but how is Tron today?’ I type and send the message to his screen.

‘He was wearing red earlier but now he is cool’, replies Dave.

I can feel Dave’s smile and I smile back. We both know we are being monitored by the men in big hats and so we play the game.

‘I love working here it is so great’ says Dave.

‘Me 2, aww but my computer is ready. I got 2 go ;-)’.  I reply and then I close the box.

I use my mouse to click through the various pages I will need to use tonight, four different programs need to be up and running before I will feel able to start work. A few months ago the computer network went down and we were forced to work blind using a pen and paper to try to keep track of who we were talking to and what they were saying. It sounds hellish but in some ways was refreshing because our key strokes could not be monitored. I leave the telephone handset in its cradle, put my headset on and plug myself in. Next I tap five digits into the phone keypad. I am about to become part of the system. It is like moving out of slow traffic onto a fast highway, except here a constant red light does not mean stop, it means there is a queue and I must hurry.

For the next four hours I will a rubber washer between different nuts and a bolt, and I can already feel the air in my lungs being squeezed. I am breathing under water using a company air tank. This narrows my perspective to what I can hear the customer saying, see on my screen and can feel in the corporate environment I now inhabit.

I hear two beeps, take a deep breath and start my opening statement.

‘Hello good evening, my name is Claire from team 31, how can I help you today?’


By Sunshine Meadows (please don't repost anywhere else without my permission)

Fell free to correct grammar and punctuation


Sunshine Meadows

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Re: "Reading Room"
« Reply #2 on: 29 Apr 2013 12:08AM »
Ps, dont worry if it does not make sense or it reads as weird its just the way I write when I am not writing  >whistle<

Dic Penderyn

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Re: "Reading Room"
« Reply #3 on: 29 Apr 2013 08:04PM »
Epitaph

Even such is time, which takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, and all we have,
And pays us but with age and dust,
Who in the dark and silent grave
When we have wandered all our ways
Shuts up the story of our days,
And from which earth, and grave, and dust
The Lord will raise me up, I trust.

A poem written by Sir Walter Raleigh who it seems was my 2nd Cousin 14x removed upon the wall of his cell the night before his execution.

Be careful in what you wish for, God has a sense of humour

KizzyKazaer

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Re: "Reading Room"
« Reply #4 on: 30 Apr 2013 01:11PM »
Your claim to fame, eh, Dic? He wrote a good little poem there, too ..

SM, I am reminded once more why I will never, ever work in a call centre - an inspired piece of writing there, I could see it all in my 'minds eye' and with mounting dread at that... they really monitor keystrokes??  Talk about Big Brother  >thumbsdown<

Dic Penderyn

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Re: "Reading Room"
« Reply #5 on: 30 Apr 2013 03:06PM »
It seems several of my family from way back when had a habit of getting themselves in trouble.

Here's what another of my cousins from back then wrote on her cell wall before her execution.

"For traitors on the block should die; I am no traitor, no, not I! My faithfulness stands fast and so, Towards the block I shall not go! Nor make one step, as you shall see;

Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me!"

Blessed Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury Plantagenet executed on the orders of Henry VIII.
Be careful in what you wish for, God has a sense of humour

Yvette

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Re: "Reading Room"
« Reply #6 on: 30 Apr 2013 09:11PM »
Poor woman - she was in her seventies, frail and ill when she was executed.  Appalling.

Dic Penderyn

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Re: "Reading Room"
« Reply #7 on: 30 Apr 2013 11:06PM »
Yes it was awful but she was true to her word and refused to go quietly to her end.
Be careful in what you wish for, God has a sense of humour