Friday, April 21, 2006

Phone Doody

I used to work for this non-profit profiteering company when I was in college. They had this truly dreadful “mission statement” that read something along the lines of

Our mission [brilliant opener] is to deliver the best-of-breed services to our clients and their families in order to maximize their efficiency as productive members of society, and to fight for their rights to establish themselves as such.

Or some shit like that.

The main problem with this organization, as good-intentioned as it might have been, lay squarely in the management of the “mission”. To begin, it was a weak concept, full of emotional potholes, pointless vagaries, wispy platitudes, and hair-trigger issues. And the controllers of the inflows/outflows of resources weren’t down with the cause. They weren’t terribly interested in actually making good on any promises, because those shifty promises were not only fraught with plan-less loftiness, but executing on them would surely spell out the outright financial demise of the organization itself.

Non-profits are nothing if they aren’t self-perpetuating.

So the books went into full-on profit-hording mode. Fuck the “clients”, as they were pretty much screwed no matter how you viewed it. Might as well shelve as much cash as possible and treat the non-profit like a real business: invest long-term, buy property, start other satellite for-profit businesses, and keep up a good face for the donating public.

Actually DOING any good is just too fucking hard, apparently.

I knew all this because I worked in the accounting department. I saw all the money movement. Sure, it was all fair and legal, but none of it matched the true spirit of the organization, or the intent of its “mission”. Out of the thirty or so employees, I would estimate that only three, maybe four were actually dedicated to resolving anything remotely related to the stated purpose of the organization. The rest of us were there to either bring in revenue, or count it as it came in. Our contact with the “clients” was limited, if not non-existent.

Except when you worked the phones at the front desk. And man, how I fucking hated doing that.

Customer service has never been an interest of mine. “Sales” and the “customer service” that go along with it directly equate to “bullshitting” and “defending the bullshitting” in my mind. For some reason, answering phones in any scenario, whether it be in a call center, midnight message service, or acting as a receptionist, is all “customer service” to me.

Man, fuck that noise.

Answering people’s rambling-ass questions about whatever-it-is-that-they’re-senselessly-confused-about is not my deal. I don’t have the patience for that nonsense. Oh, but I’m highly hypocritical about it. I have no qualms about being on the OTHER end of that phone, calling up my cellular provider to ask shit like “so, my plan says I get 100 text messages free, which is fine. But I’d like 1,000 text messages free, for free. Is there like, a button you can just push to do that? ‘Cause like Easter candy, I’m both cheap and stupid.”

While I was counting beans in that job, as a lowly bookkeeper, I would get assigned this “rolling” receptionist duty. The full time receptionist, bless her heart, would want to eat lunch at some point during the day, which inevitably left the front desk, along with the phone lines, abandoned. So three or four of us lowly workers would have to take turns covering phones over that period.

Understandably, none of us had any interest in the activity. First of all, we would have to have our lunches extra-early or extra-late on those days to accommodate. Second, it fucking sucks to sit retard-prone by a crappy fax machine and sketchy-internet-connection computer terminal for an hour, praying some half-wit from bum-fucking West Texas doesn’t call in to make you miserable with wandering questions about shit you aren’t equipped to answer questions on. Third, and most important, to sub for the receptionist is to pretty much admit that your position is actually LESS important than theirs (your job can wait, you need to go do some truly important work like answer phones or paint your nails).

What made it even worse was that we didn’t have a full five low-lifers to simply pick up a day of the week for phone duty. At most there were four of us. So we had a goddamn schedule… it was like scheduling lemon-juice enemas. The weeks where you KNEW you’d be working the phones on Monday AND Friday were destroyed well before they actually arrived. You knew those weeks would suck something awful. They were scheduled that way.

After a few weeks of suffering through the same five douche-balloons calling in with questions about services we had promised to deliver, but (surprise!) hadn’t gotten around to, I was seriously contemplating cutting my hands off to avoid further phone duty. The experience, for me, was excruciating. No one else there liked doing it, but I don’t believe they loathed it like I did. I would have preferred to throw myself down a flight of cement stairs, repeatedly, over that very same hour, rather than answer those blinking, crying, chat-chat-chattering phones. Man, FUCK those phones.

So I set myself to finding ways out of doing the work. In life, it’s important to figure out what you like, what you don’t like, what your fetishes are, and how to avoid doing any sort of god-awful bullshit that you hate more than the poetry of lame teens.

Lucky for me, I was in the accounting department, where the money got counted and organized. And like I explained a bit earlier, we weren’t an organization that focused much energy on shit like “justice”, “fair work environment”, or “equality”. In the accounting department specifically, under the direction of our most-frightening CFO, such quaint phrases or concepts were more of a hindrance in our march to amassing the wealth of the free world in a “building fund”. And since I was counting the beans that would eventually add up to the girth of that stalk, I received some special treatment.

Short story long: by explaining to the CFO that working the receptionist desk over lunch was impairing my bean-counting abilities, I not only got out of slaving away in that wretched desk, I also got more smoke breaks.

This, understandably, made me a target for many complaints from my fellow low-lifers, as it was obvious what had gone down. But I like to think that in reality, they were just hating on my self-made fortune because I no longer had to smell the stankin’ ass mouthpiece of that phone while desperately trying to explain to some Prime-Number-Of-Chromosomes from Tyler that “even if we did receive your request for reimbursement of expenses for the last Director’s Retreat, it wouldn’t matter because you aren’t a Director, and you weren’t supposed to be there, so we won’t be sending you or your four cousins a check. So fuck off.”

And I will read this post as a reminder to myself of what has passed, so that I may again respect what I have at present…