Saturday, September 4, 2010

"Yeah, I got yer 'Softer Side' Right HERE, pal!" - Part V - Tribulations

Felicitations, mein freunds.

In July 1998 I was installed as a Coach for Sears Canada Catalog at the Atlantic Call Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

To this day I'm amazed by what supposed adults do in the workplace. Amazed. The bulk of the people I supervised were truly stellar but that tiny percentage of bad apples really could make your life a living hell.

  1. The Terminal (Wo)man These people are sick all the friggin' time. Mono, H1N1, strep throat, beri beri, rickets, malaria, Sickle Cell anemia...they've had them all and sometimes in spectacularly phlegmy combinations. They tend to use their frequent illnessi to underscore the admittedly draconian nature of the company's absentee policy. They revel in a masochistic desire to be sick at work and threaten a one-person pandemic unless the company spontaneously decides at that very moment to throw the policies it's employed since the dawn of time right out the window just for them. Now I'm not saying that five sick days for an entire year is fair, but this transmittable protest is falling on deaf lungs. Your immediate supervisor can't change the company's Victorian-era sick time policies. All you're gonna do is make your fellow peon sick, and that's just not cool.
  2. The Anal Lamprey  This person brings ass-suckery to new and creative heights.  Their incessant toadying is relentless, transparent and exhausting: "Oh, wow, Hi, David!  Looking astute as normal, I see.  Astute enough to have a second look at my last QA score and bump it up to 100% I'm sure.  Oh my, did I say that out loud?  Silly me!"  
  3. The Psychic Vampire  This person's mutant power is the uncanny ability to sap the life force  from your very body within five minutes of conversation, primarily because you don't so much converse with these characters as weather out a pointless monologue.  You can recognize the Psychic Vampire by their incessant need for approval and debate regarding the slightest minutia of the job and every aspect of their lives.  The sick thing is: the cynic in me believes they can't possibly really be like this and behave in this annoying fashion just to avoid doing any work:  "Hey, Dave, listen I just spoke to a customer that wanted ship a gift to their Aunt in Souris.  No, not Souris like P.E.I. Souris but Surrey B.C.  Actually come to think of it, it wasn't Surrey at all, it was...  hmmm, what was it now?  I thought it sounded like Surrey.  What the hell was that place called?  Oh yeah, I remember now, it was Kitwanga.  Anyway, this person wanted to make sure we could get that fruitcake on page eighty-four of the 'Wish Book' out to her Aunt in Kitwanga in time for Christmas.  Do you know that screen that pops up when you confirm the shipping method?  Well it came up automatically as a Rural Route, so I went to go look for you to make sure the system picked the right shipping method.  Do you remember that one time three years ago when the computer didn't the pick right shipping method automatically for that guy over on Sandra's team?  Do you remember that?  No?  Oh.  Well, anyway, I went to look for you just to confirm that what I'd done was right but then someone told me that you were in the washroom so I couldn't go in and ask you about it.  I wasn't sure if you were doing a number one or a number two so I just waited by the door and listened for a bit.  Well I couldn't hear anything but you were taking a really long time so I asked Troy who sits by the bathroom to go in and ask for me but he said that was kinda weird.  Anyway I just picked whatever shipping method it defaulted to and sent it off.  Was that okay? Really?  Are you sure?  Okay, great.  Hey, did you watch CSI last night?  No, not CSI: Miami, I'm taking about CSI: New York.  Oh, you don't watch it?  Really?  Yeah, come to think of it, I seem to recall you telling me that a few times before.  Anyway,  I don't like CSI: Miami because David Caruso annoys me and ever since William Peterson left the first CSI it just hasn't been the same to me.  With Laurence Fishburne there now I just can't help but think I'm watching Morpheus as some kind of investigator.  Y'know I half expect him to turn to the other cast at some point in time and say in his Morpheus voice: 'Stop trying to solve the case and solve it.'  You know what I mean?  Anyway, I'm sitting there and just as Adam (he's my favorite character) starts to freak out about something my gall bladder scar begins to itch something awful, which is kinda weird right?  I don't know why it would start to bother me now, it's been draining nicely over the past week.  Do you wanna see it?"      
  4. The Aesthetician is constantly grooming themselves regardless of circumstance.  I've sat in rapt fascination as a female TSA sold a customer a duvet and pillow shams whilst and at the same time expertly applying both eyeliner and mascara, mouth agape all the while in a clear indication of bomb-diffusing concentration.  This was more impressive than odd, but I've also seen my fair share of odd as well.  I've witnessed people clip their fingernails at their desks, oblivious to the keratin shrapnel flying into neighboring cubicles or falling into the inner recesses of their keyboards, never to be seen again.  I've watched with complete horror as a grown woman propped her bare feet up on her desk and rubbed baby oil all over them.  Hu-u-u-u-u-r-k!!        
  5. The Super Freak  Related to The Aesthetician, the Super Freak takes inexplicably bizarre behavior to dizzying heights.  A fair warning: if you just so happen to be chowing down on some snackage while reading this:  I'd advise you finish up and come back to this later.  For example, I've seen "Grade A" weirdos try to dry out their socks using the break room microwave oven.   For some reason a lot of these organ donors specialize in bathroom gross-outs.  A lot of them suffer from a complete inability to hit a toilet bowl with a urine stream.  They can't even piss properly in a urinal despite the fact that it takes up their entire forward firing arc.  The truly inexplicable thing is that this seems to happen in women's bathrooms just as much as men's.  'Splain, please?!  Um, no, wait...on second thought, I don't wanna know.  I'm also willing to wager, Delicate Reader, that you've probably seen what I'll diplomatically refer to as "mineral deposits" smeared on washroom walls, sink fixtures or stall doors at work.  Now I've never caught one of these creeps green-handed but all of you are witness to this very serious warning right now: stop before I catch you in the act.  Because there will be no warning.  I'm just gonna punch you in the back of the head and push your orbital sockets in with my thumbs while you're down.  No court in the land will convict me.  Filthy bastards.
  6. The Saboteur  This asshole delights in poisoning work environments and highlighting the downside to everything.  Regardless of what you do for your staff and how you treat them, The Saboteur will be the first to put on scuba gear, swim underneath the bottom of your party boat and strap a bomb to the hull.  Offering your peeps a free Timbit just because?  "That has way too much sugar, can I just have a sandwich?"  Proposing a contest for top performers to win a gift card to a local retailer?  "I hate that store and besides, the qualifying conditions are impossible!"  Wanna get your team out of the concentration-camp environs for a team meeting outdoors?  "I don't wanna go outside! It's cold and there are coyotes in the parking lot!"  
  7. The Coiled Spring   This tightly wound character (typically a dude) could easily be voted "Most Likely To Be A Prime Contender for a Shooting Spree".  For example, one kid on our team threatened to "blow his f#$@%^& brains out" over the poor results of a recent exam,  A friend of mine once admitted that he'd told another co-worker: "Listen, man, when you come in here with your high-powered rifle some day, I'm gonna do my best to keep my head down.  All I ask is that you don't come gunning for me."  I also had one tightly wound character tear up a company Christmas card right in front of my face and throw it in the garbage can.  Look, I know the organization might be tad Scroogy (not to mention borderline abusive at times), but if you think I have any say in the matter you're more deluded than you appear to be.  And that's saying somthin'!.
  8. Baggage Girl  One time a member of my team confided in me that she'd broken up recently with her asshole boyfriend.  After her shift ended she left the building only to return all in a panic to tell me that this cro-magnon was now sitting in his car in the parking lot waiting for her to leave.  Now we'd all been trained pretty extensively for things like public speaking and meeting facilitation but curiously enough, this little scenario had never been covered.  Hmmmmm, this was a dilly of a pickle.  What to do?  She didn't want to get security involved or "cause a fuss" regardless of how much I lobbied.  Without many more options I told her to wait fifteen minutes until my shift was over so I could get my car, pull up to the front of the entrance, let her in and then drive her over to her vehicle.  Well, just as soon as she hopped into my car, Captain Angrypants spied this and pulled up right behind us.  She urged us to "drive around a little bit" to try and lose him, which I brainlessly acquiesced to.  We spent the next forty minutes trying to lose this meat-head in traffic to no avail.  No matter how devious our course, we just couldn't shake him.  How was I supposed to know that  insane petty jealousy was a great substitute for a homing beacon?  We eventually found ourselves down in the south end still under hot pursuit.  Finally our skittish passenger told us: "Oh this is f#@$%^$ ridiculous, let me out here and I'll talk to him!"  We tried to stop somewhere with lots of people around and eventually pulled up next to the always-hopping convenience store close to Point Pleasant Park.  Me and the Significant Other didn't get out with her for fear of escalating the situation.  We trusted that the slew of potential witnesses walking by would be enough to deter this froot loop from doing anything particularly nutty.  We sat there in stone silence watching the scene unfold behind us in the rear view mirror.  It was pretty heated at first, and on more than one occasion we nearly jumped out to break it up.  Eventually things began to calm down.  About an hour later, he went back to his car and she got back into ours.  "Can you take me back to my car now?" she asked plaintively as if nothing had happened.  We drove back to the call center in virtual silence.  Look, I'm not really one to work people over for juicy information.  I sincerely believe that if they want to confide in you, they'll voluntarily tell you when they're ready.  Thankfully there seemed to be few gory details forthcoming.  Before we let her go back to her car (and subsequently every day that I saw her after that) I always went out of my way to make sure she was okay.  She always insisted things were fine.  Scary stuff and the sort of thing I don't miss.  
  9. Is There A Name For Someone Older Than A Cougar?  Tragically I've never had much appeal amongst women my own age.  For women over forty, however, I've always been f#@$%^& catnip.  One Christmas my girlfriend gave me a dark purple chenille sweater.  I didn't have the heart to tell her I wasn't really a purple chenille kinda guy and I kept putting off wearing it until she put her foot down.  Unfortunately the occasion I picked to wear the thing was the staff Christmas party.  At one point in time I was dragged onto the dance floor by a pack of inebriated randy soccer moms and molested worse than Justin Bieber at a "Claire's" outlet.  I was never so relieved when one particular women left the center for another job.  She was about fifty-something, preternaturally blond and habitually chain-smoked.  Her voice sounded like Mercedes McCambridge in The Exorcist and her complexion resembled that of an Oscar Meyer wiener.  Here's the email I wrote to my fellow coaches upon her departure: "Well, I'm feelin' a bit misty-eyed ('Hey kids, sarcasm!'-your host).  No longer will I be referred to as 'sweetie', 'cutie' or any other adjective ending in 'ie'.  No longer will the request to 'come closer' strike fear in my heart.  No longer shall I wince when subjected to the sort of manic cackling that makes a rabid parrot sound pleasant."  Y'know, just between you and me and the wall, sometimes I still wake up screaming.
  10. The Rebel  These clowns didn't get their rebellion out in junior high so they attempt to poke holes in the artifice that is the modern workplace.  What amazes me is how they can possibly convince themselves that they won't get caught.  One twit that we eventually fired was releasing one customer phone call after another.  Apparently they didn't think we'd notice an average talk time of .4 seconds on their report.  Idiot.  Here's another email I sent to my fellow coaches illustrating my frustration with trying to engender a work ethic amongst people totally devoid of one: "When I first became coach and noticed staff talking instead of being on the phones I'd often say to myself: 'Oh, don't be such an ogre.  They're just taking a break.  They'll know when to jump back on the line.'  For most people, that's the case but then you have some people that have no work ethic or sense of conscience.  It's these people that make you feel like a hall monitor during recess.  _______ came in last Sunday, announced that she only had four more shifts left, and promptly declared that 'We'd be lucky if she took four calls all day.'  Soon she got ________ to proudly declare 'I'll take over being bad when you're gone!'.  Twice I got after them to get on the phones.  The calls were backed up and to make matters worse, when I got busy answering a question the lead on duty walked by and said: 'Surely you two can't be chatting while it's this busy, are you?'  That's when I snapped on them.  Both of them stayed on the phone until the end of their shifts.  Later ________ apologized.  I told her that, as coaches, our first duty is to make sure TSA's are on the phone taking calls.  I went on to say that it reflects very poorly on us when a supervisor from another team has to tell you to get to work when the calls are backed up."
Read my lips: NEVER AGAIN, PEOPLE!



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