The office was empty today, with my colleagues on leave or out for appointments and programmes (we do events). Thinking it would be an easy day, I slept really late last night (having bought a new computer that can support Oblivion) and came into work sleepy and looking forward to a day of stress-free tasks, like designing some much-backlogged brochures and sending out mass feedback emails to clients instead of tending to one of the million niggling little IT problems that my colleagues keep digging up in their efforts to justify my salary.
It turns out that being the only one in office also meant fielding all the calls. And people called at the weirdest times in the morning, such as before I had the time to grab a morning coffee, which grew more important with every call – from cheap, simple luxury to I-GOTTA-SUCK IT-JUST-ONE-MORE-TIME-BEFORE-I-DIE. Without my daily caffeine and with calls flooding the office’s three phone lines, I soon began to feel like a capsized sailor in the middle of a large, shark-infested, customer-service ocean, with only post-its and pens for floatation.
I exhausted an entire post-it pad today, taking messages for my colleagues and sticking them onto their keyboards. Some of them will have rather sticky keyboards when they get back.
It’s probably not a good idea to let someone who uses metaphors comparing potential customers and clients as sharks answer the phone.
As those near and dear to me know, I have a naturally sarcastic voice. I can’t help sounding nasty. Even when trying my best to be nice it always comes out dripping with venom. My sincere “Oh, that’s nice” and “I’m so sorry” tend to draw looks of suspicion more than tenderness, and I even surprise myself with how scathing I sound sometimes.
This is not a good thing when speaking to customers on the phone.
One lady called up in an effort to find out if she’d faxed over a letter – she’d been so busy that she had completely forgotten if she’d done it. My intended sympathetic remark of “Oh yes, you must be sooooo busy, huh” practically dripped ice and was met with a hushed silence.
The woman told me not to bother checking – she’d just fax the letter over again.
Another called, asking after a colleague of mine who was at that point somewhere in the Phillipines on a diving trip. Upon discovering the fact, she gushed out “Oh, so wonderful, get to go to the Phillipines!” to which I replied “Oh yes (sniff), everyone’s having fun now except us”, intimating, of course, that I was not having any fun talking to her (to be entirely fair to myself, I really wasn’t having any fun). I slapped my hand to my forehead as I said it, because I’d said it in a tone of voice I normally reserve for making fun of people who tell unfunny jokes, and this poor lady had not deserved it at all, having not tried to tell any unfunny jokes and simply trying to find some companionship in this cold hard corporate world.
She curtly told me she would call back next week and hanged up.
I tried my best to improve over the course of the day, doing my best to imitate the bright cheery voices of the girls in the sales team. I tried answering the phone with a loud and hearty “GOOD MORNING! THIS IS XXXXX CO, HOW MAY I HELP YOOOOOUUUUU???” which ended up scaring some people who had the wrong number (or so they said). I tried telling amusing anecdotes and gossip, spiced with a little laughter to try to elicit familiarity, but my naturally shrill and maniacal cries of mirth disturbed the one girl I tried it on so much she asked me if I was alright. I tried smiling as I talked, so that the natural good humour induced by the physiological effect of smiling would effuse my speech, but the effort of clenching the muscles in my face just made me lose concentration and made me unable to catch a single thing people told me (although I did give very warm and happy-sounding “I’m sorries? Could you say that again?”).
I just couldn’t win. A phone is a weapon of rather small annoyance in my hands – let unfortunate customers beware that days I man the lines!
Possibly the only thing that saved me the whole of today was my nervous accent. You see, I tend to speak with a strange accent that grows stronger the more nervous or out-of-place I feel. Towards the end of today, I was pretty sure I sounded like a cross between Elmo and Count Dracula. This gave me the advantage of making it almost impossible for the people I was speaking to to make out what I was saying, which I could tell from the amount of nervous laghter I kept hearing over the line as my voice gyrated wildly within the confines of its vocal range in an effort to squeeze as much sarcasm as possible out of my second-most-vile (but it’s a close match) orifice.
It didn’t help that now we have kittens in the office (the why is another story). Usually, there are enough girls with enough spare time (“yes, they are soooooo free) around to hug and play with the little bundles of cuteness, but today there was only me, and I was busy flailing with the lines.
The kittens mewled all day. All fucking day. I think at least some opf the people I talked to over the phone must have thought that a psychotic, maniacally-laughing madman had broken into the office and was answering calls whilst suffocating kittens.
If the sales team girls start to giggle and point at me next week when they come back (instead of ignoring me until their computers instruct them to CONTACT THE SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR), I will know why.
In other news – I got a new computer, a decent graphics card, Oblivion and The Movies. Don’t expect many posts in the coming weeks.