Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Another Life: Remembering and Rebirth.
By Mark William Darus.
I started a new job at 4pm 12182012 and ended my first day at 2AM 12192012.
This job is industrial in nature, far and away from the work I have done for the last twenty years.
Far removed from dealing with irate people blasting petty complaints over the slightest things. Example 1. “How much is the pet coverage on my auto policy?” they would ask with a certain tone.
“Pet coverage with free when you have comprehensive and collision.” I’d answer enthusiastically.
“Well, that’s all fine and good. I don’t have any pets!” their agitation grows.
“Okay, I understand. It’s just a free coverage we offer should you have pets. It’s absolutely free.”
“Bullshit, fucker! Nothing’s for free! <they’d give you just long enough to start talking before they would cut you off> “Look! I’m on a tight budget! I know you’re charging me for this!”
“But, ma’am/sir, we’re not charging anything.” I’d maintain a calm tone of voice as I always did. >what I really wanted to do was say something like: “Look shithead, it’s FREE! Do you understand what free is?”>
“Well, you don’t seen to be understanding me! If I were you, I’d be figuring out how to lover my rates without a lack of coverage! You best be doing this, or I’ll have your JOB!!!”
You know, I always wanted to say to many of these idiots: Why, is there something wrong with the job you have?”
It was surprising how many people would get so perturbed that they’d make totally ludicrous statements like: “I want your boss!” >not: I want to talk to your boss…<
Having mostly female bosses at Progressive, I often wondered how they’d respond to: “Okay, cool, I guess you’re tired of your husband and want to step out! Eh?”
Good God, the crap phone reps have to take is amazing! If you ever saw the movie Office Space, >thanks to DB for cueing me on this film< you can get an idea of what it’s like.
You do phone work enough years and you really do develop a certain numbness in your tone that sounds good at work, but doesn’t translate too well outside of work. You apologize repeatedly for this events you had no control over in the first that the words ‘I’m sorry’ become totally meaningless. This too, runs into your life outside the job, making others close to you acutely aware that you seem totally insincere. Sad part is, you’re not insincere at with them.
I can’t remember who said this, but it holds true in many forms: Look into a mirror and repeat your name a thousand times. You will feel worse after doing it. It becomes further meaningless the more you repeat it.
The same goes for things like: I’m sorry. I can try to fix that. Allow me to apologize…
Imagine having a job where you find yourself saying the above three things about anywhere between 60 to 100 times a day, quite often doing so many times in the same call. Now, multiply that by 261 days a year (average working days less vacations) then multiply that by 5, 10,15 and 20 years and I think you’ll get my point.
It’s surprising the things you encounter with phone work and the truly ‘special’ people you speak to. Now this wasn’t only at Progressive Insurance as I had done phone work at an alarm monitoring central station as a dispatcher.
In the years I worked as a dispatcher, I’d heard an amazing about bizarre things. This company: Security Associates International. We handled: fire, burglary, hold-up alarms as well as medical alarms )you know, like the ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!’(. We also handled temperature alarms for major chicken and pig farms and nuclear power plants.
Can you fathom a high temperature alarm at a nuclear power plant? Yeah, that can’t be good! Lol….. We always expected to hear about mushrooms clouds blooming over Nebraska or Pennsylvania.
Of course, had Chernobyl had something like this, well, perhaps things might have gone differently.
I remember a night me and my shift boss were pulling a double-plus. We’d call a double-plus working anywhere between 16 and 24 hours straight. We were at hour 18 of work and he gets this fire alarm from some small town in Bum-Fuck-Egypt USA. Well, this town, like so many across the USA has a volunteer fire department. He calls the pager number. In seconds he’s on the floor, laughing and crying like a maniac! I mean, seriously, I can’t remember a time when I saw someone laugh so hard I thought they’d hyperventilate.
“Dude, you okay?” I started to laugh as well. Why? Not sure but I think exhaustion played a part.
“M-M-Mark. C-call the num-berrrrrr on-my S-Screen.” he said while cackling freely.
So I did.
I dial the number.
What greets me for a pager message?
I hear this evil sounding voice that says: “THE WEAK SHALL PERISH!” And no, it wasn’t in the Bible-belt.
“JESUS CHRIST GREG! THIS IS THE ONLY NUMBER LISTED HERE!” At that point my eyes blast water like a sprinkler and I began to laugh hard I pulled a stomach muscle.
Two other dispatchers, who were kind enough not to call off that night, came over to us.
Meanwhile, Greg’s nearly turning blue, I’m laughing like a lunatic. I pointed at the screen and said: “Handle that!”
Next thing you know, everyone’s laughing.
Four of us sent multiple pages and never received a call-back.
Guess we didn’t fuck up though as the company didn’t get sued. That time…
I got this one alarm that almost freaked me out. It was on a medical system with audio. I hear this lady shrieking! It sounded like she was dying. “MY GOD! HELP ME!!! OH GOD! I’M CLOSE, JESUS!“ I try to reach her over the two-way: “Ma’am, are you okay? Do you need an ambulance?” Well, you’d go by the protocol, ask twice and dispatch rescue. So I did.
Twenty minutes later, I get a call back from Watch Commander. He sounded like he was about to hurl. He said we’d scarred his EMS people for life with this call.
“Uh, Sir, what did they find? It sounded like she was either having a heart attack or suffering severe pain.” She had a huge medical history, which we’d convey while dispatching. At this point I’m thinking: oh shit, was she murdered?
“What they found, after breaking in her front door, hearing her screams… Sorry, God, uh…”
“Are you okay?” I ask him.
“When they went upstairs, after calling for Police back-up was, well, disgusting!” His voice is getting an edge, a harshness.
“They found your 83 year old woman riding on her 47 year old boyfriend and let me tell you, she wasn’t in pain!”
I lost it! I began to laugh. Luckily for me, this Watch Commander did the same. Apparently while she mashed flesh with Studly Screw Right, she’d hit the alert button on her pendant.
“Oh, I bet you will never let them live this one down.”
“You know, son” he said. “Is there any way I can get sent an audio of the alarm?”
Feeling confident as to why he wanted it, I quickly said, “For Quality control, absolutely, Sir!”
He starts laughing and thanks me.
Within 3 months after starting at the alarm company, I was training new hires. The turnover rate there was sort of fierce. Here’s one of the reasons why.
I’d have a trainee with me their first day as just an observer. Numerous times, we’d get a ‘failed to test’ alarm. These were always medical in nature. One of the requirements for most medical alarm systems for the elderly or disabled is to have them press the ‘check-in button’ on their pendant. Depending on the severity of their situation, they’d have to do this either in 12 or 24 intervals. When you’d get a fail to test, you’d first call the home. If no answer, you’d call a Police Dept Watch Commander and have them send a squad car to check it out. If the Sub (subscriber) had hidden key info, we’d pass this to them. If the Sub didn’t, they’d break into the dwelling.
Many was the time we’d get a call back saying things like: “You need to call the next of kin. She/he has passed.” That was what we’d refer to as a gentle callback. This didn’t happen very often theough.
More often than not, we’d be told things like: “Son, her corpse is so still you could use her for a diving board!”
My personal favorite were things said, like: “Well, this ain’t good. She’s been gone at least X-number hours (and depending on the month of the year and location) She smelled like spoiled pork and covered with flies. I sent the Meat-Wagon. You gonna cover the NOK (next of kin.)?”
“You betcha. I got it covered, man. Thank you and your troopers, please.”
I always liked how they’d tell me, “Roger that, brother. You sound like you got it.”
In my mind, while calling NOK’s, usually leaving messages on answering machines to call us immediately, I’d say prayers and such for the families.
When training others, you have to give them some slack. After all, how many jobs does the average person have to deal with this kind of thing, right. I was always a good trainer. I could read them fairly well given my background reading psychology books. If they look upset, as most would, understandably, I’d tell them to take 5 minutes, go outside, have a smoke, whatever.
In my years there, we’d lose about 50% of trainees after a call like that. I believed it a natural response to a situation they felt blind-sided by. Depressing in so many areas, they freaked out and ran. They ones that came back though: Some of the best people I have ever worked with.
Now what’s funny were the numbers of NOK’s, when given the bad news would respond with: “It’s about damn time they died!” I lost more than a few trainees after those calls. Go figure…
Then the holidays would roll around.
Who doesn’t love the holidays? Families and friends getting together for a joyous event. The amazing smells of turkey, prime rib, a Honey Baked Ham.Baked Brown and Serve rolls, garlic butter on top. The intoxicating whiffs of fresh cobbler, not to mention people that have been intoxicated for hours.
So nice, so peaceful.
That is until the fire department arrives and their house, questioning why their alarm company sent them. Most people with fire alarm systems have a ‘dispatch immediately’ rider for all fire alarms.
After dispatching on a fire alarm, we’d call the location. When verified, via passcode, we’d attempt to call off the fire department. About 94% of Fire departments will not call off their crews. Keep in mind, long before any Holiday, we’d send Sub’s a notice to either shut off their systems while cooking these feasts or simply call us to have them put on ‘test’ mode for several hours. Most don’t read them or follow those memo’s.
Most cities fine people for false alarms, back when it would be between 500-1000 dollars a false alarm.
Well, the Sub’s failure for doing the preventative measures we suggested generally made for fairly irate callers. It is truly amazing how much an over-cooked bird can cost ya!
I’m getting tired now, so I’ll close this for now.
Before I do though, I must say this: I love my new job. It’s extremely nice not having to say you’re sorry for things beyond your control. It’s nice leaving a shift and smiling on your drive home. It’s great being able to talk like a real person with coworkers and not having to think how saying the words: “shit, damn it, hell or fuck.” Will cost you your job!
It’s 5:33AM here, and I feel great.
Mark William Darus 12192012