I Never Would Have Thought

I never would have thought that one day I would be employed by a huge corporation. I also never would have thought that I would accept a position requiring me to spend so much time on the phone. That might strike you as funny — especially to those of you who know that I have no trouble talking a loooooong time on the phone — but I never much liked the phone for business purposes. Surprisingly, however, I’m enjoying the calls I’m having to make for my new job.

My learning curve in the last two months has had two facets. On on side, there’s trying to understand the procedures and terminology of a huge bureaucracy; on the other, there’s figuring out the products — the new ones and those being phased out — and how people use(d) them. When I started, I knew a little bit about the technology behind automatic withdrawals and deposits, but frankly I didn’t have the first clue as far as “wiring” money. Now I do.

But the most interesting challenge has been talking directly to clients and teaching them over the phone new ways of doing what they’ve been doing another way for years. Everybody has a different way of learning and a different comfort level with computers. When teaching in a class setting, it’s easier to flatten out those differences and calibrating for the median. But on a one-to-one basis where you don’t see the learner, let alone the screen the learner is seeing, it’s a completely different ball of wax. And since I’ve been talking to people from coast to coast to coast, I’ve had to overcome my fear of not being able to understand people’s accent and having to make them repeat stuff over and over, or simply not knowing the answer to their question. In the very short time I’ve been working this job, I think I’ve become a much more attentive listener, a skill my coach Ex-Friend has in spades and has patiently been showing me. In fact, I always had a lot of respect for Ex-Friend’s competence, but after these last two months, my esteem of him has gone through the roof.

One trap I need to avoid, though, is the trap I fell into with my own business. I coddle my own clients way too much and give them much more than what they’re paying. I have my theories as to why I do that. In one situation in particular this week, Ex-Friend reminded me that clients have to assume some responsibility and it’s not up to me to follow them closely to make sure they meet their commitments. I think in my own business, self-doubt made me worry that if something didn’t go as planned, I would be blamed even if it wasn’t my fault. But when you have the clout of a huge corporation behind you and you do exactly what you said you’d do by the time you said you’d do it, you can easily deflect attempts at having unwarranted blame pinned on you.

As I sit here reflecting upon my new job, I honestly can’t tell you how long it’s going to last or if it’ll evolve into another contract or even a permanent position. And I know even less how I feel about the prospects of a long-term stay with this employer. For years I cobbled together a meagre existence, but every penny I earned, I earned honestly and, damn it, I could take full credit for having earned it on my own. Also, it’s not like I disliked what I used to do for a living before and, in fact, a part of me hopes I’ll get back to it full-time one day. However, I can see it not taking long to get accustomed to the best (steady) paycheque I ever received and not wanting to go back to the uncertainty of running my own business full-time.

But that said, I think this new job is teaching me something valuable. And it’s a simple notion, really. That is, until I can figure out how to make my business work for me instead of always working for my business, the current arrangement is where I have to be right now.

I See Assholes Everywhere

The Bush Whacker is in town this week and our volley of phone tagging finally ended Thursday afternoon, at which time we agreed to meet the next day for dinner at Athens. But just as I was about to sign off from my day job, my work phone rang: it was a client two time zones away. I figured I could get through this client’s training on the spot rather than book an appointment for later, so I did that …but by the time I diarized the call and the one I was diarizing when that client called, I knew I would be a few minutes late meeting the Bush Whacker. I hate being late, whether it’s for work or a social engagement, but …oh well.

I hop into Junior, swing by Saddam’s first, then head down Robie and Quinpool, hoping I wouldn’t have too much trouble finding a spot to park Junior. I turn up Harvard Street and, lo and behold, I immediately find a spot. I take it, but just as I do, a minivan pulls out of the tiny parking lot across the street, and I see and hear it bump the car parked at the exit of the parking lot. The minivan drives away but turns on the nearby street, and the male passenger comes over to the car to inspect the damage on the bumper of the car they’d just struck. But he simply shrugged his shoulders, went back to the minivan, and shortly afterwards they were gone.

Through all of this, I pretended being busy gathering my shit before stepping out of Junior, but really I was looking to see what the minivan people would do and fumbling for a pen and a piece of paper. When I realized the minivan people had left the area and not left a note on the car, I ripped the paper in two, keeping the piece on which I had written down the make and plate number of the van and writing on the other, “I witnessed what happened to your bumper. Call me at 555-5555,” which I then wedged under the wiper of the parked car.

The owner of the parked left me a voice-mail message later in the evening and called me back this morning. “Thank you so much for doing that,” she said, at which point I explained to her what had happened. And as to what motivated me to leave my number, I told her how I’d be pissed if that had been Junior, plus the fact I know that such damage could easily cost nearly $1,000 to fix. I gave her all my contact information as well as my consent to be contacted again by whomever if more information was required of me.

“I was just coming out of Athens and was heading to Exhibition Park with friends,” she said. “Thanks to your note, I had a good time anyway because I knew I didn’t have to fume about the damage and never finding out what had happened.”

I don’t know what this lady’s financial situation is, but I know what it feels like to be poor and having unexpected car repair bills. I could have chosen not to get involved, but that would have been as wrong as the minivan people not owning up to their responsibility. And yeah, there’s a selfish side to my action: I like to view it as a tiny deposit in the Bank of Good Karma, under the “kindness of stranger” column of the ledger.

By the way, dinner with the Bush Whacker was most enjoyable and afterwards we had a fun visit with BeeGoddessM and Stephanie.

Update, Mon., 15 May: The police called me around 7:30 this morning to confirm my report. I think somebody is going to get an unexpected call today. They should have done the right thing to begin with…