Just When I Had Lost Hope…

Okay, I admit it: I’m one cranky sonofabitch who hates noise. In fact, I think my tolerance for noise is a lot lower than most people’s. I generally don’t like loud music; I hate crowds in crammed quarters; even the sound of loud wind gets on my nerves. Maybe, in that sense, I’m the quintessential bachelor (and, some might say, prematurely old fart).

Back in August, the building super at the time mentioned that my neighbour upstairs was planning to move out in December. The news gave me reason to hope: by then I had had it up to my eyeballs with the man — a term I use loosely — that my neighbour married this summer. While he seemed rather drop-dead gorgeous as a humanoid, his behaviour and demeanour was more that of an out-of-control gorilla on speed. I can’t count the times I nearly jumped out of my skin when huge heavy objects would come crashing on their floor (hence my ceiling). And in addition to having the booming voice of dumbfuck and the tendency of playing the same music way too loud, it seems it never occurred to him that it’s not a good idea to walk on hardwood floors with shoes when there are people living below. Once I even had to knock on their door in the daytime to ask them to turn down the music because one of my clients remarked that she could hear music over the phone. I can’t be calling clients all over Canada and have that. Funnily enough, Godzilla didn’t answer the door but he must have seen through the peephole that it was me, and the music got turned down, then off.

Aside from that one time, and ever since the super told me that the guys upstairs were on their way out, I refrained from complaining. I just had to endure three more months, two more months, one more month… I feared that if I complained, they — especially Godzilla — would make sure to make the remaining time a pure hell for me. So I didn’t risk it. In addition to being my neighbour, he also shares a double garage with me and consistently Buddy always parks as if he was renting the entire garage to himself, leaving me to manoeuver so close to the wall that no passenger could get out if I had a passenger. It was clear to me that Buddy and his husband Godzilla were the kind of people who have to be told to be considerate of others, and to me that’s a sign that telling them could work fine for a short time or go very, very badly.

The last weekend of November came, and I was hoping to hear some noise — moving noises, that is. But it never came. There was plenty of noise, but not the kind I had hoped for. Nor did it come on the eve of the first of December. Nor the first full weekend of month. In fact, instead, the downstairs neighbour starting having custody of his two little rugrats kids. Whiny kids. Inside marathoning kids. Crying kids. Crying at midnight kids. So now the racket was coming from upstairs and downstairs. I didn’t know if I should shoot myself or go bowling. What the super had told me about the upstairs neighbours wasn’t panning out. Plus, in early November, the new super told me she had no note saying that they were moving out in December.

Yesterday was particularly bad. Even my next door neighbour, who’s a really sweet guy with an unfortunately high-pitched voice and an even more unfortunate laugh, was at it yesterday. But that’s when I resigned myself to the fact that as long as have to or choose to live in an apartment, I’m always going to have to deal with noisy neighbours.

Between 8:30 and 9:00 this morning — a Sunday when I wanted to sleep in until at least 10:00 — I was roused out of my slumber by banging around and people walking with shoes on upstairs. It was so bad that the oval antique mirror on my dresser tilted forward. So I laid in bed thinking, “Maybe I should get dressed and ask them to be more quiet.” But if I were to do that, I had to calm down first for fear of screaming at them and lose any chance of reaching an amicable conclusion.

And that’s when I heard the sweetest noise. From outside. The sound of a truck starting its engine.

I bounced out of bed and over to the window, and there it was: a truck. A movers’ truck. To be precise, a movers’ truck from “Two Small Men with Big Hearts Co. Ltd.” And I can vouch for their big hearts for delivering me from Godzilla.

So it’s one down, and one to go. And in fact, I think the guy downstairs only has part-time custody, so the kids’ current extended stay could very well only be temporary. Now let’s just hope the super, when she rents out the upstairs apartment, makes a point of saying that the guy who lives downstairs is a sonofabitch who works at home and can’t stand noise.

Trials and Tribulations of Training by Phone

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been a client training officer, it’s that a lot of people have really weird phone etiquette or, more precisely, have completely lack of phone etiquette. While having to deal with a mumbler or a motor-mouth or a downright rude or obnoxious person can be bad, my pet peeve by far these days is being put on hold for a very long time.

When I set an appointment for training, I make a point of telling the client everything that should be prepared ahead of time: have your registration codes; if we’re going to have to transfer data from one computer to another, let’s be sure to have a way of bringing that data from Computer A to Computer B; before our call, map out on paper who will have access to the system and what each individual will be allowed or not allowed to do; do you know if the computer you’ll be using already has Java installed, and if not or you don’t know, will you need an in-house IT person to give you permissions to download and install it on your computer; will you have the time to concentrate only at the task at hand instead of fielding calls from 17 other different lines, …and so on. In other words, I cover all the bases at initial contact to ensure, for the sake of both the client and myself, that the actual call won’t take more time than necessary, because that’s often the first question clients ask me on initial contact: “How long will it take us?”

I can’t count the times I suppressed replying, “It all depends on how on the ball you are.” Rather, I word that thought more diplomatically, and avoid referring to the fact that it can also depend on how good the client is at following instructions and trusting the guidance I provide. I mean, by now I’ve done hundreds of these calls, so I’ve developed a logical, orderly pattern to get through what needs to be done. And because I’ve done so many of these calls, when a client explains to me what needs to be set up, without using all the “correct” terminology, I can very quickly map out a plan of attack and get us off the phone as quickly as possible.

But all of that goes out the window if, when I call, the client puts me on hold for 10 minutes in order to find the smart cards for the old software. Or insists on walking clear across the building each time something trivial has been sent to the printer. Or refuses to hear my suggestion on the best way to proceed and puts me on hold for another 10 minutes in order to do something that’s entirely unnecessary.

I know that whenever I had to call a help line (even before I did the work I do now) and I was instructed to reboot my computer, I was mortified to have to make the person on the other end of the line wait while my computer slowly did its thing. I would not call before I had everything I needed at my fingertips, like account numbers or whatnot. But many of the people I call don’t seem to be burdened by such guilt. On the one hand, good for them; guilt over such matters, I admit, is pretty damn stupid. But on the other hand, from there to have a client go on an “on hold” frenzy and extending what should have been a one-hour call to two-and-a-half hours, that’s going a bit too far.

I don’t mind so much if it takes two-and-a-half hours because I had to calibrate my instructions because the person is freaked out by the entire process. But if I spend nearly a third of that time on hold, I can get really cranky. And the worse part, I can’t let on that I’m getting cranky.