Authors: Lisa Lim
Confessions of a Call Center Gal
by Lisa Lim
edited by Felicia A. Sullivan
Copyright © 2011 Lisa Lim. All rights reserved.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
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ow on earth did I wind up stuck here in Pocatello, Idaho, a town where every other vehicle is a Ford pickup truck and the wind blows faster than said trucks?
Just yesterday, I spotted a turnip truck bumping along a dirt road and was reminded of the country bumpkin saying, “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.”
But here in Pocatello, my response to that would be, “Or did you? In fact, I’m pretty sure I
you roll off one.”
But I digress.
I say again, how did I end up here?
Where do I even begin? Let me pause, rewind and paint a picture. It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. I
was a recent college grad, starry-eyed and optimistic, ready to
take on the world of print media.
Instead, I watched the fate of print media crumble right before my very eyes. Newspapers, mags and journals suffered casualties; the
even filed for bankruptcy protection.
I applied at every print media outlet within a thousand mile radius, even the obscure ones like the
Coon Valley Times
Alas, I never heard back.
Or worse, I received some version of this lame reject letter:
Dear Applicant, (
Pssh! They didn’t even bother personalizing it
Although we were impressed with your background and experience, we have decided to pursue other applicants who more closely reflect the requirements for the position (
You are not good enough for us
). We wish you well in your employment search (
stamped on my forehead
Literally hundreds of these hate mail missives came back to taunt me; I spiraled into self doubt and began questioning my choices, my career path. My life became stagnant, and I was on the verge of depleting all my savings.
It was in this jaded and broke time in my life that Karsynn,
from the University of Wisconsin, rang me up again. I checked the caller ID and sighed. I didn’t want to answer, but I knew she’d just keep on
calling and calling until she got an answer to the question she’d asked yesterday and the day before. And the day before that.
“Hey Kars,” I said, picking up on the fourth ring.
“Wassup!” she boomed.
“Nothing,” I replied listlessly, cradling the phone on my neck while I moped around the house.
The dreaded question came right away. “Got a job?”
“Nope,” I grunted. “No job...you?”
“Hell no!” she scoffed. “Um, haven’t you been watching the news? Unemployment is at ten percent! Nobody’s hiring, so don’t take it personally. I’m not.”
I heaved out an explosive sigh. “This really sucks.”
“I know. Heck, the way things are going now, I’ll end up jobless and single for the rest of my life, mooching off my mom, living in her basement.”
“And you’ll turn into one of those crazy cat ladies who hoard a gazillion strays.”
“Uh-huh. One day you’ll read about me in the news—
Higginbotham, found dead in basement, body half eaten by rats.”
“Nope,” I said and pointed out, “With all your stray cats, there wouldn’t be any rats.”
“True, true.” She barely contained a snicker. “I’d be the best Crazy Cat Lady in town. I’m slowly accumulating more cats.”
“Yep!” A tone of smugness squeezed into her voice. “But not real cats though, just fake ones from my Crazy Cat Lady board game.”
“Um…” I paused for a beat…“they
such a thing?”
“Yes and it’s a riot!” She squealed with delight. “The whole goal of the game is to collect more cats than your competitors.”
“Hah! You mock me, but I swear you’d love it too. The squares on the board say things like
Find a stray cat at the grocery store—
add one cat. And there are wild cards, but guess what? They’re called wild cats!”
“Karsynn,” I said mildly, “you sound a little too excited about this board game. Are you bored?”
“Bored outta my friggin’ mind,” she groaned in affirmation. “I have no job, no money, no friends...”
“You’ve got me,” I soothed.
“You know what?” she said after a pregnant pause. “I was just thinking…why don’t you come out here and see me? You could use a mini vacation!”
I almost dropped my phone.
Pocatello wasn’t exactly my idea of a vacation spot. In fact, it wasn’t even on my radar.
“C’mon,” she pleaded, “come visit me. It’ll be fun. I can show you around Spudsville, and we can hang out and watch TV, just like old times.”
Kars and I had been roommates in college, and on many dateless nights, we found ourselves holed up in our lava lamp lit dorm room, happily watching the tube. And we never fought over the remote because we watched all of the same shows.
All of them.
That is a bond that we share ‘til today. Even though we’re miles apart, we still watch the same TV shows...and gaze at the same moon, of course.
“So what do you say, Maddy?” Karsynn prodded, summoning me from my thoughts.
“Well,” I hesitated, “why don’t you come visit me in Chicago?”
“I’m broke,” she whined.
“I’m broke too.”
“Well, I’m broke-r,” she retorted.
After briefly mulling it over, I folded. “Oh, okay. I’ll come out and see you.”
“Yes! You could sound a little more excited, you know. Don’t you miss me?”
I smiled in spite of myself, missing her already. “I do.”
The very next day, I packed up my bags, loaded up my relic of a Subaru and clunked it clear across the country to her hometown of Pocatello, Idaho.
And I haven’t left because I’ve scored a job interview!
Holy Crappity Cripes! Believe it or not, there are jobs in this Godforsaken place.
Karsynn’s mom, Janis, works at a call center for Lightning
Speed Communications. It’s a DSL
cell phone provider,
which gives it a double-edged sword, and when Janis informed us that her company was hiring, our jaws literally dropped.
Eventually, I managed, “But Miss Higginbotham, with the economy like this, most companies are cutting back. And they’re certainly not hiring.”
Janis patted my knee in a motherly fashion. “Well, sugar, no matter how bad the economy is, and no matter how broke folks are, they will always feel like they
their cell phones and their high speed internet access. Even janitors have cell phones.
, I even have one, and I’m broke. Anyway, they’re hiring customer service reps. Pay starts at twelve dollars per hour, and you can apply on their website. And don’t forget to put me down as a referral so I’ll get my five hundred bucks.”
Fast forward to present—Lightning Speed Communications is where I shall have my first job interview.
And that is why I’m
stuck here in The Valley of Potatoes.
Tweedle dee, tweedle dum, I’m twiddling my thumbs, eyeing the life-sized poster on the wall, emblazoned with a
mustard yellow lightning rod, which I presume to be the
The caption reads:
Lightning Speed Communications, Because Speed Matters
Leaning back against the club chair, I anxiously await my name to be called.
Last night, Karsynn and I burned the midnight oil prepping for this interview by googling sample interview Questions and Answers, and I’m feeling pretty confident because I know exactly what they’ll ask me:
What are your strengths?
I’ll give an answer that mentions these essential key words: team player, excellent communication skills, multi-tasker, learn on the fly, dedicated and motivated.
What are your weaknesses?
Easy. I’ll give some lame lie about how I’m such a perfectionist, that I
always go back and double check my work to make sure everything looks perfect. I know—
But then Kars and I decided that the both of us can’t give the same answer. So we came up with a solution. Karsynn’s answer will run somewhere along these lines:
“Well, I used to have a problem saying ‘no’ to people. Now, however, I prioritize my days, thus allowing my excellent time management skills dictate when I can truly say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
Isn’t that brilliant?
Kars and I are going to nail this interview.
Abruptly, a stout, squat man sporting a military buzz cut emerges from the conference room.
He glances down at his note pad. “Miss Madison Lee?”
That’s me, that’s me!
My heart pounds and my stomach lurches.
Karsynn shrieks, “That’s you, that’s you!”
Leaping to my feet, I smooth down the wrinkles on my skirt and step forward. “Hi, I’m Maddy.” I thrust my hand forward and eyeball him.
“Victor Petraeus,” he replies in a stern and detached manner.
“Nice to meet you, Victor.” I pump his hand heartily.
Hah! Let there be
mistake that I give weak, wet-fish handshakes. Research has revealed that a firm handshake is the key to an interview’s success, as it sets the tone for the rest of the interview. That and constant eye contact are essential, hence, the eyeballing.
Awkwardly, he extracts his hand from my deathly grip and gestures. “Right this way, Miss Lee.”
So far so good
I trot into the conference room and hear the door click shut behind me. After a brief and polite banter about things I can’t remember, he whips out a thick binder and gets right down to business.
“Okay, Miss Lee, let’s get started.” He clears his throat. “Describe a situation in which you had to think and act quickly.
How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?”
What the HELL? What happened to strengths and weaknesses?
I blink. Several times.
My whole body reverberates in shock as I try to maintain eye contact, but fail miserably.
A long uncomfortable silence ensues.