Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Friday, January 27, 2006

Call Center Crazies

Fuck You For Calling, Please Kill Yourself Now!

Before taking a job with The Man, I worked for many years at a tech support outsourcing company. We hired out to most of the major computer & software companies to supply phone & web-based end-user and Tier 2 support for computers, software and peripherals.

I haven't mentioned it much on the blog 'cause it's still a bit of a sore spot, even 3 1/2 years after we parted ways. Rather, I should say, *they* parted ways, by taking our Dallas business sites up to Canada and leaving the workers behind.
Nothing like spending almost 8 years climbing the ladder, only to see it get pushed away from the wall just as you get near the rooftop.

Yeah, yeah, I know. No such thing as lifetime employment, you're in charge of your own career, yadda yadda yadda. Still, it sucked some major ass, left me teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and put me in a position of starting over from scratch. Yeah, nothing's more appealing to personnel managers than a balding overweight applicant with a pissy attitude.

Still, I had it easier than most. I at least came away with plenty of management and training experience. Lots of the phone techs went back to flipping burgers or shilling for vacation timeshare companies or doing straight-up telemarketing, which I consider a fate worse than death. I honestly think I'd rather live under a bridge and eat raw pigeons than cold-call people trying to sell stocks or insurance.

So, why bring it up now? I saw an article this morning on Wikipedia's 'Selected Anniversaries' section that reminded me of one of the techs that worked there, and his ongoing "Create Your Own Adventure" quest to get terminated for cause.

"Bill" was a bright but somewhat lazy tech on the Apple contract. He wasn't one of my direct reports, but had a cubicle not too far away. We had a great deal of latitude as to how we decorated our cubes, and as this was before the days of 'hoteling' or 'hot-cubing', once you were assigned to a cube, it was yours for a long time.

First thing "Bill" did was to cover every square inch of his cube in jet-black vinyl, using those tablecloths you get at party stores and a shitload of electrical tape. OK, not too cheery, but it's his cube, and he's meeting or exceeding all his metrics. If you're making us money, generally we'll leave you alone.

It wasn't too long before one of the authoritarian pissheads from the Dell contract wandered into our area, spotted the Cube Of Doom, and excreted kittens all over the carpet, leaving a trail of them all the way to the Site Manager's office. Before long, we were called into a meeting with HR types and the higher-level muckety-mucks, and told "Bill" needed to take it all down.

For once, our Division managers showed some backbone, waved "Bill's" stats around, and basically told the pissheads "Hey, Stay out of our corner!" The end result was that the black vinyl came off the front & sides of the cube (to maintain a uniform appearance) but the interior could remain as is.

"Bill" did not take this well. His mutterings about 'fascism' and 'Nazis' continued for about a week.

One magical Monday morning, I came in the back door, and didn't walk by "Bill's" cube as I would normally have done if I'd come in the front. I'm getting the morning emails squared away and preparing for new hire interviews when I hear someone shout "MOTHERFUCKER!" and suddenly there's crashing and screaming and yelling over in the next section.

I bolted out of my cube, just in time to see "Joel", another Apple tech, trying hard to tear down this archway that had appeared over "Bill's" cube door, and "Bill" was pushing on "Joel" to keep him from doing it. Due to the staggered start times, "Bill" had time to get his new cube decoration up before most of the staff had arrived. What had angered "Joel" so much was the wording on the new archway. In black letters cut out of cardboard, it said simply:


Look it up if you need to. The rest of you who already know can probably imagine why "Joel" was so incensed.

Needless to say, the sign came down, people were written up for various transgressions, and life went on. "Bill" didn't understand why not everyone saw the point he was trying to make.

I felt "Bill's" pain, having been through a similar experience when I was still a phone tech. Our company mascot, Mr. Bendy, was handed out to all new employees and as a result experienced a lot of abuse. I was the first one, AFAIK, to tape two rulers into a crucifix, use thumbtacks to affix Mr. Bendy, and give him a Crown of Thorns using rubberbands and staples. I thought it was cute. Other people let me know in a quite rapid fashion that I was "not acting in an appropriate and professional manner".

So, here's the lesson of the day from yer ol' Unca Cap. What's funny to you, ain't always funny to your co-workers, and they'll call "Shenanigans!" on your little party.

Keep your sense of humor reined in on the job! Unless, of course, you're a professional comic!