Step away from the ledge, my friend

After being inspired by Ann Voskamp I am inspired to jump in and get my hands dirty — writing stories for all my sisters that will encourage and set your hearts aflame for Jesus. Our Word God doesn’t let any Words from him go to waste.

This is a true story.

I’m sure there are plenty of more demeaning lines of work, but call center agents definitely have to be up there on the list of “Most Hated People of All Time.” Yes, I am one of them. I will soon be celebrating my 3-year anniversary in tech support by gently advising old people they have called the wrong number and that they actually want Citibank.

What’s it like, answering phones for a living? Well, at first it was terrifying, then anxiety-ridden, then anger turned to seething rage, which settled into self-righteous indignation. If you have ever wondered (or never wondered) what goes on on the other side of the line when you call a support line, please let me fill you in:

1. You can’t see me, but I’m a person. A real person with feelings and a lunch break to look forward to.

2. I don’t care to hear how you’re glad I’m American; it makes you sound racist.

3.  I’m here to help you. I have a better understanding of the software than you do because I was trained. Trust me and I’ll solve your problem!

4. Do you need to vent? I understand, just don’t vent all over my dignity as a human being. There is a right way to bring attention to a concern. Word vomit never got anyone anywhere.

5. Hanging up on someone who tells you bad news is plain childish. Are you a child?

6. Snide remarks and insults are tolerated on a daily basis. Have some humanity.

(Boy that felt good to get out in the open!) Now for the good news: More than any other job I’ve had in my short 26 years, this has been a 40-hr a week lesson in humility and patience. By now you’d think I’d have it in droves, but I do not. I can say however, that I’m better than I was, only because of God’s protective barrier around me.

I’ll admit I don’t usually run to bible verses when a caller drives me to shaking. Ever hear the term “I saw red”? It’s really like that sometimes. My heart races, my fingers shake, my face gets hot, and I can’t think straight. How can a stupid comment from a person I’ve never met and will never speak to again, drive me to such levels of rage? It angers me even more for how it affects me!

I could fill many, many books with all the threats, exhortations to go to hell, or the (ultimate insult) “can I speak with someone else who knows more?” routine, but I won’t. Never has human ugliness had such an easy medium, with the Internet and telephones. The more impersonal the contact, the less problem someone has about bridling their tongue.

Now, even I have lost my temper once or twice on the phone (that was before my call center days) and I’m not really an angry person for the most part. Trust me, I get it. Technology is frustrating. Lost passwords are infinitely irritating. But I know also that it’s not really about the lost password. It’s your job, finances, marriage, other pressures. You’re not in control and that angers you, and someone’s gotta burn, right?

My blessing and challenge is to do my job with integrity. I must be patient and kind, keep no record of wrongs… But doesn’t it make it way more difficult when they are not people you know? I run to Jesus for help in these times. In the moment during or after a bad call, I swivel my chair around to look at the wall, shut my eyes tight, and pray just one word, because opening my Bible right now is not going to bring comfort. I shut it all out and just say “Jesus.” That’s it.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. ~Romans 8:26

I take the black bile spilling forth from my brokenness, and pour it out at the cross and He washes it away. He gives me rest from my bitterness and anger, and swivels my chair around to take another call.

4 comments

  1. My sister works a lot with selling stuff online, at least she used to, now she does a lot more promotion work I think. But she’s heard it all, been yelled at, and been hung up on and heard the most rude things. Then look at the blogging world, how people think they can behave when they write comments. Either on blogs or on forums. You’re right that the internet and phone has opened up for bad behavior. People think it’s ok because they don’t’ see the other person. What if we would do the same thing in real life?

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  2. I know! No, we wouldn’t! If you had to look into the face of the person you were hurting, in most cases, you’d think carefully about what you had to say. But isn’t that also how it is for us with God? We can pretend He’s not real when we sin because we don’t have to look into His face.

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  3. Very interesting thought!!! I’ve never thought about it that way. But I try to think of God as my best friend, and I don’t want to hurt my best friend. But of course I fail with it.. and I’m very glad that God is much more forgiving and compassionate than us human beings!

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