Molly Swenson
A Dollar Short

Graduation Day

By - Sep 14th, 2009 03:45 pm
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I was graduated to the call-center floor two nights early. I could tell by the look on my trainer’s face that I was supposed to have a positive reaction to the news, but I was filled with dread. “Well, you know,” she said, “We base this on your test scores and your QAs and how you seem to be handling the calls. We think you’re ready.”

MollySwensonPIC“Well, thank you,” I stammered. But, see, here’s the thing. I test well. Really well. Even if I’ve never read the book. I have a way with tests (especially standardized tests). Even so, if I could have picked my super-hero super-power, it would NOT have been “Amazing Test Omnipotence.” It probably would have been something totally lame like “Fantastic, Lighting-Fast Housework-o-rama.” Or flying. I wish, really wish, I could fly.

Meanwhile, back at the cube ranch … I packed my belongings, graciously received my new locker key and proximity badge, and left the classroom with a few other young women who were all also early grads. We wandered out to the hall to find our lockers because from this point on, most of our personal stuff had to be locked up. We had been told we would be sharing lockers, but I think we all kind of assumed we would have a locker mate from our training class. Instead, we were assigned random partners (most likely any call center employee who wasn’t already doubled up).

When I opened my locker, it was chock-a-block full of someone else’s personal stuff. I immediately felt like an intruder. This guy didn’t know about me (he was getting a note in his mailbox before his next shift), and I didn’t feel like I had the right to move his things around. A locker is a rather sacred place. All around me, the other graduates were chattering away …

“OMG — this locker is sooo gross. I am going to be the world’s bitchiest lockermate. OMG.”

“I think I have this one to myself. There is, like, nothing in here.”

“Aw shit. I’m way down here. This sucks. I want to be with the rest of you.”

“Hey — check this out! It’s like a pinup or a centerfold or something!”

I just stood there, staring into my locker and trying to decide what to do. Finally, I just stacked a couple of his papers up and left my cell phone in the corner of the floor of my locker, hoping I hadn’t disturbed my mystery locker-mate too much. I wanted to leave a note or something, but I didn’t have a paper or pencil and somehow I just knew it would solidify my rapidly-growing reputation of Permanent Call Center Geek.

We found our way to another part of the building, where people who were still in training took calls with the constant supervision of a coach. We had been told repeatedly that, as trainees, we would never be on a live call unattended. We would always have someone behind us, ready to take over a call if we needed them to. Unfortunately, they were short on coaches for us early grads, so we alternated between live calls and shadowing other, fully-trained employees.

I was so, so, so nervous as I got ready to take my first live call. Oh! And, so tense. But it went okay. My coach helped when I needed it, but that wasn’t often. I had about 30 minutes of helping customers and then it was time for my (teeny-tiny) break.

When I got back, something was’nt right. I took a couple of quick calls, but it was like there was a bug in my system. I kept asking the supervisors what to do. “Check the placement of your mic,” “Make sure you’re all the way plugged in,” and “Sit up straight,” were the answers I got. My coach had to go work with someone else, so I went back to shadowing other people (meaning, thankfully, the customers couldn’t hear anything I was saying). For several hours, nothing I said came out right in the system. The commands I was issuing by voice weren’t being recognized by the computer AT ALL. I was frustrated to the point of tears at all of the errors I was making and at the lack of help from my supervisors.

And then, like an angel from heaven (and I don’t actually believe in heaven, so you know how desperate things must have been), my trainer walked by. She took one look at me and knew something was wrong. I told her what was happening, and she said there must be something wrong with my station. She said that I wouldn’t have been moved up early if I wasn’t really good, and she would get me moved. I instantly regretted every nasty thought I had about her during my time in the classroom. Well, maybe not every, single one. But most of them. (Note to self: It costs nothing to be generous of spirit — remember that!)

I spent my last half-hour shadowing, but I did it from a different work station. The change made all the difference, and I even started to feel like I might actually be okay.

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