Thursday, October 29, 2015

P.M.S. (PRAY for ME in SHIFTS)

PRE Menstrual Syndrome, ye old tyme-ey HISTERIA. It used to be I could feel it coming and have time to apologize in advance to my loved ones. After turning 40 all bets were off. You’re all on your own, save yourselves. Go on without me, tell my story.

I actually “suffer” from what the internets call PMDD, Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Really? DYSPHORIC? That is quite a fancy word for crazy! There is no jest when I say crying jags of epic proportions are status quo, peppered with fierce, neck hot anger and a level of exhaustion that surpasses the end of any 2 year old’s birthday party. And the older I get the worse it is. I don’t understand... is this is some twisted preparation for menopause that I could absolutely do without?

The other day at work I was telling a story about the time my son Patrick found an extremely nostalgic movie online and totally pirated it for me for Mother’s Day, and in the telling of this I started bawling. The nose dripping, gulping breaths of embarrassment. Why the ACTUAL HELL would I cry over that when literally the event occurred 3 damn years ago? Was it sweet? Yes, in a totally illegal kind of way. My boy child thought enough about what I would love at the last minute and went online and found the 1962 version of The Music Man with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, downloaded it on to our external hard drive and watched in excitement as I plugged it in and found out what he did for me. It was the most charming thing he had ever done for me, and it marked the beginning of his life when he would consider what someone would appreciate for a gift, instead of a mindless Hallmark greeting card and chocolate. I really valued the thought and the change in him it represented. I just happened to blubber over it 3 years later in front of Jesus and all of my co-workers.

You know that sideways look you give to someone when something juicy is happening but you can’t say anything at the moment because the juicy is right in front of you and you don’t want to interrupt it because you might make it stop in some way and ruin the magic? That eye shit was happening all over the place for a full 5 minutes I will never be able to re-do in time. Legendary work madness, and it’s all me this time. I don’t even have another crazed soul to share the insane burden with.

PMS is ruining my life! Do you know what defines PMS as? “A powerful spell that women are put under about once every month, which gives them the strength of an ox, the stability of Windows OS, and the scream of a banshee. Basically, a man’s worst nightmare.”  To which is say FUCK YOU URBAN DICTIONARY! It’s a WOMAN’S worst nightmare! Imagine having little to no control over your emotions, or having your emotions so magnified you walk around second guessing what is really happening in your life to make you have all of the feels ever created ever in the world ever! A gal seems pretty much like a total basket case for 1-2 weeks out of the month and the penis who wrote that post is only thinking about himself. What a taint.

What? My period’s not due for another week, why?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Servicing Customers

I wish customer service didn’t include the customers. Working with the general public will make me want to throw things and even sometimes jump around and stomp my feet like a three year old. I have worked in the customer service industry in one form or another all my life, and people suck, present company excluded of course. I work for a plumbing, heating & air conditioning company which offers 24 hour service. All of the calls go directly to a lucky member of our amazing office team. There are 7 girls in our office and each of us is required to take the on call cell phones home for a week on a rotating basis. Beginning at 6:00pm until 7:00 the next morning we are in charge of 2 separate cell phones. At the end of the day the office lines are rolled to these phones and we get the pleasure of speaking with the fine people of the Greater Fresno area, as well as the service technicians, plumbers and various salesmen calling in to be dispatched. We do get paid pretty well for it, but there isn’t enough money in the world for the middle of July.

Summertime in Fresno has the median temperature of well over 100 degrees. This can last for weeks at a time! Every year, as the dreaded season draws closer, in our office there has a palpable undertone of doom. Starting in May we investigate the on call rotation calendar like a 7th grader desperately looks at the cast list to see if she made the spring play… only in reverse. Weeks are traded like cigs for ramen in prison. “I will take your second week in August for my third week in June because my family is planning a trip that weekend”. Who has Memorial Day weekend and the Fourth of July? Lucky me,  I had both and seriously didn’t have the energy for the swapping this year. However, I narrowly dodged Memorial Day with a raging case of colitis which landed me in the emergency room that very day. My dear office manager had to absorb that phone duty for me. I can honestly say I would rather have an inflamed colon.

After hours and fielding phone calls from the prison which is my couch, the assholery begins. There is no other anxiety ridden rage which consumes my body more than an old lady screeching at me about her little dog about to expire in the heat, or her swollen feet not being able to rest in her bedroom because 1 of her 2 air conditioning systems is down. When I have the audacity of suggesting she rests her puffy peds in the living room for the night until our heat soaked technician can service her system in the morning, the ragged rant can be heard through the iPhone all the way across the room where my patient wife is standing eyebrows raised. There is a certain tone to an elderly woman’s scream that can’t be duplicated by impersonation or machine, it just never does it justice.

Another one of the problematic assholes (management likes for us to call them "challenging customers") who makes my neck hot is the Whiney Man. Mr. Whiney Man, Esquire will begin the conversation trying to be make you feel guilty that his air conditioner is blowing warm air. It could be that he is blaming his incompetent wife for running the unit too long and making the refrigerant run out (not gonna happen by the way), or he will pull out a sick kid with asthma from behind is large ass and act like I alone am making the poor thing have breathing problems. Question: why don’t you go to a friend’s house or your mom’s where there is actually air conditioning before your kid passes out? Answer: Because it’s specifically my problem and I better get his air fixed, evidently.

The passive aggressive fella will make a very distinctive “I’m a pussy but I’m going to pretend I’m kind of a big deal and threaten your company with a bad Yelp review to get what I want” tone to his voice that makes me want to punch him in the throat through the phone. In my head I am screaming “Stop whining right now you crying baby without his pacifier in gym shorts and a too small muscle shirt or I’ll make you sweat for the next 3 days!” Yet, henceforth and hitherto, I don’t relay this internal eruption. I patiently tell Sir “I’m The Only Person in the Universe” when we can in fact have a service technician to his home, and yes this is the very best I can do, and no if he calls the owner of the company who he goes to church with he will not be able to get faster service, and yes we will call him before we head over and no I don’t think he is a total jackass. He is, in fact, a total jackass.

People are mean when they are hot. Like, MEAN. I had a 9 month pregnant woman threaten my job if I couldn’t move heaven and earth to have a new unit installed the following day. She told me if I valued my job I would make it happen. I guess I didn’t value it very much, because the new unit went in when it was originally scheduled, the following Tuesday. I have been called “Stupid” and “Retarded” and have been begged to and cried to. One person actually made me cry. Of course I had been on call for a week in 114 degree heat and had only gotten up from my couch twice the whole day to pee, but it was the final straw. It wasn’t even a very big straw in comparison to what I had been dealing with for days, but it broke the camel’s back and made my wife really mad... at me! I had let them get to me, to break my spirit like a wild horse named Misty. I still have PTSD about that week, but sincerely no week since has compared to it, so that’s a plus.

Honestly, what is worse than any of the above and the many more stories I can regale my limited audience with, I think I am becoming one of those asshole customers. It seems the older I get and the more I have to deal with people in general the shorter my fuse is. My patience with bullshit decreases every year. When I get on the phone with someone, say the pharmacist at Wal Mart, my wife immediately tells me to be nice. Moi?! Well, she may have a point. Incompetence kills me, stupidity enrages me and not getting my way when I am decidedly right will set me off like a Roman candle! Soon I am going to be that screeching old lady, wielding my backless, faded pink slipper at the paper boy and pontificating about how much better customer service was in my day. And it was.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Pinterest Life

Carrot juice with pineapple ice. PB&J cut out with bear cookie cutters. Look younger! Do it faster! Beat your neighbors at being the best mom, best wife, best bride, and best friend EVER! I love Jesus more than you do because I made this bible quote wall hanging out of real bits of religion! The ONLY color this season is mint green with lavender essence. Purses, shoes, chiffon skirts with handmade lace…

When did everything become so typical? When did our brains die and become Pinterest? It has gotten so bad that anything I legitimately think is cute I have to double check my brain because do I really like it because it is what it is, or do I like it because of the influx of pins I saw on Pinterest? How many times am I going to want to get married all over again just to have the mason jars filled with refreshing cocktails and the photo booth with kitschy signage for my guests to hold up as they act oh so silly when posing with the other guests? Why are we made to feel like the lovely park wedding we loved just 20 minutes ago wasn’t enough to feel SPECIAL or ROMANTIC or SWEET?

I first got on Pinterest when you needed an invitation to join, as if it was an exclusive club of arts and crafts and fashion choices. I was amazed. I would spend hours scrolling and pinning and creating boards to organize my grand intentions. I can easily make outdoor furniture out of old pallets and pavers! Who couldn’t make their own yogurt in a crockpot? I will be the best mom ever making my kids lunches with organic meats and cheeses! However, the old pallets I asked the guys in my work’s warehouse to save for me have been sitting there since 2011, and I always tell them they can’t throw them away when asked because I swear to GOD I am going to make that futon! The recipes go unmade and the curtains unsewn. More than that feeling of failure, however, is that my creative brain is getting necrotic.

I consider myself to be a better than average idea maker (like that?). I really have never had too much of an issue with coming up with a recipe on the fly or crafting some paper bag in to a gift bag or tiara. When I came upon Pinterest I thought I had found my people. “I can do that” to the elaborate princess cupcakes with homemade edible glitter. “That is what I’m making for dinner tonight” to the puff pastry enveloped meat with caramelized carrots and turnips lovingly laid upon a bed of micro greens. I will paint my own bathroom cabinets! I will can my fruits and I shall give them to my neighbors for welcome to the ‘hood presents! I will hand make my own fondant to lay over my expert cake to present to my sister for her wedding shower, and all that other bullshit I have yet to do. I swear to God, the first place I go to when I have to make something for an occasion coming or something around the house that needs to be done is blasted Pinterest! I mean, I get that is what its sole purpose is for, to give the thoughtless thoughts about thinking, but my once fruitful mind has become sans fruit! I feel brain dead because I have a slew of Mormon girls in Ogden to come up with it for me.  

Not only is my creative mind wasting away to practically nothing, I am second guessing the cool stuff I DO actually come up with and I look on Pinterest to see if someone had a better thought. Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. When I want my kids to be toddlers again so I can make playdough out of Borax and flour, bathtub crayons out of soap remnants and organic food coloring and make sand boxes out of… PALLETS!
I look through Pinterest nearly every day and see some amazing sights to behold, and you know what? I save them. My collection of pins are still neatly categorized in my account waiting for the dust to be blown off and their virtue to be realized. I may never get to make my own soap and then shampoo from the soap shavings. My kids go to school with sandwiches not shaped like super stars and when I made my wife’s lunch this morning I concocted a turkey bologna and Kraft processed cheese rolled up in a flour tortilla because we were out of bread (which she LOVED by the way). I call my bestie once a month on the phone and sometimes we get to have an actual conversation for more than 5 minutes. I am an awesome mom, a loving and patient wife and a truthful, funny best friend with a listening ear. I have never whooped it up with other females in the town with an organic Bundt cake every Friday after Pilates. I work, bitches! Who are these women?! I really want to know if there are that many privileged women in America who get to do all of these things for their families and friends… or are they all on Adderall? If so, kick down!

Phone Workers

Do you have a mirror?” she asked.  I was 23 years old and a couple hours in to the first day of my new job. I had already met several charming individuals who wasted no time in allowing their stellar personalities to shine through, I am not including the respondents I had the pleasure of speaking with over the phone in. I had interviewed for the position of Telephone Market Researcher for a total of 5 minutes before I was offered the job, I considered this to be a great sign. I should have reconsidered that initial thought. I sure did after about an hour sitting in the swivel office chair in front of a dot matrix computer with a headset attached to it.

Obediently and hoping to seem helpful I commenced to look for a mirror. I rummaged through my bag and offered the not completely unattractive woman of about 35 my Cover Girl powder compact. Then, in abject horror, I watched as she shoved ½ of it in her gaw with one hand, as she carefully placed a broken piece of tooth slathered with superglue on the corresponding match in the back of her mouth. Once it was placed and she was satisfied that the glue would hold she handed me back the makeup with the mirror still steamed up and a spit bubble on the side. I almost dropped it because I was trying desperately not to touch the part which was recently in her mouth. I fumbled it in to my bag and placed the purse under my desk. With stomach rolling and mouth dry I made it to the single stall bathroom with the dirty floor and purged my breakfast.

That was the first of many graphic details of disgust I experienced working in the phone bank. The most interesting manner of human beings (and I’m using that term loosely) are employed for “phone work”. It’s a fairly easy job requiring no face to face contact and little to no effort, so the visually unappealing and the lazy make a bee line. All you really need is a good voice and convincing a manner, and that is only for those who happen to care what their success rate is.

 This particular marketing research company was strictly for radio surveys. We would call people from all over the country and try to get them to listen to 3 to 4 second clips of music currently being played on the radio and then ask them to rate it on a scale from 1 to 5. I personally listened to mostly alternative rock at the time, so I learned very quickly to ask for the country music stations because if I had to listen to clips of songs I actually liked being played on my favorite station over and over and over ad nauseam, I would never be able to listen to that music again. That, and when I did the country music surveys I had a high success rate because I spoke to customers in a country accent and they ate that crap up with a spoon!

I sat in the middle of a row of 7 cubicle type stations. To my right was a short little feller with the saddest case of cystic acne I had ever seen offset by a shaggy mop of shoulder length hair, which was either naturally greasy or created that way on purpose with some discount product of unspecified nature. I didn’t ask. To my left was a 45 year old woman pushing 400 pounds with the voice of an angel. Bernita was one of the top 10 favorite people I ever worked with! She had thinning blonde wisps of hair pulled in to a tiny bun, rosacea and was gay. I was going through my own skewed sense of sexual identity at the time and that fascinated me about her! Her partner was a motorcycle driving butch who treated her terribly. Bernita would often come to work with tears in her baby blues because Shayna had called her some derogatory name or hadn’t come home the night before. It was my mission to make Bernita smile again! Her laugh was infectious and her sense of humor was razor sharp. I needed that in my life. Sitting day after day in a quite uncomfortable and flimsy desk chair trying to talk to a decidedly unenthusiastic public about the music they listened to everyday was boring as hell. I would crack sarcastic comments or mimic respondents, and when she laughed her whole body would shake and her specially purchased “sturdy” chair would rock. Everyone around her would laugh with her, the joy permeated the drab office interior. About 3 or 4 times every day I would walk by her from the bathroom or breakroom to get to my station and I would hear “Fuck you, Molly” in a growly girl whisper. I didn’t need to ask her what it was about, it was my hair. She was insanely jealous of my thick, curly hair. It would make me laugh out loud every time I heard it, it was so ridiculous and she was so very serious! I saw her a few years later after I had left for another job and she had gotten gastric bypass, but her laugh was still the same and Shayna had moved on for good. She was a much happier Bernita and was still envious of my hair.

A couple seats from Paul, the greaser, sat Terry. This was her second job, she was earning money to go towards getting her teeth fixed. She is not to be confused with superglue Maguillicutty I began this reminiscence with, Terry had no teeth to glue back in. Correction, she had 8. Four on the top, four on the bottom. They were yellow and had sundry pieces missing, but they were hers and she was hanging on for dear life. Terry was a “new Christian”, recently out of jail/rehab for (shockingly enough) methamphetamine addiction and sales. Everything out of her mostly empty mouth started with “And praise Jesus”.  Literally. “And praise Jesus, they filled up the vending machine and I can finally have my Reeses”, “And praise Jesus, I found the left flip flop under the back seat of the car where Jimbo threw it last night”. It was cute the first 6 times I heard it, when I realized the “And praise Jesus” was her breath before starting a sentence I started making tick marks on a post it note to count how many times she said it in a night’s shift. On one vivid and impressively talkative day, when I was sure she had relapsed on the crank, my tick marks filled the front and back of 3 separate 4’x4” post it sheets! I was saying “And praise Jesus” when she finally left for the night!

Alice was a whore. I am not just talking about a loose woman, she was a real live sex peddler for cash. She was 5’8” tall, about 60 pounds overweight and had the henna red hair of an old timey ‘painted woman’. She also had a limited tooth count. Are we seeing a pattern here? This was also Alice’s second job… guess what the first one was. You would think a woman of the night would have a secretive air about her, a type of mystery that makes you wonder what goes on after she gets off work at 9:00pm. Nope, not Alice. She was not only completely unashamed of her alternative profession, but she would speak to her cubicle neighbor of her adventures and have the audacity to call the “date” sick! “Honey, he wanted to put the bottle right on up there, and not the skinny end either! Sicko”. She was terminated because she often showed up to work an hour later than her start time. She needed a “fuckin’ rest, Goddamn it!”

Carl was also a woman of the night. Not for actual monetary transactions, but I am sure he got paid in other ways. When Carl transformed himself in to Miss Sparkle Devine it was an amazing thing to see! I was able to see her in action once, and she was a delight! Then the pancake makeup and cleavage would be washed off his cocoa colored skin and his Armani slacks and button up shirt would go back on for work. He was 6’1” with green eyes and always dressed beautifully for his telephone research job. He would sit with one arm resting on the back of his chair, legs crossed, working the computer with one hand. He was actually graceful! And charming and completely likeable! I think about him every time I watch “To Wong Foo, With Love Julie Newmar”.  

The phone bank employed between 20-30 people on a revolving basis. Some were only there a short while, long enough to realize having random people in Kentucky or Alabama or Ohio or Maine hang up on you with or without screaming bloody murder that you interrupted their dinner or woke their baby up isn’t the most fun a person can have at work. Some were there years before I set foot in the place and are probably still there to this day. I worked there for 2 years and I quickly worked my way up to floor manager. I left when I followed the general manager to her own marketing research business she opened. I was invited to be her office manager, no more phones again! Being a phone researcher wasn’t a dream job, but it fit my life at the time. The job paid reasonably well for the amount of work actually done and I moved up quickly. When I look back at the monkeys running that zoo I have to remember to not be too smug… I once was one of them.