Sour Grapes

*reposted from my blog “The Daily Page” on 1/20/2013.

“The phrase sour grapes is an expression originating from “The Fox and the Grapes,” one of Aesop’s Fables. It refers to pretending not to care for something one wants, but does not or cannot have.” -Wikipedia,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sour_grapes

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Trying to keep it light at work under harsh fluorescents and harsher criticism from whosever on the other end of that line…

I arrived at work this morning somewhat frantic, my mania involving mass-manufactured caffeine, a glance at the clock to tell me I was two minutes late already, and another cast at the call queue to notice we were thirteen deep on incoming and eleven on outbound callbacks. My supervisor today was Joe*, the big boss, my campaign’s account manager, who sported dirty-blond hair that seemed in need of washing about fifty percent of the time, and today, for good measure, an old tee shirt advertising a heavy-metal band that was about a size and a half too small for him and dirty jeans. He sported attractively-framed glasses as always, however, and a similarly omnipresent aloof attitude. My prevailing thought at
all of this was a reckless shit, a word banned from the call center floor along with any other profanity.

My current job lacks any of the lucrative trappings of any of my former employment situations: benefits, the hopes of a raise, mobility of any kind, personal satisfaction. About the closest to satisfaction we get are the ten-minute breaks snuck out in the alley, we smokers, sucking in tar and nicotine and spewing rants about work, home, life, bills, etc. And yet…it’s a job. It gives me something to do every day and almost pays my bills (but not quite. One of these days I’m sure I’ll be blogging from the library and the Internet will be the ONLY way to get ahold of me, as Verizon will have shut me down for good until I can pay my bundled phone/Internet bill.) For now I’m grateful to be employable, and employed, in an economy that doesn’t favor even those with resumes as comprehensive as my own. One of my few real bragging rights in the post-global economic meltdown world.

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Out back for a precious few minutes…

Mania compounded as I sat down in a cube next to my big blue-eyed, closed-cropped, well-muscled, completely adorable colleague, who aped at me as he finished a call, clicking his mute button to tell me, between phrases of apology and remuneration to the person at the other end of the phone, “Massive production issues with the Picayune Blotter”, “Power outage last night stopped paper production and half the papers didn’t get printed until this morning”, “Delivery pushed out until 1pm” and “oh and we’re down too”, meaning one of the computer applications we used internally to access client accounts was “undergoing routine maintenance” as I heard him tell a client. “Undergoing routine maintenance” is a well-known euphemism for “it’s fucked up, and tech support doesn’t know when it’ll be fixed, but they know it’s a major problem creating huge backloads of work, so they are busting ass to get it fixed”. Of course, we never tell clients that…

The Picayune Blotter** was probably the largest of eight publications my campaign worked on, all owned by a corporate media group that had spent the past year and a half or so alienating a substantial amount of its customer base in an industry already experiencing sharp declines. With the increasing accessibility and popularity of the Internet, newspapers just aren’t as important anymore, as evidenced by the relatively recent shuttering of one major publication without any warning at all in my area. Interestingly, the company I work for specializes in providing customer service and other support services specifically for the newspaper industry. As I’m sure they want to stay in business, they’re diversifying, but the bulk of the services we provide is to newspapers. This makes it especially interesting when subscribers, who call a local number to their area, start trying to talk about the weather or local news or politics, about which I, often having little idea about the news local to MY area, haven’t the slightest clue. Also, I’m trying to handle the call as quickly and politely as possible, so I don’t really care all that much about anything other than dealing with their issue…and taking the next call. During busy days I spend the bulk of my time feeling like I’m dodging bullets, foxholed up in my little nondescript beige cubicle. During slower days I remove my mala and do recitations between calls. I try not to invest more mental energy than it takes to be polite and pleasant and keep my head down.

Today was going to be different. Already one of the busiest days for the area of the country from which calls came into my campaign, our busy-ness was further compounded by the production problems for the Blotter and the tech problems (“routine maintenance”, as I heard one colleague after another drone apologetically into their headsets) on our end. I sighed and took my first call, from an angry man calling the free publications distributed weekly by the Blotter and its sisterhood of fellow area papers “litter” and denouncing their return to his street after calling for a month several months ago to get it to stop…only to see it start up again!!! “If this doesn’t quit,” he rasped, clearly disturbed on many levels by this reappearance of the Blotter-Trotter or whichever of the free papers it was, “I’m going to sit out there myself and wait for the carrier!” Whenever the carrier is threatened by a subscriber I can’t help but think of Granny Clampett and her shotgun…and so I apologized, cajoled, hung up and took the next call, from a subscriber demanding that I “call up my delivery boy and get his butt outta bed!” Oh, it was going to be a GOOD day…

I spent half of my time at work apologizing for the power outage and the other half doing the usual…taking payments, inputting vacation stops, accounting for idle threats and less-than-idle threats. I took calls from bewildered subscribers who hadn’t received their papers in months, bewildered subscribers who hadn’t received their papers in weeks, and bewildered subscribers whose papers were an hour late. I leave work every day shaking my head. Today I left shaking it vigorously. It hit me for sure when I got home: sour grapes. Most of my callers have an almost contentious tone to their voices: they already had it in for me, and all I wanted to do was help them. That was my job; the number they called was, in fact “customer service”. So often it seems like “outlet for general fury”. People who are pissed off about their lives, their jobs, their families, their kids, whatever, and then their newspaper is late. GOD DAMN IT!!! So it all gets unleashed…on the poor soul who answers their call to Customer Service. Damage Control. Carrier Protection. Anger Management from a thousand miles or so away.

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The Shambhala Center is less than half a block from my workplace. A healthy reminder to keep things in perspective; a comfortable, welcoming respite as well.

We get paid just above minimum wage. I’m pretty sure our salary grade should be closer to that of a clinical therapist. But that’s just my sour grapes, I guess.:)

*not his real name

**totally fictitious name for purposes of this post

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I'm a writer living in Northern Colorado. I also help run the front of the house for the Fort Collins Bike Co-op. I have two cool roommates and a snorey cat. I love my life.

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