You always see the same burning red sky when you look out of your window. It doesn’t matter if it is daybreak or midnight, time has lost its old importance. You can get used to the smell of sulphur as well, especially now that the management has invested in some cheap pine scented air fresheners. It makes the stench almost bearable. On your arrival the HR colleagues take your two silver coins, their smile is so broad you would almost think they have something to be happy about, and in exchange they give you your phone extension. That is going to be your only way of identifying yourself. You left your name behind, now it is only a fading engraving in a cheap piece of marble. And there is your old Facebook page, of course, with its black framed profile picture and the occasional comments from almost strangers that they miss you a lot. Sure they do. Yet they fail recognise you on the phone. They treat you as if you were nothing but a soulless voice from the other side but you are not angry with them, not anymore. They are just fools who cannot know that one day they will also end up here. Everybody does. Then comes the big surprise and they are just blinking and sighing when they are led to their desks. At least it is something that makes you smile sometimes.
„Good Morning! You are through to the Customer Service of H.L.L. I apologise if you had to wait. My name is Triplesix how may I help you today?”
„What a stupid name! I am Eusebia Hecate Macbith. And yes, you should apologise because I have been waiting at least for three minutes, I was checking the clock. You know, time is money. But I don’t expect you to understand what I’m talking about.
„I am terribly sorry but we are a bit busy today. How may I help you?”
„What do I care if you are busy? That’s none of my concerns. You should be able to handle it, that’s your job. Maybe you should employ some more people or whatever.”
„You are absolutely right. The management is expecting a group of new employees today.”
„Well, I hope they will be more competent than you are. Anyway, your English is so… weird. Where are you, in India?”
„Excuse me, Mrs. Macbith, but I would like to ask you to refrain from discriminatory comments. And no, I am not in India. Actually, our Head Quarters are much closer to your home than you would think.”
„DOCTOR Macbith, if I might ask. Alright, I don’t have time for all this nonsense. Call your supervisor because you are going on my nerves!”
„I am deeply sorry Dr. Macbith but every member of management is currently waiting for the new employees. But do not worry, you might talk to them earlier than you would expect.”
„Don’t mess with me, young lady. I am seventy years old, have a degree from Oxford and a Phd from Edinburgh. Show some due respect!”
„Although it has nothing to do with our conversation but just so you know I also have three degrees.” Sometimes I lose my temper, it is something I really shouldn’t do.
„Ah, and she is a liar too! If you had any degrees at all, you wouldn’t be working in a lousy call centre!”
„Do you think so? With all due respect, you might not know as much about the workings of the world as you might imagine. In any case, in our company we try to disregard any differences. We strongly believe in equal opportunities.”
„Oh, those bloody liberals, I knew nobody else could vex me like that. That’s why our country is in such a mess. They let all kind of people to wander in and then we, the innocent tax payers spend all our money on useless phone calls like this. Oh my goodness, my left arm went all numb. In the end I will end up having a heart attack because of all your stupi…”
Beep beep. The rest is silence.
„See you soon,” I whisper and hang up.
I go out for a coffee, even we can have a little rest. It’s bitter as cyanide but it is so bad that it keeps me awake. I hear a scream from the corridor, the new recruits must have arrived. I already know that the big bad boss will turn up to persuade me with gentle violence that I need to take some unlucky soul on my back under the label of „training.” Here he come. I can feel the sickeningly sweet smell of Luke’s aftershave before he enters the room. His steps tap on the floor like hoofs but when I look down I can only see shiny new shoes.
„Here is my favourite employee!” he says, his voice is as insinuating as ever. It drives me crazy but I can understand that there were women who ate it all up like a candy apple. “Would you be such a darling to train one of our new recruits. As I hear, she was dying to see us.”
He chuckles at his own tired joke then he is gone. I stir my coffee and think that Luke’s sense of humour should be banned… though maybe it’s just another form of our eternal punishment. I am on my way back to the office when I notice the old woman in the Prada dress. She stares at me as though I was a ghost. Well, she is not much mistaken.
“The late Dr. Macbitch, I presume,” I say coldly. I deliberately mispronounce her name but she does not correct me. She doesn’t have the right anyway, her fate is in my hands.
She just shakes her head and gives me the piece of paper with her phone extension penned with red ink. A fat teardrop perches in the corner of her eye and her hand is shaking so much that she cannot wipe it away. For a brief moment I almost feel sorry for her.
This short story was inspired by my time asa contact centre assistant. Most of the customers were nice, but the occasional bitchy ones stayed with me for a long time…
This story is for the Storytime Blog Hop, hosted by lovely Juneta Key.
You can read the stories by the other participants here:
A Snow White Morning, by Katharina Gerlach
The Letter, by Juneta Key
Trick or Treacle, by Angela Wooldridge
Sugar in the Raw, by Karen Lynn
Inferno, by Fanni Soto
Tae, by Barbara Lund
Interstellar Student Exchange, by Raven O’Fiernan
The Ghost Fighter, by Bill Bush
Hare, by Elizabeth McCleary
The Widow, by Vanessa Wells