Friday, April 02, 2004
In an earlier entry, I alluded to having "quit before they could fire me" at a job I held prior to my service in the demon legion (telemarketing). That statement pertains to my leaving the employ of Pizza Hut. Since you now know how this story ends, I'll quickly flip to the beginning...
As you all know by now, I lived in the city of Denver, Colorado while I was pursuing my degree in Graphic Design. The little Tech School I went to, of course, helped set us all up with apartments and jobs and such...The first place that expressed interest in hiring me was the Pizza Hut Delivery Dispatch Center. The Center is basically just a large room with a metric shitload of phone terminals packed wall-to-wall. In Denver (and Boulder, too), all of the orders for Pizza Hut Delivery go to one central phone number and are handled by this call center. The orders are then routed to the delivery center nearest the caller via computer. My job was to take orders from the unwashed masses and then disperse the orders to the appropriate delivery units so they could then prepare these half-assed Italian-American disc-shaped delights, I never actually had to BAKE anything. In hindsight, I'm not so sure that I still hadn't got the short end of some stick somewhere.
Working with the Hut wasn't my first real job, but it was pretty close to it. It certainly WAS the first job where I had more than just a couple co-workers to interact with, so that took some getting used to. At the call center, everyone was simply a number. You showed up when you were scheduled, logged on to the nearest available terminal, placed your headset on your head and commenced with the order taking. During the "Dinner Rush," which would occur between 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., the lines would be jammed. Finishing a call simply meant taking on another one, over and over, for nearly 3 hours. I won't go so far as to say it was Hell, but there were times that it sucked pretty bad.
There was a tote board on the wall that would show how many calls were on hold. If this total was too high, the floor would be on 'red light' which meant that no breaks were allowed. If you were on break when the floor went to 'red light,' you had no choice but to immediately return to the floor. Often, the 'on-hold' number would exceed 450 calls. I have to admit, there were times I would rapidly punch the 'release' button on my phone while watching the numbers decrease at an equally frenetic pace. The numbers would climb right back up, of course, and all around could be heard the sound of "I'm sorry you were disconnected. How may I help you?"
During my first 4 or 5 weeks in Pizza order Hell, I developed the nasty habit of accepting every single overtime shift that was offered to me. This meant that I'd come in and work on my day off instead of (surprise) having that day off. I didn't think much of it for a while, until a month had gone by and I had done nothing more than schoolwork and, well, work...work. I remember feeling pretty damn burned out. Simply put, I don't deal well with being burned out. Regardless of who's at fault, I will begin to rebel. My insubordination started out mildly enough, I learned more and more about the phone system and worked my fingers until they became so fast that I could transfer incoming calls away from me and into 'the fishbowl' where the supervisors sat with deadly accuracy. I used as many different names and voices as I thought I could get away with. I even deleted account information of customers that I had deemed 'too unruly to eat.'
Ironically enough, it was around this time that I was promoted to 'section leader' based on a near-perfect monitoring score. Things were looking up. I guess.
At one point, the call center was participating in a radio contest where the host station would play a jingle at a pre-set time of day. The jingle would tell the listeners that, if they called RIGHT NOW, they would win a free pizza. The call center designated one phone to accept the winning call at the winning time. The rest of us were instructed, if a customer inquired as to whether or not they had won, to say "no, but I have another very exciting offer for you!" We would then offer them a combo deal at a discount or something equally as lame. I guess I've always found it hard to follow other people's rules. I did exactly as I was told for the first few callers who were eager to find out if they had scored a free pie. They reacted just as I expected, they hung up. "This is no fun," I thought, so I prepared a wee plan. The next time I received an incoming call during which the caller shouted "DID I WIN? DID I WIN?" I put my best voice forward and exclaimed "YES, YOU WON! Congratulations, all I need is to get your" *click*
I would disconnect in mid sentence, making the callers think that they truly had won the big prize, but UH OH! Something went terribly wrong. They would invariably call back and demand their free pizza. Of course, no matter how far up the call center food chain they got, they were to receive no free pie, only a heartfelt apology and an explanation that the call center was not responsible for malfunctions of any kind. Scenarios like these only served to feed my maniacal need to spread chaos. Of course, one can only spread SO MUCH chaos before one makes a mistake.
I had sort of befriended another call center worker. Ironically enough, I cannot remember his name anymore, but I remember that he and I were about the same age and we were both just about as burnt out on the place as we could be. He escaped from the Hut eventually, but before he left, he entrusted me with his login code and password. As he put it, "just in case I wanted to wreak some havoc in his name after he departed." How lucky! This was a prank GOLDMINE, I thought. I simply had to wait for the right time to do the wreaking.
It was on a lazy Thursday evening when very little was happening that I found myself seated in the back half of the call center, just about completely alone. Most everyone else was either on break or in the front half of the call center which afforded them the opportunity to stare out the window or simply to be less alone. I preferred the alone, it was a lot nicer. It also gave me the opportunity to see if my 'extra login' would still work. I logged into a terminal a few down from the one I was using with the 'other login.' I kept it logged in and then logged myself out. I requested a bathroom break and left the terminal, I returned from my 'bathroom break,' a few minutes later, quickly stopped at the 'bad' terminal, sent an order with a special message, logged out, waited a minute or so and logged back into the terminal I was at prior with my own login. It all seemed so perfect.
Until Delivery Unit 34 called the Call Center.
There are countless individual delivery units in the Denver/Boulder metro area. Each one of these units, as I outlined before, are sent order information by the call center. As an order was sent, you could see which unit it was going to and you had an opportunity to input comments into a text field. You would normally do this to reinforce a special order or to warn the delivery driver if the residence had a dog, things like that. What I had utilized the comments section for in this case was much more simple. As I sent the fake order from the alternate login, I keyed in the phrase "Burn in Hell, Unit 34!" obviously because it fit in the limited space allowed but mostly because I wanted to create a wee bit of chaos off-site. Oh to see their faces at the unit when the special directive rolled off of their printer! What fun that must've been.
I found out pretty quick that unit 34 wasn't quite ready to do any burning, in Hell or otherwise.
within minutes, one of the supervisors found me in the back of the call center. "Have you been at this terminal all night?" he asked?
"Pretty much..." I replied.
"Anyone else around you?" he inquired.
"A couple people, why?" I retorted.
"Come with me" he demanded. So I did. We went back to the office where the portly little ultra-supervisor sat. (He reminded me a lot of the counselor at my junior high school crossed up with George Jefferson. The kind of man who is so obese that he's bypassed double chin and headed straight for quad. The kind of person who's neck fat resembles a sprain collar and prevents them from being able to look downward very much, if at all. The kind of person for whom clothes are hard to find, so if there're a button or two stressing, it just has to do.) The minor supervisor closed the door once we both made it into the office and chubarse spoke:
"I love computers. Computers tell me everything I need to know."
"What do you need to know?" I asked
"I know that you sent a very nasty message to one of our units." he said.
"I don't know what you mean." I replied, obviously lying.
"Well, there wasn't too many people around you and the login that sent it belongs to someone who doesn't work here anymore" he shot back.
"And that means it was me why?" I inquired.
He became a bit flustered at this point, slammed his hands down on his desk, leaned forward and bellowed "IF IT WASN'T YOU, THEN WHO WAS IT!? YOU HAD TO SEE WHO DID IT!"
"I never pay attention to people around me...Besides, it could've happened when I went to the bathroom." I offered.
Ok, before we go any further, I should say that I KNOW I'M A LIAR! But c'mon... if you got caught, would you reveal EVERY detail of your master plan? That's right. I thought not...Anyway...
It was at this time that Mr. Minor Supervisor spoke up. He decided that it would be the perfect time for me to offer details of what exactly happened while I was in the bathroom...How much time I spent...What sorts of things came out. (I'm serious.) It was at this point in my life that I was introduced to the slang phrase "dropping sticks." Apparently, that's code for plain, old poopin'. Dropping Sticks!? What the Hell had this guy been eatin'? But I digress...
To sum up, Sherlock and Watson never could PROVE that I was to blame for damning poor little unit 34 to an afterlife full of fire and brimstone. Nevertheless, the situation DEMANDED action, and so I was told that, "because I was such a good worker," I'd only be suspended for 2 days rather than fired. It was about this time that a wee switch flipped inside my wee brain. I started to think quite clearly about how much I hated coming to work and how lame the whole place was...I knew that if I was allowed to come back and work, I'd just continue to screw things up so, for the good of all parties involved, I looked Fat Chops square in his beady little eyes and said: "I can't work for someone who doesn't trust me. I quit."
And I said it with a straight face.
So, after a little backtracking and begging by my supervisors (for some reason, they wanted me to STAY), I left. I departed the call center that evening feeling somehow victorious. I had gone straight into the belly of the beast and I had come out alive. I went as far as I dared go with chaos and was still able to leave on my own terms. Of course, regardless of terms, I had still QUIT and that meant I had to go looking for yet another crappy job. But until then, I was FREE...
And so was my pizza for the next couple months, but that's another story...