Friday, April 7, 2017

The worst job I've ever had.

I'm not really sure why I'm ranting about this now, in this blog of all places, but I figured I may as well post it here since the original thread on AR15.com got archived.  Anyway, it's not exactly the thing you want to put in your resume or cover letter, but it got a few comments over on ARF and I was glad that I was able to bring a few smiles to them after reading my story.  The thread was titled What's the worst job you've ever had, and here is my story:

I used to worked at a call center for major Canadian airline, specifically their loyalty program. It was the worst job I've ever had, bar none. I remember there were times when I was at my desk in that God forsaken place, I often wondered if perhaps my colleagues and I were actually dead, and that we were in hell. Because of our proximity to YVR, the theory that a plane had crashed and killed us all wouldn't be a huge stretch of the imagination, and we were living out eternity in that hell hole.

We were tethered to our computer for the entire shift, hundreds of us at any given time. Every second not on a call was accounted for, every time you got up to the washroom, someone was aware of it, you're breaks were counted to the second.

There was a console with about half a dozen supervisors in it monitoring the staff's activities. We called it the watch tower. If you didn't take a call within a few minutes, your name would be highlighted on one of their screens. If it continued, you would see one of the supervisors stand up, and if you still didn't take a call, you would see one of the supervisors detach and make their way to your station. If your stats were no good, you were offered more training, passive aggressive conditioning to get you to take more calls. You're sitting in the chair opposite of your dirt bag of a supervisor (think Office Space) every month, reviewing your performance, smiling the whole time while giving you suggestions on how to do better.

We were abused by clients, and we were abused by our supervisors. The clients would be yelling and screaming because they couldn't use their points to book a flight, and our supervisors were always pushing us to make bookings when there was hardly any inventory to book. I would say that in any given 8 hr shift, I would take 75-100 calls, and had a booking success rate of about 15-20%. The rest of the calls were $hit and I guarantee you the client would be channeling all of their hatred toward you because they weren’t able to use their points to book a flight one year in advance.  The company was telling customers that they could use their points for all these wonderful destinations, but in reality, we had less than 10% of the flight to give away to folks with points.

We had a "quiet room" in the building. It was a room within a room, and inside that room was a taste of heaven. It was pitch black inside, and the only noise you could detect was the faint hum of the ventilation system. There were two or three couches inside (I've only seen the room lit a handful of times, so I don't clearly recall) where staff would take turns and rest. To get to this room, you would go through the locker room, open one door, enter a chamber, close the door behind you, and open the door to the quiet room. Once inside, you literally could not see anything.  There was no ambient light whatsoever, and it was the same as if you closed your eyes. You just had to feel your way to one of the couches and hope no one was occupying it.

The darkness was like pure joy, as if happiness was something tangible that you could wrap yourself with. When I lay on that couch, curled up in the fetal position, I couldn't get over how happy I was. I felt myself smile in the darkness because I was not at my station taking calls.

However, breaks in the quiet room could be demoralizing as well.  We all knew that happiness would eventually end and we would have to go back to our phones and computers. My body clock was so conditioned that I was able to close my eyes, lose consciousness (at least I felt I did), only to wake up like a bolt after exactly 12 minutes. It left just enough time to get up, get back to my desk and log in again.  The instant I sat back down and my desk, I was already looking forward my next break and race back to the quiet room and begin the cycle again.

In my 7 years in that hellhole, I saw at least one or two people die per year for some sort of illness. I saw people rapidly age in that call center, with my own friends and family commenting on how haggard I looked after only a few short years of working there. I still have nightmares about the place.

A few years after I left, I got a job where I had access to certain information regarding social services and medical leave. I was shocked to see that at least once a week one of my old colleagues would come in to apply for medical benefits, more specifically for stress leave. When I worked there, I knew that people occasionally took stress leave from that place, but not to that magnitude.  Every week, I'd see someone new come in, and they looked as though they had just escaped from Auschwitz.

I still bump into some of my old colleagues from time to time, and the first thing they notice or comment on is how happy I seem to be now. The first thing I notice is the hopelessness in their eyes, their souls have long since left their bodies, and they have the appearance of a person who already has one foot in the grave.


This job, like a scar on my soul, is a constant reminder that things could always be worse. I've excelled at every job I've had since then, I get paid a lot more, and even joined the military as a reservist on top of my day job. I think the only reason I enjoyed my basic training (and every job I’ve ever had since the airline, come to think of it) while everyone else was miserable was because I'd experienced firsthand what hell was actually like.

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