Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lessons In Phone Etiquette

The temporary employment agency happen to be in the same building as the bank I chose to deposit the rest of my life savings in once I arrived in Honolulu after traveling around the world for eight month. Something told me to take a look at the building's directory as I exited the bank that afternoon. I’m a firm believer in “divine guidance”. The same mystical power that got me through almost a decade of working as a freelance photographer in Europe, also helped me make it thorough eight months of traveling around the world without so much as a head cold. And I suppose it was responsible for me getting a job in the same building as my new bank, with the Hawaiian collections headquarters of America’s #2 automobile company. I would work for the next three months calling-up customers who had fallen behind in their car payments.

I accepted the job "blindly". You see, up until the agency sent me out on assignment, I had no clue what a collector’s job entailed. I had always paid my own bills on time, had never received a collector’s call in the 20 years or so of living on my own. Nor had my family ever received any calls from collectors. So I basically had no clue what I was setting myself up for. I had no idea the lies people could tell over the phone, some so convincing they'd literally bring you to tears. I never knew how hostile (and rude) people could be to a total stranger. And I never knew I’d be waiting in the back parking lot when those same people were forced to return the very same cars they depended on to get them to and from the jobs that supplied the money to pay their other bills.

To say those three months of employment was a “growing experience” is to put it mildly. The job was hard, the verbal abuse generous, and the praise for a job well done practically non-existent. But I made it through the assignment and went on to work another 4 years as a mortgage collector for a large Hawaiian bank. I was able to rebuild my depleted saving after the world trip and had plenty of time to decide that Hawaii was not my cup of tea. What else. Even today, I dislike talking on the phone. You pay about 20% more for everything in Hawaii than you‘d pay on the mainland thanks to a shipping monopoly. The weather is truly great, if you like it the same way twelve months of the year. And I never saw much “Aloha Spirit” while I lived there. I guess that’s it. Now, lets drown-out all those telephone-screamers with a little soothing poetry:

Information Film

By the time glitter begins to fade it’s already '62 and
the birds that peck inside my head have become just
three cars on a turnpike driving at night with
high beams on they collide with cordon bleu
ie rogue & le noir in vast geometries
allowing toast to spread across
the map and arrive by train
at gare d’ amiens with
just an overnight
bag one
shackle a bright
bulb of promise & no
return ticket cautiously
going forward without vibrato
in a low murmur with a slit up the
side she purchases several sweet cakes
and a pack of Gitanes while I search for a
pay phone disoriented by the foreign sounds and
completely unaware of two projectors that flash a series
of whole images behind my eyes as objects rotate and then
reflect several different times.

This poem first appeared at:
Copyright 2007 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.

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