Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Times have changed..........

a statement we've all heard and said ourselves. Today as I sat at my desk answering phones I was reminded of just how much.

Back in 19cough, cough....I worked for a leasing company as an Accident Claims Processor.  Being the outgoing, ready and willing to learn person that I am, the office manager asked me to be one of many back up's for the receptionist.  Without hesitation I agreed, thinking it would be fun, exciting and a plus in furthering my career with the company or at least put me in good light with my direct supervisor. The more you know, the better asset you are to the company, right?

If you're too young to know, too old to remember or just unwilling to admit that you might be old enough to have been around at the time, this was when the switchboard looked like an octopus being pulled every which way; a la Lilly Tomlin snort, snort.

The hairdo isn't quite right, but the board, albeit small, is very familiar. 

My first training session was frightening, to put it lightly.Within just a matter of minutes I gained a new respect for my friend who had been on the job for a few years already.

I recall sitting there watching her in awe as she, with the biggest head set known to man, pulled the cord of an incoming call, answered "National Car Rental, how may I help you?", then stretch that puppy from the base of the board (incoming lines) to the wall board (in-house lines) while moving on to the next caller in lightening time.  And if  that weren't enough, while she was answering a new call, and without blinking an eye or hesitating for thought, she could spot an ended call and pull the plug without so much as a hiccup.  How she managed to spot that in the middle of this cord hell, I'd yet to figure out.

I began to wonder if I'd made a mistake by so readily accepting the challenge.  All those feelings of self doubt; "What was I thinking, I'll never be able to do this", followed by "I'm not capable of learning this", and "I just know they're gonna fire me".

After my watching for sometime she said, in a perky little voice, "Okay, ready to give it a try?"  WHAT! Ready? I'll never be ready....EVER!  Everything in me wanted to grab her by the collar, scream and run as quickly as I could for the rear door.

Instead, like a fool I responded "Sure, let me give it a try".  After the words left my mouth, I nearly grabbed my own collar and yelled.  Dumb, dumb, dumb... all I could think to myself was that I'd be the laughing stock of the company.  So much for being in good light in my Super's eyes.  I mean, what happens if I disconnect the President of the company?  How long does it take to get your first unemployment check anyway?!

As frightened as I was, and as much as my hands trembled, my dear friend simply moved to one side and threw me head first into the beast with a million tentacles, coming at me from all sides.  I could have sworn I was under attack.

First call, I forgot the company name.  I must have sat there frozen for all of 3 seconds but it felt like 20 minutes.  I had a blank look on my face as fear poured over my entire body.  My hands and feet began to sweat profusely when I suddenly detect a voice next to me say "answer....answer!  Come on....Nation....."  My voice finally came out but it was an out of body experience.  Thank God my friend failed to tell me not to touch the metal prong as I plugged it into the socket because I got a shock that ran all the way up my fingers through my arm and directly into my heart which is why I survived the whole ordeal.

After a days training my friend felt confident that I could survive it alone while she ran to the bathroom.  I admit the second she walked away I felt like a 3 year old being deserted by the only parent I'd ever known but I determined to do my job like the adult that I was. 

Just a few days later and a number of hostile callers asking why I'd disconnected them "again", I was finally able to grab the octopus by the tentacles in full, or at least partial control.

Today as I sat answering the phone with a smile in my voice and with mouse in hand I grabbed a call on the computer screen to drag in into the extension the caller requested.  I pushed a few buttons and napped in between calls.  The beauty of technology; something you learn to appreciate with time.


Debbie said...

Proof that EVERY JOB REQUIRES SKILL. It doesn't matter that you are not a brain surgeon or an attorney, every job, whether it's working reception on a board or working in a school cafeteria, requires technique and skill. KUDOS MY COMADRE!

P.S. I laughed hysterically my friend, and I LOVE the pics!

Bunny Missbrenner said...

My mother worked a switch board downtown for years. Just the thought of doing something like that scares the bajeebers outta me!