Friday, December 26, 2014

Our Operators are Standing By ...

Image by SimonInns via Wikimedia Commons
Author's Note:  Here at Black Coffee Fiction, we celebrate the holiday season by posting depressing stories about Christmas to make our readers feel better about their own holiday experiences. Know that while writing this story, I was laughing the whole time.

The telephone sat before him, lit only by the glow from his laptop’s screen. Jordy Lestrange had decided that as the only employee in the building, he could throw caution to the wind and turn on the overhead fluorescents that his fellow service techs kept off. After five minutes under full illumination, Jordy turned the lights back off, unable to bear the revealed dust bunnies, candy wrappers, and unidentifiable carpet stains. Two hours into his shift, and the phone remained silent. On any normal day, he would have fielded at least five questions from irritated customers, perhaps kicking one over to one of the engineers or a manager if the customer started shouting obscenities. But on the day after Christmas, the technical support line was dead as old Marley.

He checked his cell phone, a blinking icon reminding him his data was all used up for the month. He could always go over and pay a fee, but what was the point of getting double-time pay at work if he just sunk it into playing games and listening to music? Using his work computer for entertainment was out too; the IT director’s idea of acceptable internet use only grudgingly allowed employees to look at spare part numbers on a selected group of online catalogs. Jordy kicked himself for not bringing a book, but really, who read anymore? He wouldn’t know what would interest him. There was a Sports Illustrated in the customer lobby, but it was the fall football preview issue, and his fantasy team had missed the playoffs already.

His cell phone’s (non-data-using) alarm buzzed, and Jordy sighed. He eyed the desk phone, wishing it would ring, but of course, it didn’t. He stood and walked out of the service office, grabbing a long-barreled flashlight from the top of his manager’s file cabinet in passing. The hallway was lit only by dim emergency lighting, giving the holiday decorations on the wall a sinister vibe. Santa’s shadowed eyes followed him as he passed by. Jordy felt as much holiday spirit seeing the Christmas decorations (as a Jew) as much as he did about the Stars and Stripes on Flag Day (he was Canadian). It seemed to put most of his co-workers in magnanimous and charitable moods, though. Not enough to volunteer for phone support on Boxing Day, but the needy family the company adopted was reportedly over the moon with the new X-Box that the donations had provided.

He fished a pair of earplugs from his front pocket and pushed on a heavy metal door leading to the shop’s assembly floor. The ca-chunking of reciprocating steel and clacking of pneumatic valves faded as the ear plug’s foam expanded to deaden the noise. The high ceiling lights were off save a pair of yellowed gymnasium lights at the east and west end. Jordy switched on the flashlight and made his way to the machine chewing its way through electricity and compressed air.

What better time to put the latest model through a two-hundred hour dry run than when everyone was on vacation? Just have the phone support tech check every few hours to make sure it was still working, and ship it after New Year’s. Jordy walked around the machine, playing the flashlight’s beam under the frame to check for lost nuts and bolts. Nothing. No reason for him to be here whatsoever.

Was the overtime worth it? Jordy was wondering if he should have stood up to his boss. Sure, he was single, not going out of town, and the lowest guy on the seniority list. He couldn’t come up with a good excuse, and hey, the overtime would buy a lot of drinks for single ladies at the bars, right? If only Jordy had known that all the single ladies had cleared out for the long weekend, leaving their bitter, wrinkled, divorced mothers behind to troll the bar scene. He would stay at home tonight and find something on TV. Maybe that show with all the people buying beach houses in the Caribbean.


He was playing random catalog number poker, and had drawn a pair of kings with part number K364-9K (beam, steel, 3x6x4) against his imaginary dealer’s garbage hand of MP-J05 (motor, 5 horsepower, IP67 certified). This was fortunate, since he had anteed the company’s 401K holdbacks against the dealer’s deed to Iceland. Then the phone rang.

“Rogan Josh Technology Group, this is Jordy.”

“Are you technical service?” said a garbled voice.

“I am.”

“I need someone to come out and look at my car,” said the man.

“Your car? I think you have the wrong number.”

“But you’re technical service.” In the background, a car honked its horn and the man shouted back at it.

“For Rogan Josh products, sir. We don’t make cars.”

“Well what do you make?”

Jordy leaned back in his chair. Company policy said he couldn’t hang up on a call, and recorded all conversations “for quality and training purposes,” which was a mouthful way of saying they didn’t trust service techs after Wally McCullach rang up a thousand dollars last year chatting up women in Thailand on the weekends. While it wasn’t often checked, Jordy felt today’s logs would be audited for sure.

He sighed. “We make machinery for the cosmetics industry.”

“Well what the hell good are you then?” Brakes squealed in the background with another round of honking.

“Maybe you should call a wrecker, or the police, sir.”

“That’s what I’m doing, but instead I got you idiots.”

“Where are you, sir? I’ll call a wrecker for you.” Jordy reached for phone book wedged between his desk and the floor.

“Mason and Third, downtown Kalamazoo.”

Jordy hesitated. “Michigan?”

“Hells yes, Michigan. You know of any other Kalamazoo?”

“I’m just outside of Pittsburg, sir.” There was a long pause. Jordy’s mouth blabbered to fill the silence. “Maybe that’s your problem. I’ll bet our number is the same as the wrecker service you called but with a different area code.”

“What area code? I just dialed and you answered. I pay a hundred dollars a month for this phone, it should know which damned area code I’m in.” Another horn blared in the background. “Look, just find me another number, son. Quick, now.”

Jordy stared at the phone book under his desk. It only covered the metro Pittsburg area and was five years out of date. He told the man this, then had to jerk the phone back from his ear.

“Jeeeesus Cee-rist, are you ever worthless. Just Google something already.”

“Um, our IT department doesn’t let us use Google. Our IT manager doesn’t … let us.” He was about to say his IT manager’s office was rumored to be lined with tinfoil, and that he configured the company’s network under the assumption that either the NSA or North Korea would attempt a cyber-attack against the server farm, with the help of a mole within the company, most likely one of the service techs. But saying stuff like that on a bugged phone could get him fired.

The man on the other end swore and (thankfully) hung up. Jordy scribbled down “wrong number” on his call log, noted the time, and went back to playing part number poker. Two hands later, he had lost the throne to Sweden and his hypothetical first born daughter, when the phone rang.

“Rogan Josh Technology Group, this is Jordy.”

“You didn’t wish me a merry Christmas,” the man from Kalamazoo said.

Mindful of the computerized Big Brother listening in, he reined in his urge to give proctologic advice. Instead he said, “You hung up before I could do so sir.”

The silence on the other line stretched on for many moments before the man from Kalamazoo spoke. “Well? I’m waiting.”

Jordy stared at the phone. Was holiday pay really worth this? He looked around at the shadowed desks, the silver tinsel in the hallway reflecting the sickly yellow glow of the emergency lights, and decided that no, it was not.

“Merry Christmas, sir,” Jordy said.

“Go to hell.” Click.

Jordy hung up the phone, and wrote in his phone log: wrong number follow-up, and the time. It was still an hour until lunch. Jordy grabbed the flashlight and headed for the production floor. The machine had to have a screw loose somewhere; if not, he certainly did.

No comments:

Post a Comment