Friday, June 29, 2012


And then there were calls.

After training... after induction... and after any number of abstract business fucking about type activities that come along with starting any new job (forms, photos, tours, team lunches etc), it was finally time to sit at a terminal with a headset and plug in to our customers.

In some ways this comes as a relief. As the training and the induction and all the other rubbish fairly quickly gets tiresome, at least for me. And a days work, however mundane, does help pass the time.

On the other hand, once you strap on a headset and switch your console to 'Available,' you're exposing yourself to every nut in the country with a phone and too much time on their hands.

Which is to say our customers.

So Friday, after I've plugged in and run through a few stock standard 'Why is your company stealing my money?' enquiries, I get the first of these nutbag type questions. An elderly sounding bloke in NSW who's called up to ask me about his radio.

OLDER GENT: Yes, hello? Yes, well, now, I've got solar electricity attached to my house and it's all been connected and it all appears to be working fine.

ME: (hopeful) Yes?


Part of me wants, strongly, to leap in at this point and say:

'Well I'm really glad to hear it. Thanks for calling solar billing, have a nice day!'

In a rapid fire patter, cutting off any possibility this bloke will have of adding anything to this opening statement and then disconnecting the call before I have to draw breath and pause.

But my mind is a bit sluggish and so I don't do this. I do nothing in fact, allowing space for the craziness to creep in.

OLDER GENT: And what I want to know is this. Why didn't anyone tell me that when I had the solar connected, it was going to mess up my radio reception?

Some time passes, while I continue to do nothing. At least, I'm not saying anything. What I'm thinking is;

'The answer to that is obvious. Because no one would ever have thought of giving you information on such an insane sounding thing.'

OLDER GENT: Because what's happened, right, ever since I've had the bloody thing put on, I can't listen to the radio during the day! I never had any problems before the solar panels were put in and I don;t have any problems at night, when the bloody thing is off. But during the day the radio is just BRR-SWSSHHHH-BRR. I mean, I can't listen to that. Why didn't anyone tell me this was going to happen?

ME: Well, I guess it's not a common consideration when-

OLDER GENT: Not a common consideration? Other have people have got radios, don;t they? other people have got solar panels. You can't tell me that everyone else is sitting there listening BRR-SWSSHHH-BRR?

ME: Well, no.

OLDER GENT: No. So what I want to know is, what are you going to do about it?

ME: (taking a stab in the dark) Have you thought about buying a new radio? You know, a digital radio?

OLDER GENT: I guess you think you're pretty smart. Well let me tell you this, I have bought a new radio. A digital radio. And it hasn't made any bloody difference. So what else have you got, smarty?

Faced with a question I have no idea about, I turn to the one resource I have access to that was designed with that purpose in mind; Google. I do a search for 'solar system radio interference australia' and get a few hits from forums talking about the same issue. It appears as though the old gent is right. The solar system creates some kind of electrical interference, mild, that can interfere with a radio signal. Although it appears as though this should only be a real problem if the radio signals in question are particularly weak and can normally be solved by moving the radio away from wherever the solar system power and feed lines are located.

I explain this, as simply as possible.

OLDER GENT: Oh I see how it is. So now you want me to wander around the house with my radio in my hand, do you? Wandering about like some sort of twit with a radio, trying to get a signal. That's your solution?

ME: It's that or get rid of the whole solar system. They appear to be your only options, so I know which one seems easier.

OLDER GENT: Hmmm, yeah, I bet you do. Well I guess I'll have to think about it then. I just wish someone had told me about it beforehand. You know, that it was going to cause this problem. It would have been good to know.

ME: Well I can pass your comments along to management. Now, is there anything el-'

OLDER GENT: As a matter of fact there is. You're not getting off that easily. I make my own bread and just recently it seems as though the thing I make it in isn't working properly.

ME: You mean, your oven?

OLDER GENT: No mate. The bloody thing I make it in. The... bread maker.

ME: Oh right.

OLDER GENT: Well that hasn't been working properly. It doesn't get hot enough. Seems like it's not getting enough electricity.

ME: Not enough electricity? I see... So... have you checked the instruction manual? Taken it back to where you bought it from?

OLDER GENT: Course not. That's why I'm asking you.

ME: Of course. Well...

It's Google time again.

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