My neighbour on that side, Simon, is a young bloke, 22, who normally seems disinterested enough in what he's doing to not get too upset with our customers. But he's clearly struck one that's getting to him.
Even though I haven't really been paying attention, I know he's been on the call for some time. And his voice has slowly been rising in pitch. And he's been using some of the tell-tale phrases:
'Yes I know that, but...'
'If you'd just let me speak...'
'No, that's not correct, it's actually the other way around... '
Which communicate to the rest of us in the universal service industry language that he's stuck with a right cunt.
Finally, after several more minutes of this grim one sided conversation, he admits a minor defeat.
'All right, well, look, I'll need to check that with my supervisor. I'll just put you on hold for a moment.'
And he flicks the relevant button on his phone, pulls his headset off and lets out a groan.
'Faaarrrk,' he says with feeling, running his hands through his hair. 'This guy is killing me.'
It takes me a second or two to realise that he's probably addressing this remark to me. I'm the one sitting closest to him and no one else in range is paying any attention.
'Yeah. He's got all these old bills and he's arguing over every charge on every single one. I spend five minutes arguing with him about one charge on one bill and then when I finally start to talk him round to the point where he can understand it, he then jumps onto the next charge and we start all over again. And his bills have been recalculated and reissued any number of times, probably because he keeps ringing up and complaining, so that the whole thing is a mess. I'm confused now!'
Simon gets up and goes in search of a supervisor, a person referred to in our current office as a Senior. The Seniors fill a middle role between the regular floor staff and the actual team leaders and offer advice, assistance, do the rosters and field complaints. Leaving the role of team leader somewhat obscure, as these would all be tasks done by the T/L's in other offices I've worked in.
In any case, Simon disappears for a few moments and then comes back with Cara, one of the Seniors who sits nearby. Cara is in her thirties, a bit overweight, and is friendly, if always appearing harried. She listens patiently while Simon sputters out the situation:
'... high bill... doesn't agree... recalculation... charges... can't understand... not listening... ombudsman... threats... won't pay... refuses... demands... yelling...'
'I see. So, in a nutshell then... what does this guy want?'
'Well... I guess he wants a reduction in his bill. He thinks it's too high.'
'And what do you think?'
'Well I think it's probably right. It's a bit confusing, but I think it's right now. It's just hard, with all the revised bills that have been issued, to explain it to him easily. There's lots of cancelled charges and miscellaneous adjustments and stuff like that, that are on the bill that I'm having trouble explaining. But those things are on there to get the balance right, and I think it is right now.'
'Well if you think it's right then you just have to tell him that.'
'I have been telling him that. I've been talking to him for forty minutes now.'
'Well that's too long. And he's been on hold for five minutes,' Cara stares intently at the display on Simon's phone, 'and that's too long too. You need to get back to him and explain it, then get him off the line. Okay?'
'You need to explain it him.'
'But I need you to help me find a solution.'
'Look, that's not my job, to help you find a solution. You need to find the solution, that's your job. That's what we pay you for.'
Simon looks a bit stunned by this. His mouth opens slightly but he doesn't say anything. You can almost hear him thinking;
'Then what's your job?'
And maybe also,
'You fucking bitch! I hate you! I hate all of you! FUCK YOU!!'
But he doesn't say this, or anything at all. He nods his head, looking very unhappy, and turns back to his headset and his console. From where I sit I can see the hold button blinking on his phone, red, very ominous.
Cara says, 'If you need me to find something in the system or you can't get all of the information you need, then come and ask me, but I'm not here just to break bad news to people when you've already worked out they owe us money. Just be firm, concise and get him off the phone, okay? That's it.'
As that does appear to be it, Cara returns to her desk and I go back to what I was doing, which was staring out the window. We're on the 8th floor downtown and have a fascinating view of the roof of a conference centre, which is strewn with a bizarrely varied array of garbage. People who sit on my side of the building spend hours trying to work out what each individual item actually is.
'It looks like a plastic dinosaur head. But it couldn't be a dinosaur head, could it?!'
'I fucking hate this place,' Simon says.