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long distance epiphany


you know the phone calls we often get
the kind you either hang up or wind up
as soon as you hear their accented voice
you get a second to make your choice
but you must never respond in the way
they want for that would be surrender
to the full force of foreign telemarketers
who invade our privacy disturbing our
slumbers with unsolicited modulation

one called me just before tea last night
claiming hastily that he wasn’t selling
anything but wanted to ask me for my
opinions for a short consumer survey
and in that moment I decided to play
as I had nothing better to do but wait
for tea and flex my wit and repartee
at the expense of some poor sod from
India who was only earning a crust

he started by asking if I was married
that’s not an opinion, that’s a fact
so I won’t answer as it’s irrelevant
right right ok I’m sorry he laughed
and asked another open ended question
you’ve done it again that’s fact not
an opinion you really should tell
your manager to rewrite them all
that’s when we started really talking

the mechanics of consumer survey
were cast aside as he told me of his
yearning to learn better English and
of the subjects he was studying in
college but I think that what engaged
his talkative good nature the most
was when I guessed that he was in
New Delhi and Punjabi was his native
tongue and we talked like old friends

the conversation continued comprising
of his inquisitive questioning and avid
attention to my articulated answers
which he absorbed like a month old
sponge left outside as the rain begins to
fall and I told him much of myself
and family and my life and he told me
of his but eventually he had to go
but now I know these callers are just
people
like
me

<<  >>

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  1. March 26, 2011 at 00:04

    Yes, they are. And he will probably get fired if “they” play back the taped conversation (as most of them are taped) for diverting from the script.

    Like you I hate those marketing calls too. I’m on the “Do Not Call” register, so I am supposed to only get fund raising calls from organisations that manage to be have themselves exempted fromt he “Do Not Call” restrictions.

    Even though I hate the calls, I am well aware these people are just trying to earn a living. Like any of us.

    🙂

    • March 26, 2011 at 00:19

      The calls sometimes make for an interesting interlude, but this one was just surreal. About two thirds of the way through he even said he had to go (sounded like someone was talking to him in the background) but he would call me back in a few minutes. And he did! The onversation carried on as described for several more minutes before he had to end the call again but he said he would call me again the following evening because I was so nice..but he never did so perhaps he was fired. I hope not 🙂

  2. March 26, 2011 at 04:16

    I’m glad you had a nice conversation. I’m sure he hates making the calls as much as we hate receiving them. I try to remember that and I’m always extremely polite, but why do they always make these calls as soon as my family sits down to supper?

  3. March 26, 2011 at 09:17

    we would all probably be happier if we remembered the other person was … another person

  4. Silvertongue
    March 27, 2011 at 00:21

    I can relate to this since I used to be a contact center agent as well. BEAUTIFUL handling! Great job.

  5. March 27, 2011 at 03:22

    I worked at a call center when I was in high school for exactly one day. Then I quit. I was quite good at it, and it sort of freaked me out.

  6. sparrowsong
    March 27, 2011 at 22:18

    Fabulous poem. We do often forget that people are people.

  7. mangoesntangoes
    March 28, 2011 at 20:18

    This is great! I completely understand because I have had my share of dealings with payments services in India and the Philippines. I have tried your approach and maybe the timing was wrong, but the people weren’t in having a pleasant converstaion with me….imagine that – even though I originally was from there. But thank you for reminding me that yes, these call centers do have people who have dreams, questions, fears and most of all they have heart just like we have in the states.

  8. May 6, 2011 at 10:42

    1. great photograph
    2. im an indian. when i saw this photo i thought “oh great! one more foreigner dude will now tell me what my country and people are like!” without even reading it. after reading it, hated myself for thinking so.
    3. i used to hang up on these calls, mercilessly, every single time. hated myself for that too.
    so, not just good poetry – though provoking and inspirational too.

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