30 Sep 2003

Something in the air

I called Mike, also known as Manic Miner, into the Meeting Room today. The smell has not gone away and Janice is getting impatient, “If you haven’t got the balls to deal with it, I have. My team are complaining, it isn’t right. Deal with it!”

It is not immediately obvious, but on close inspection, he is really scruffy. I should have realised it was him all along. His shirt looks like it has been ironed with a brick and trousers are crouchless due to a hole worn between the legs.

Thanks for your suggestions on how to deal with the matter. The air freshener idea has not worked. My team is in a sponsorship deal with Airwick. Tizzy has been spraying the area so often our team has its own hole in the o-zone layer.

The trouble is, he doesn’t speak, he just stares. I opened the session weakly, adopting Wendy’s softly-softly approach, “Hi Mike. It’s a delicate issue. It’s time for some feedback. There’s no easy way to say this … but … well let me ask you … you … what do you think I’m going to say?”

Blank look.

“Well ok. I don’t know if this has been an issue before … clearly, it might not be an issue before or since … there are, how can I put this? Hygiene issues. Yes. There are hygiene issues.”

Blank look.

“You have hygiene issues.”

Blank look. Silence. Not a flicker.

“… Any way, I heard a couple of the girls talking about someone who was really cute …”

Thanks Natalie.

29 Sep 2003

Delhi Belly

For the first time in ages, Call Centre Tony invited me to his confessional in the canteen, today:

“Tony, what do you make of this memo from Bernard, inviting us to this ‘Important Announcement’ on Friday? I reckon The Call Centre is going to be moving to India.”

Tony didn’t look up from the paper. “I bet the quails in Bombay are bricking it.”

“You heard about the Curryoke night then?”

Still reading his paper. “All I heard was Brenda shouting for Huey all night, you were trying to skin a budgie and Ian was playing the air guitar like Marcel Marceau having a wank.”

27 Sep 2003

The Pictures got smaller

Last night was Brenda’s Curryoke night. She appeared at the curry house like Gloria Swanson – a spangled top, a black feather boa, heart shaped sunglasses (it was dark) – she was like a faded starlet stylised by Primark.

For some reason, I thought I’d be daring and show off my curry-stripes by ordering a quail jalfrazzi. Curried quails. Quails in curry.

The wine started to flow and Brenda and Ian got louder and louder.

I attempted to eat my meal, while keeping up with the conversation, by chasing the two, whole quails around the plate with my knife and fork. Brenda loudly said, “It looks like a couple of budgies wrestling in mud.” HONK! HONK! Honk. Honk. HONK! HONK!

People around us looked nervous as she laughed. Half masticated chicken tikka spinning in her mouth like a laundrette on over-drive.

Later we were in the karaoke bar drinking cocktails. Ian switched up his flirting by a few gears, “Do you fancy a ‘Long Hard Screw’?”

Brenda Honk, Honk, and Honked so much she ran to the loos to throw up.

Ian danced like a dad at a wedding, playing air guitar to The Darkness, “I love this. Hard Rock. I like it Hard.”

Brenda got on the stage and sang ‘Like a Virgin’, flossing between her legs with the boa.

Vomit and sequins glittered in the spotlight. My life-coach has lost a bit of credibility. I’ll never think of her in the same light ever again.

25 Sep 2003

Cold Feet

How do you tell someone they smell without causing upset? Nothing prepares you for the task. Perhaps there should be GCSEs in the process.

I’ve noticed that the team have been talking strangely. They are avoiding breathing through their nose.

I contacted Wendy in personnel for advice. “I’m concerned at your allegations. What investigations have you undertaken? You need to explore with the individual possible causes.”

Janice suggested that it was his feet.

Tony was more helpful. “You need to be direct and say something like ‘I don’t know if its your pits or your hole – but yer stink!’”

23 Sep 2003

Smear

The smell is having an adverse effect on relations within the office. Janice pulled me to one side, “You are going to have to do something about him.”

“Him?” I asked.

“Him.” She pointed at Manic Miner on my team. He was digitally exploring his left nostril.

“What about him?” I asked, ignoring the obvious.

“He stinks!” She said in a whispering shout.

Of course it was under my nose all the time!

He continued to explore his nose like a retired gynaecologist, who likes to keep his hand in.

20 Sep 2003

Narnia

“I’ll be able to get into it sir.” Simon, the Craig David looky-likey, volunteered to break into ‘The Cupboard That No One Opens’. He straightened a paperclip and set to work.

Conscious of the recent clamp down on stationery orders, I made a mental note to twist it back into shape when he’d finished.

The smell has reached ‘terminal velocity’ - it’s still bad - but has not got any worse. I am determined to discover source and ‘The Cupboard That No One Opens’ seemed the best lead I had.

Finally, Simon got it open. Inside it was a cornucopia. Every item of stationery you can imagine stacked in neat rows: post-it notes, highlighter pens, super clips, tip-ex (and thinners!), flip chart pens, keyboard wipes and those really good, fine tipped gel-pens that we were banned from ordering months ago.

Within seconds I was like a scouser in a blackout. I filled every pocket and orifice I could stuff things into.

It was like another world. A world without stationery budgets.

I tested the tip-ex thinners, in case it had gone off and was causing the smell. I spent the rest of the afternoon high, jibbering rubbish and attempting to twist the paperclip into its former shape.


19 Sep 2003

Goodfellas

Barney: “Hello my name is Barney. Can I take your name please?”

Customer: “Why. What’s wrong with yours?”

Over a million wise guys are ringing call centres every day.

I decided to take action against the smell and tackle ‘The Cupboard that No One Opens.’ It is one that is in the corner of the office. I feel sure that the source of the stench is there. Tomorrow I will don my marigolds and enter.

17 Sep 2003

Hearsay

Sun Tzu says that you should base your knowledge on facts, not on hearsay and gossip.

Ian came over to see me when Shrek, the IT technician, was installing the messaging software on my PC. “What the hell is that smell?” He asked.

“I know. I Know. I can’t work it out. I think something might have died. A mouse or a rat or something.” I said.

Ian stroked his Darth Maul tie. “Did you know that rats reach sexual maturity at 8 weeks old and have sex up to twenty times a day?”

Is it this kind of talk that turns on the women? He was quite flirty in his approach, using that breathy voice. He continued, “They’re appearing in record numbers. They are everywhere – nasty little critters.”

Shrek grunted, “It’s done.”

“All that sex and they don’t even have chat rooms.” Ian smiled and slithered away.

I was left a bit worried. What was he implying? Was he suggesting that rats would indulge in ‘internet grooming’? I will never read Wind in the Willows in the same way ever again.

I never trusted Ratty’s intentions towards mole as it is.

16 Sep 2003

A public statement by the author

I am becoming increasingly concerned regarding the advertisements that are appearing on this site courtesy of Blog-spot.

Gentle reader, a couple of weeks ago you were being offered an herbal cure for thrush. This week there are adverts promising to cure feminine odour.

As for the rumours that I am getting sponsorship from John West -my lips are sealed -so to speak.
Carpe Diem

The smell has got even more intense.

Sun Tzu says that a warrior should ‘seize the day’ and embrace every opportunity that is presented.

Tizzy has brought in a load of magic trees to hang around the place to disguise it. The area looks like that scene in Se7en.

Tony came over, pushing through the dangling air-fresheners: “I feel like Brad Pitt.”

Barney replied, “So do I. Do you have his number?”

15 Sep 2003

Pencil case

In the sales stream meeting, Brenda presented a paper that she had prepared concerning the stationery budget, “We need to be smarter. I propose that we have a stapler amnesty; I think that people are hoarding them.” She gave a sad, pathetic look to everyone in the meeting. “I think we need to reach the people. They need to understand the impact that the needless ordering of stationery is having on The Call Centre.”

“Personally. I am like Brian Mon-what-his-name-from-the Falklands.” Ian said earnestly. He stroked his tie: it was black with Cartmen from South Park saying, “Kyle’s Mum’s a bitch.” He continued, “I count the paperclips going out and those that come back.”

I laughed.

He was being serious.

13 Sep 2003

When life seems jolly rotten …

The smell has not gone away.

Sun Tzu says that you should ‘Expect the worse’ so I think that something has died under one of the desks.

It is like old sprouts, or the smell of wet dogs mixed with musty teenage bedrooms.

I have been trying to locate it before it gets any worse.

In the meantime, Janice has revived the diet club. She has joined the Gym and is trying to shift some weight. Her confidence has been buoyed after the recent pay-review, it is clear that she is Brenda’s favourite, and she has been adopting a superiority complex ever since.

She came over, sniffing the air like a dappled deer, “what on earth is that smell?”

“I don’t know.” I put my Sun Tzu book away. “Are you going on the Curryoke evening?”

“No. Curry’s too many points. I wouldn’t mind singing though.” She said. “Are you going?”

“I said I would. I want to see Brenda drunk. I understand that she turns into a devil when she has a drink. I’d like to see her dark-side. Ian’s going.”

“He always says that he is going to these things and never turns up. Tony is on a ‘Brixton’ too. You’ll be with Brenda on your own.” Janice smiled. “You could be her next victim!”

I looked at her in horror. “Let’s look on the bright-side, I could be knocked over by a bus tomorrow and not be able to make it.”

Sun Tzu doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.

11 Sep 2003

Catch the Pigeon

Sun Tzu says that you should lead the way. Great leaders are signposts giving clear direction, not weather veins; pointing anywhere the wind blows.

Today I have felt like a pavement. Pecked by a thousand pigeons.

Tizzy asked: “Do we need to fill in a ADS5 if they are not on the electoral roll?”

If you feel the need – then please do.

Bernard sent a terse e-mail: “What have you done with that Sun Tzu book?”

I have become more internally aggressive, but at least with a sense of purpose. The book also makes an interesting coaster for my cup of hot dog sausage brine from the coffee machine.

Joan asked: “What’s an electrical role?”

Switching on the Blackpool lights.

Barney enquired: “Do we need to use a pencil on the ADS5?”

Try it and see what happens.

Everybody: “What’s that smell?”

What is that smell?

Simon, the Craig David looky-likey, must have been farting again.

Sun Tzu never faced wind like the wind I face in the Call Centre.

I’m pointing North-by-North West like Carey Grant chased by crop duster.

10 Sep 2003

Seconds Out

Sun Tzu says that you need to fight. Competition is inevitable so you need to take on your enemies and destroy them in an emotionally detached manner.

Brenda has been drumming up interest in a manager’s night out. She has sprung back to life following a period of calm. “At Glasgow we used have great nights out. They were famous. We’d start the evening with a curry. Follow it up with a few drinks. Then finish the night off with a karaoke. Curryoke. Get it. CURRY oke. Honk. Honk. Honk!”

“Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep.” Ian gave a breathy agreement. “A great night out.” He calmly stroked his Simpsons tie (Homer, sprawled on a settee in his y-fronts, dribbling). “I’ll order transport from my mate Jack. He has an executive coach.”

A date has been set for the night out. I’ll probably get completely leathered, say things I’ll regret, fall asleep in the coach on the way back and dribble.

I need to come up with an excuse so I can stay at home and watch Fame Academy.

On the other hand, it could be my opportunity to strike Sun Tzu style, slice their throats in an emotionally detached manner as they sleep.

“Just wait until I get the mike,” Brenda started to sing, “I will survive!”

Sun Tzu never worked in a Call Centre.

9 Sep 2003

Salt Lake City Limits

Sun Tzu says that strong armies pull together.

People say that John Three on my team is a Mormon, but I’m not sure. What do they look like? Are they tired and shagged out from having too many wives? Toothy and wholesome like the Osmonds? Or do they have septic knuckles from knocking on too many doors? Either way, everyone says he’s a Mormon, so the story sticks.

He is presently competing with John One (Thrush) for being the most annoying member of the team. Barney, the big gay bear, has introduced a hooter to the team. When a sale is made the hooter blows.

John Three hates it. He snapped at Tizzy, “Your toot is going off in my ear. I’m trying to concentrate.”

Barney tutted. “John. I thought you’d be happy to get the horn!”

Sun Tzu never worked in a call centre.

8 Sep 2003

Tony Talk

I have regretted telling Call Centre Tony about the blog from the moment that it left my lips. He has predicted that my openness is tantamount to whistle blowing. If Cathy Gilroy (the Call Centre’s Big Cheese) found out she would arrange a mafia type hit involving horse heads and a tollbooth massacre. At best, the powers that be would make a ‘Dr David Kelly’ like example of me and hound me into submission.

I remind him that I am exercising a fundamental human right.

He just smiles and does a “sleeps with the fishes” routine.

Nevertheless, he has been cock-a-hoop at the response to the recent request for questions for a Tony interview.

DrD: What does Call Centre Tony look like? I have a beautiful female friend who wants to know.

Tony: (snatches the paper out of my hand) Bollocks! (Reads) You see. The only reason people read your shite is because of the kid here. (Grins) Some have said that there is a bit of the oriental in me, so if your mate fancies a Chinese take-away, let me know. I have a look of Brad Pitt.

((Brad Pitt after a car accident where they undertake major reconstructive surgery and base their work on a picture of a fat Harry Potter – I should add.))

Birdman: What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Tony: The people. This is a people business. The people make it an experience. The people and darts. I have convinced Bernard to get a ‘motivational’ dartboard so we can create more of a sales spirit in The Call Centre. Also, I need to improve my game for a tournament in the club. So, Darts and people give me satisfaction. At the moment it is probably more darts than people.

Birdman: Do you believe in the existence of objective reality or parallel universes equal to the number of possible states in which that object can exist, with each universe containing a unique single possible state of that object?

Tony: I work in a call centre. The question has never come up. Do you wear glasses?
Birdman: Have you a favourite sandwich?

Tony: I’m on a Brixton at the moment to lose a bit of Terry before Christmas. When I have a sandwich it is usually a ham and tomato baguette, dry. I have gone off the sandwiches in the canteen since I noticed that the guy who makes them has a thick rim of soil under his nails. I have had pie and chips since then. He can’t get his fingers in those.

((Brixton Riot – Diet. Terry – Weight (as in Terry Waite)))

More will be coming soon …

4 Sep 2003

Talking Shop

Ian and I were in Call Centre Tony’s Canteen Confessional at lunchtime today.

I chatted about the communication project for my contribution to the sales stream today. The next meeting is due later this week. I have been pushing it to the back of my ‘Things to Do’.

Ian gave me some advice. “Make sure you are the gate-keeper for the forum, chat room and instant messaging and it will make all the extra work worthwhile. You’ll get to see EVERYTHING. Bernard will think that the forums will enhance adviser’s ability to fulfil their role. Instead, it is a platform for decadence.”

I hadn’t considered the advantages of snooping on my colleagues until Ian pointed it out. “Is it ok to read other people’s mail?”

“Yep. Yep. Yep. You MUST. It is part of the role. You need to make sure that the facility is not being abused. You can turn a blind eye to some ‘social uses’.” He was getting more breathy and excited. “Nine months after the installation of the software in Glasgow and most of the women were on maternity.”

Call Centre Tony’s Interview will be published on Monday.

3 Sep 2003

Yojimbo

Bernard called me into his office today. He has started to wear a ‘hands-free’ earpiece so he can talk to people and work or wander in his office. “Terry. Terry. It’s Bernard. I have a few bits for you.” He was stabbing at his keyboard with two fingers as he spoke – no doubt it was some terse memo to us asking for increased sales – he raised his eyebrows as I entered.

“Where are you up to with the ‘best practise in practice’ work you were doing for me?” He barked. “I was expecting it yesterday.”

My heart sank. “I’m sorry.” I mumbled. “I can’t remember …”

He raised his hands and pointed to his ear. He started to rummage through a pile of books and files on his desk. They went tumbling over: “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing”, “I’m Ok Your OK”, “The One Minute Manager” and “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.

He put one in front of me while he continued listening to Terry’s excuses in his left ear. He scrawled on a post-it “Read This!”

It was Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”.

He smiled and indicated I could go.

I knew he was developing ideas for expansion. I didn’t realise that it would include marching into Poland.

2 Sep 2003

Frozen Assets

“I have concerns about Susan.” Ian said, tapping his pen on his clipboard. He has been sitting with Tizzy on my team.

“She isn’t very bright is she?” To illustrate the point he found a call on the monitoring system and played it back:

Customer: “I’d love to have a new garden but I don’t want to touch my savings. I have all my money in an ISA.”

Susan: “An icer? Why are keeping your money in the fridge?”

1 Sep 2003

Doing the Do!

Ian from the sales stream is spending the next couple of weeks sitting with people on my team in order to make an analysis of skill gaps and future training needs.

He is the image of sleaze. I checked the ground where he had walked for slime trials.

He is strange looking, one eye is lower than the other; he rests his hands on his pot belly when people are talking; he is ruthlessly sexist; he wears the same black shirt everyday with a different lurid, ‘character’ tie; and the women love him.

Tony loves his stories about women he has had affairs with in The Call Centre. He has been joining us in Tony’s canteen confessional the last couple of days. “Is it true you have been with Brenda?”

“That would be telling,” he gave a knowing smile.

“2002 manager’s conference.” Tony continued to grill him. “While we were listening to the usual claptrap you were …” he raised his fist in the air and blew a raspberry.

Later, I spoke to Janice about Ian and his reputation, and she tried to explain: “I know what you mean about his ‘look’ but he has an x-factor. I spoke to him earlier and he made me go all girly. He has an animal magnetism I can’t put my finger on …” We both looked across to where he was sitting.

He was stroking his Scooby Doo tie furiously.

I can learn from him.