Telephone Abuse

Hi, this is Neil calling with Talk America. How are you doing today?
Where are you calling from?
I'm calling from Talk America. How are you doing today ma'am?
South America?
No, TALK America. Like we're TALKing right now.
I don't know anyone from South America. Goodbye.

That's right. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson after working last summer at Talk America, selling local and long distance service to people, but here I am, back for more. Money talks, unfortunately, and finding a job for 6 weeks is difficult without lying to the company straight-faced when you apply to the company, unless you take a shit job, which is precisely what I'm doing.

So even though I remember the whole spiel and how to work the computers and such, I opted to go through a week's worth of training, since it's essentially $400 to sit in a classroom for a week. We're talking pretty basic stuff here, like teaching people who have never used computers how to point and click. Easy money.

Needless to say that a telemarketing job brings all kinds of weirdos out of the woodwork. Upon my first day of training I encountered a whole host of interesting folks. Sitting next to me in the classroom was a pathological liar who claimed he worked at a tattoo parlor. He certainly had the tattoos to back up his story, but it was pretty obvious that 90% of the shit that came out of this dude's mouth was made up.

In front of me was the thirtysomething comic book nerd. Not five minutes into entering the classroom, he was busy telling everyone about how he used to own a comic book store and how him and two buddies just got a copyright for their pen-and-paper RPG that they're working on. With three kids and no social graces, it's a wonder how this guy ever got laid. Some people shouldn't breed.

There was a guy in his 50s named Chuck. Chuck had a bit of a problem with reading the English language. Now I understand that some people stumble and stutter when reading aloud, but Chuck had a real problem. He had the uncanny ability to remove entire sentences from paragraphs and make up entirely new ones that had nothing to do with what he was reading. Needless to say, he wasn't cut out for the job. He mysteriously disappeared during one lunch break, never to return again. Godspeed Chuck. We barely knew ye.

Rounding out the highlights of the class was the redneck neo-Nazi who sat to my right. On his right forearm was a tattoo of a swastika with Aryan lightning bolts below it. One day on break he told me that he did 6 months for hitting a black guy with his car once. But he's changed, he says. Regardless, I think he may have had some influence in the fact that the only three black people in the training class quit before the week was over. Just maybe.

To kick off the first day of class, my trainer Anthony (a pretty good guy) decided to try to give everyone an optimistic attitude. "Do you know how many people there are in the United States?" he asked rhetorically. "Do you know how many households there are? BILLIONS!"

Damn, if our census is that far off, I'd hate to see how many people really live in China and India.

In my second day in class, while we were on break, a woman in front of me took out an envelope and removed a note and a photograph from it. To my trainer Anthony she said "Can you believe my husband used to weigh 130 pounds?"

"Wow," Anthony replied while looking at the picture. "He looks pretty strong. What does he weigh now?"

"185 pounds," she responded. "I guess that's what happens when you're in jail and you have nothing else to do."

"How long is he in there for?" asked Anthony.

"20 years," she responded. "He killed somebody."

A few days into training, I was outside with the class on break and everyone was chatting and smoking. Everyone in this job smokes, mind you. Myself and my buddy John are literally the only non-smokers out of about 100 workers in the entire establishment. I guess it's impossible to do the job without some sort of mind-altering substance in your system. The pathological liar and the comic book nerd were talking about comic book movies.

"Did you see Van Helsing?" asked the pathological liar to the comic book nerd. "I thought it sucked," he said. "I liked the comic book a lot better."

Now I didn't even see Van Helsing, nor was I even part of the conversation, but I know enough about fucking horrible ass movies to chime in on this one.

"Van Helsing was not based on a comic," I said to the pathological liar. "It was written and directed by Stephen Sommers, the writer/director of the Mummy and its sequels. Universal Pictures saw the movie as an opportunity to revitalize the rights to the classic monster movies the company owned, like Dracula, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, and the Werewolf."

"No," said the pathological liar. "There was a comic book in the 80s. That's what the movie was based on."

Surely at this moment the comic book nerd would back me up, right? I mean, after all, he did own a comic book store. He is writing a pen-and-paper RPG. He does play the MMORPG City of Heroes on his PC. He'd have my back. Right? RIGHT?!

And so he gave his input. "Actually, there WAS a Van Helsing comic in the 80s, but the movie was not based on the comic."

What the fuck? Am I on another planet? Have I lost my mind? I quickly bit my tongue and bowed out of the conversation in order to prevent my head from exploding. But yet, the rest of the day, it bothered me. Was I wrong? Was it actually based on a comic? Was I just letting these people creep into my head?

Of course I got online when I got home and looked it up, and sure enough Van Helsing was not based on a comic. All was still right with the world, for the most part.

And so life continues at the real life circus side-show that is Talk America. As my boss tries to instill a false sense of confidence in me with slogans like "Pitch 'em and switch 'em!" and "Let's make some Illi-NOISE!" while people yell obscenities at me for disturbing them while they're watching Hard Copy, I'll try my best to keep what's left of my sanity intact.

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2003 - 2005
Reverend Hughes