February 26, 2018

help desk

Five years ago, somebody asked me where I'd like to be in five years.  Trump was just some asshole somewhere, so "as far away as possible" didn't come to mind.  I didn't have much in the way of career ambition, since my computer stuff was still in the "aggressively tinkering" phase.  I shrugged and said, "Dunno.  Happy right here."  The idea of working in a tech support call center wouldn't have occurred to me, and if asked to consider it, I would have laughed while discreetly pissing myself from fear.  Never mind being unqualified ... there would be all of those people to contend with, and I wouldn't know what to tell them, and they would get mad at me.  I have a Ph.D. in conflict avoidance.  Hang on --

[whips up fake doctorate]

Okay, no, seriously, I have a Ph.D. in conflict avoidance:

Fight or flight is my mastery.  People consult me on the subject of conflict avoidance and I give seminars on the subject and write scholarly articles.  I'm that good.  I'm that dedicated.  Remember me telling Barkbox that my dog was dead so they wouldn't try to talk me into continuing the subscription?

Working on a tech help desk would be, I thought, like wading into a swamp full of alligators who wanted to argue and blame me for everything and get hostile and ask to speak to my manager.  Only then would they mangle and devour me, out of compassion.

It's complicated, how I found myself here in this chair, wearing these headphones with a mic.  There was a zig-zag of tiny career moves within the same organization and then here I was, in a haze of trepidation and that period of haven't-adjusted-to-new-job.  I was 84.7% sure it was a mistake, taking the position.  

After a few months of it, I was astounded to find that I fucking love my job.

I love everything about it.  The people on the other end of the line are persons because I speak to them individually.  The thing where computers and programs and other various bits of technology are terrified of my aura extends through phone lines, even over VOIP.  So does that thing where I just figure things out without knowing how.  I get this rarely broken string of people whom I've been able to help, and they aren't shouting for my supervisor.  They're grateful and kind and offer up that wonderful small talk that floods my well of social fulfillment.  It's instant gratification meets connecting with all kinds of persons.  I eat it up.

I've talked to four mean people in three years.  That's unbelievably few parts per million.

I mostly help people reset their passwords, but I enjoy repetition, so that's a benefit.

Throw in having the grooviest boss in town.

There are five of us (it's a small help desk, and highly specialized).  When we're not on the phone, we curse, not as flagrantly as I do at home, but like that same sailor who maybe got around to sobering up and shaving, but is still a sailor to his core.  We trash out and string it together and pretend to hate everything.

We do this because when the phone rings, we're then able to pick it up and be nice and mean it.  There has to be balance in our little universe.  

We mean it even when we have to keep a straight face and say, "Have you tried turning it off and back on?"

We mean it even when we say, "Turn off your Caps Lock key and type your password again."

We mean it even when the person on the other line ... "has other talents," as one co-worker says.

We mean it even when someone has clicked a link in an e-mail they received telling them that Bank of America is about to withdraw $3,147.26 from their account and that must CLICK HERE to contact them immediately to confirm, and that person has never had an account with Bank of America to begin with, but they've clicked anyway and introduced a nasty virus into our network that takes days to eradicate.

I've been given the official designation of Class - er, Help Desk Clown.  If a snide remark is to be made under one's breath, doing so is part of my job description.  Everyone waits for it.  (If I don't make one, they know it's a down day on my mood chart and they take up the slack.)  This might be because of my twisted sense of humor, or it might be because of my variegated lexicon of foul language.  I have other talents.

I brought in this enormous stainless steel spoon to live on my desk, the kind you would use to stir a big cauldron of Brunswick stew for a church youth group fundraiser.  Its nickname is The Spoon.  Its full name is The Shit-Stirring Spoon.  The English would say it's for "taking the piss."  If one of us is feeling punchy and starts something, by bringing up a sore subject or tossing out an inflammatory remark, or just by tempting fate, then they get The Spoon. 

It's usually in my possession.

The best thing?  I rise early and drive to work each morning knowing that I will put my heart and being into my job, and that at the end of the day, not a syllable or mouse click will have helped some corporation make a profit.  I could make more money outside of the public sector, easily.  I can't think of much that would be more depressing than that.  I'm more motivated to grow and improve professionally by the intangible benefits here than I would be if I were chasing a bag of money out there.  You can't buy happiness, they say.  But you can plow and sew and harvest it without a penny in your pocket.

My energy and talents are spent helping in any way I can, and the profit is re-invested in other persons, the mighty and the lowly.  I grease the cogs so they can keep moving.  It's a behind-the-scenes role, my favorite place to shine.

And my second-favorite place to cuss.

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