The national crisis is slowing down, its legs are knackered. From my desk, sitting on my padded chair, with arm support and an office depot footrest, all seems calm. The death toll is still over 700 a day, but it’s stopped climbing and the national consciousness is adaptive. As long as the disaster is consistent then we are calm.
The phones still ring every now and then, sometimes friendly voices, sometimes angry ones, but they are always lost. This morning I had an 89 year old retired dancer on the phone. It was her birthday and she was worried because she was going for a walk and a social worker had said she would call her back. She told me about her dancing years, her mother, her garden – which she was very grateful for at this time – and how fond she was of me. Now let me be clear, I thought she was boring as shit. Who the fuck rattles on, on the phone, when they’re worried about missing a call? A bat shit crazy old dancer that’s who. And she was one of the nice ones.
On Wednesday, myself and Port-and-cheese-lady had a call from a lady, furious that her neighbours were making noise all through the day. I think she was chinese and her accent was thick, it was hard to understand exactly what she was saying. Selfish, was the word she kept repeating. She originally phoned through to Port-and-cheese-lady and then hung up, but when Port-and-cheese-lady saw me thrust the speaker away from my ear, she knew she had phoned back. This lady spoke faster than anyone I have ever heard. She showed a total disregard for content, getting as many syllables out was the name of her game.
In the end we patched her through to someone in the construction department and hoped she would not call back.
Everyone here now appears tranquil in their functionality, there is something a little dehumanising about technological humanity made efficient. The small talk has decreased and thank christ for that! At last everyone has embraced their work station and chat has been filtered down to a greatest hits collection. Only the best childhood anecdotes, funniest phone calls and naughtiest jokes hang in the air.
Sounds quite nice doesn’t it? That’s why the bosses have decided to change things.
Less people are calling, so the call centre managers have announced we must call them. I knew it would happen eventually, they couldn’t allow me to just sit here reading Piano for Dummies and writing my blog, they have to utilise my vocal chords and finger tips. Yes, before you ask, I have volunteered to help in a crisis centre and now I resent the workload they have presented me. That’s what a true hero does.
Never mind those old busy-bodies at Age UK, they’re just helping out their own. The oldies helping the slightly-older-oldies. Or worse, sycophantic sons and daughters, seduced by inheritance and hegemonic family structures. Pillars of the community. Well, take a closer look at your community, it’s shut down.
Yes it is me that is the true unsung hero. They’re too busy singing their own praises or having them sung and if you enjoy your role in a charitable enterprise, can it really be charity? I hate it here, I’d rather be at home playing my keyboard in my pants, slightly drunk before midday, eating ham out the packet. But I turn up every day. That’s charity.
So I am resentful of the fact that I will now be busier each day. And to feel any other way would invert the generosity and mutate it into greed.
It’s now Saturday morning and I have made thirty outbound calls. Only ten of those answered. I’ve been stripped of my cape and emailed a spreadsheet. Superman doesn’t knock on doors asking if everything is okay and Batman doesn’t send emails to check no one has fallen down.
The drama is subsiding, normality is creeping back in, a vine tightening around my leg. I just wanted to do fuck all and be called a hero. Now I’m working my socks off, being set daily targets and given three minutes for a bathroom break. If you google ‘call centre worker’ do you know what comes up? ‘Call centre worker found dead’ and ‘Call centre worker depression’.
If coronavirus inspires a new wave of national solidarity and we all swear to stand together, as one. When we discourage greed and wealth and celebrate helping others, can we please just remember I did 40 hours a week at a covid19 call centre, all through the lockdown. I’m up for helping out, but equality means equality. I want Richard Branson in here, explaining to Barbara that despite being 207 years old, she doesn’t qualify for the food parcel because she only has cancer in one of her lungs and as of now she’s only lost nine pints of blood. And bring the great liberal hero, Prince Harry here, he can fuck off out the royal family and have a pat on the back but he still has to serve his time in the call centre. Everyone has to do a couple of hours here, maybe just a day or two. You can read the news, write a song, raise a child, join a gym, but in your spare time. Only after you’ve done your time here. Everyone.