Monday, January 11, 2010

Reverend Joshua versus The Crazy (Part One)

[Editor's note: Original references to whoever it was that I worked for have been changed to "Crazyhouse Office" due to legal threats detailed in Part Two.]

Crazyhouse Office was not a normal workplace environment where experiences common to many members of the workforce require no elaboration. A penny-pinching boss that cuts out stocking the break room or an idiot co-worker breaks the printer trying to remove a paper jam – these are things anyone can understand on their own merits. Not here. Aside from my laziness, the hardest part about finishing this was that most incidents demanded a full explanation.

There was a lot of rewriting, too. Every paragraph eventually turned into a word salad of twists and turns and run-on sentences. The final draft is probably the fourth revision; I’d estimate at least ten- thousand words went in and seventy-four hundred came out. If there is any part of this entire tale that you don’t understand, feel free to ask for elaboration. If there is any part of this entire tale that you don’t believe to be true, just wait until the lawsuit. Finally, and two months behind schedule, I give you a story in three ridiculous parts: Reverend Joshua versus The Crazy.

In The Beginning

Just like the rest of the country, Brooklyn wasn’t the easiest place to find a job in early 2009. Most of what I saw were awful desperation jobs, door-to-door sales trying to trick people into signing up for programs that allegedly “save money” on utilities. It’s easy to spot this bullshit, because major corporations like Comcast pay people decent money to sit inside climate-controlled buildings to call people with legitimate offers of savings and upgrades. And I’m fresh off the boat from Tennessee, I’ll be damned if I’m walking the streets of Brooklyn with no idea where I am or whose door I’m knocking on.

There was, however, a promising ad I kept seeing on Craigslist for a call center in DUMBO: the highest paying call center in America, recession-proof because they take work from other companies when those companies downsize. The ad focused on the Crazyhouse Office’s very laid-back atmosphere with an emphasis on not tolerating racism or homophobia, plus a couple of cats roam freely around Crazyhouse Office and take precedence over employees and any possible allergies. I sent my resume and placed a follow-up call the next day; the person I spoke with said they would send a note to the HR department. I saw the ad again a week later and again I sent my resume and placed a follow-up call the next day; this time I was told that they were not hiring. The following Monday I saw the ad a third time, posted at noon on for an Open House at 3PM the same day because they needed to hire immediately.

I walk into the office and introduce myself to the woman at the front desk. She isn’t an employee, so she directs me to another woman a few feet away. Before I can speak with the actual employee, a man walks up to me and says that he will guess my name. I don’t remember what he guessed - Gary or something, damned if I remember - but he wasn’t even close, so he introduces himself as Michael and begins the interview. He starts by explaining that Crazyhouse Office is a Virtual Office that provides reception, secretarial, and mail drop services to companies that want to reduce expenses or cannot otherwise afford office space and/or employees. It is largely a straight-forward call center, except that you handle multiple clients and are expected to be familiar with varying procedures across all accounts.

Michael further explains that the inability to fully research every prospective client occasionally results in scam artists and other unsavory characters perpetrating frauds of varying sorts. In order to protect employees from enraged victims of dishonest clients, employees are required to use pseudonyms on the phone and the mail drop location is not the same as the call center location. People victimized by the clients will never know the real name or location of the operator or operators they spoke with. However, Michael refuses to allow employees to refer to one another by their real names while on the calling floor, so everyone only knows one another by their pseudonym. And because the mailing address is the suite adjacent to Crazyhouse Office with a sign on the door that says “NO ENTRY - USE OTHER DOOR AT [CRAZYHOUSE OFFICE SUITE NUMBER]” with an arrow pointing to the front door of the office, any enraged victim with murderous intent will be directed to the office where they will ask for a pseudonymous person who is only known to other employees by their pseudonym.

The interview continues as Michael looks at my resume and sees that I have a great deal of experience with phone jockey work. He then tells me that he doesn’t like to hire men because they don’t handle irate calls very well. I note that I’ve held several phone jobs without issue and can handle irate calls very well, which was apparently the magic phrase to overcome his highly-illegal gender-based hiring preferences, because then he asks when I can start.

As Michael introduces me to the rest of the office he asks me what my political views are. I’ve just moved to New York, one of the most socially and fiscally liberal states in America, from Tennessee, one of the most socially and fiscally conservative states in America and it did not occur to me that admitting that I was a liberal who voted for Obama would be a terrible, terrible mistake.

Michael tells me that electing Obama is the worst mistake this country has ever made. Michael says that he is liberal himself, but not a Liberal, but also not a Conservative, because he doesn’t like either Democrats or Republicans, because he “doesn’t buy the bullshit.” It sounded as retarded spoken aloud as it does written out here.

As he took me around the office and introduced me to my new co-workers he expanded on his view of the current political landscape, predicting that Americans would be so sick of Obama’s liberal agenda by 2010 that they would vote Republicans back into a majority in both Houses of Congress but Obama would refuse to seat the new Congress and there would be an all out armed revolution.

We return to the front desk where he introduces me to the woman that doesn’t work there, Liz, who it turns out was hired just before I arrived. She was at the front desk (normally occupied by a secretary) reading Michael’s personal blog about whatever paranoid right-wing conspiracy bullshit Michael was up on at the time. Michael says that Liz is also a libertarian like he is who “doesn’t buy the bullshit” and admits to both of us his concern that Obama is going to come after him personally because Michael was personally involved in the investigation that uncovered that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, and that the birth certificate issued and certified by the State of Hawaii was not only a fake but that anyone who wants a Hawaiian birth certificate can get one from the Internet. This too sounded as retarded spoken aloud as it does written down.

I didn’t bother to mention the birth announcement from the Honolulu Register published days after Obama’s birth nor the fact that any state that freely issues birth certificates for anyone who wants one would certainly require the intervention of the United States Senate in order to satisfy the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution seeing as a birth certificate is the most important document a citizen can possess.

Michael continues to harangue us with batshit-insane political rants for about 10 or 15 minutes and I don’t even remember how that ended except that I was suddenly riding the F Train home concerned with the very real possibility that I had accidentally joined a cult – and I start tomorrow.

Training Day

Training initially involves studying the various states and time zones of the United States, which are generally things that should be learned in elementary school and I was pretty sure that this was a waste of time and money until later on when a co-worker thought Mexico was a state. Regardless of the value of this exercise, it would be great if it was at the starting hourly pay rate, but training is paid at a flat-rate of fifty dollars per day. Michael emphasizes that training can take anywhere from three days to two weeks, depending on how quickly you pick up the instructions. I spent seven weeks training to phone jockey for Cingular and that was handling clients for one major corporation; Crazyhouse Office has hundreds of clients and I can be on the phone in three days? I don’t see a problem with this.
After a few hours “studying” the various States and their Time Zones, I am given a quick overview of the calling station software and directed to study some accounts. No real direction and/or objectives are given: just study the accounts and at some point someone with experience will show me how to further use the software and the equipment. They will do this when they have the opportunity to stop taking calls; unfortunately there is very little opportunity for anyone to stop taking calls because the office is critically understaffed. After someone found the time to show me how to use the software and equipment, I was again left alone to “study” accounts. Years of experience with phone-based jobs, coupled with not being retarded, allowed me to pick everything up quickly and I was on the phone full-time after three days.

It takes about 45 seconds of speaking with Michael to learn that he is capable of coherent conversation unrelated to Obama/the Socialists/the Marxists’ secret plan to destroy Capitalism/America/the World for a maximum of about 45 seconds. Fortunately it turns out that when you start on the phones full-time, he doesn’t really bother you. I also learned that no one else in the office, aside from Liz, cares about his nonsense. Everyone just nods and smiles and hopes he goes away; this was quite the relief, but I made the critical error of thinking that he will fade completely into the background.

“Crazy Man Michael”

I was initially assigned to a seat by a window; Michael likes to keep the office relatively cool, so he opens the window for fresh air. The cold weather here lasted fairly well into May, so Michael asked if I was okay with sitting by the open window; I said that I was and that I like a cool environment myself. I made the mistake of continuing with small talk by noting that I had just moved to Brooklyn from Tennessee and, while I do like the cool weather, it was kind of depressing that the weather had been so shitty here in New York at the same time the weather back home was mild and dry. This gives Michael an opportunity to let me know that Global Warming is a hoax and here’s how he knows: Newsweek printed an article in the 1970s about some scientists who were concerned about Global Cooling. He pulled up his blog and, from there, a scan of the article which he insisted that I read.

After I read the article, Michael asked what I thought about it. I pointed out that regardless of whether or not the Earth’s temperature is rising as a result of natural climatological cycles or man-made activities, current Global Warming theories are not invalidated by the existence of previous theories that suggest cooling instead of warming. I didn’t bother to mention that the Global Cooling concerns came from a small group of scientists that had misinterpreted a very small amount of data which had long since been debunked or that what little media exposure Global Cooling received at the time was largely a result of standard media sensationalism. Likely expecting some Al Gore-style facts and analysis response that he could counter with more gibberish, Michael didn’t know how to process a rebuttal that discounted his premise entirely and wandered away silently.

Michael’s concern about the “lies of Global Warming” extended to the business itself, as indicated by a press release Michael put out trumpeting the fact that Crazyhouse Office had turned down a potential client who raised funds and awareness for Global Warming due to Global Warming being a hoax. However, he once spent thirty minutes arguing in favor of Evolution with his assistant, so clearly Science is not Michael’s enemy. Amusingly, Michael wasn’t even able to properly argue on behalf of Evolutionary Theory, but I imagine the intricacies of macro- and microevolution elude anyone who thinks Obama is planning to deputize AmeriCorps volunteers as his own private, domestic army. The kind of hippies that join AmeriCorps wouldn’t touch a gun if you taped a bag of pot and incents to it, but certainly Obama will have them running around enforcing orthodoxy.

Michael’s paranoia regarding the Federal Government has driven him to embracing all of the poorly-thought out Libertarian/Neoconservative viewpoints from Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and the rest of the far-right Tea Bagging fringe that lost their goddamned minds when the Scary Black Man With The Funny Name was elected President. He subscribes to theories alleging that the Federal Government has created internment camps for domestic political dissidents under FEMA, a claim which goes back to the early days of the Clinton Administration. Michael repeatedly charges that President Obama is a socialist trying to destroy capitalism and is at the same time controlled by Wall Street financiers. Michael demanded that anyone who received the Swine Flu vaccine let him know so that he can stay away from them because the government is trying to killing citizens with either the Swine Flu or the vaccine or both. I will give Michael credit for one prediction: he claimed some months ago that Obama would declare the Swine Flu a national emergency. He also predicted that Obama would force everyone to take the vaccination. He was also outraged that the Swine Flu vaccine contained live germs, which is generally how vaccination works.

His social skills are greatly retarded in the clinical sense of the word; he doesn’t seem to have the ability to differentiate between what is and is not appropriate behavior, especially in the workplace. To a large degree his inability to understand appropriate behavior isn’t even regarding what most people would consider morally offensive so much as the wrong time and place. Michael was storming around the calling floor one morning, upset about something Obama did or didn’t do, repeatedly bellowing “this President is dogshit.” Later that same day, Michael reprimanded an employee for saying “fuck” too loudly because “the callers might hear it.” In fact, Michael does most of his interoffice communication by storming around the calling floor, bellowing instructions to people who should be focused on speaking with callers, rather than using email or Instant Messenger.

Michael’s paranoia leads to him running what I assume is an entirely legitimate business like a Mafia front. I uncovered the Global Warming press release as I was doing Google searches to learn more about my employer, who used an entirely different name on the press release as he does for running Crazyhouse Office. Michael would turn up with a third name later in the story. Crazyhouse Office actually operates under two different names with a payroll under an entirely different company registered in the state of Florida and at one time had an office in Nevada that Michael never mentioned.

What Michael knows about the imaginary world doesn’t translate well to Crazyhouse Office; he rarely seemed familiar with much about any of our clients, call volume, or the constant need for new equipment. The best example of Michael’s poor familiarity with what actually goes on with the office is when he hired too many people in response to a temporary spike in call volume. The call volume was for a client that was working on a Federally-mandated deadline, after which they would no longer need Crazyhouse Office’s services. But all Michael knew was that call volume was through the roof, so he frantically hired eight new employees, four of which would start the following week; the remaining four would start two weeks later. There was not enough equipment for the first group to go live when their training was complete, so they received an extra week of “training” while Michael took the opportunity during the downtime to force both classes of new hires to watch online videos explaining President Obama’s Secret Plan to Destroy the World in great detail.
Once the first class took the phones it became apparent that call volume would not require the office to retain half of the new hires, so Michael fired the entire second class. Instead of just admitting that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing, he made a big production of telling the people he terminated that The office was being forced to downsize because of a new tax that President Obama had just signed into law and then went so far as to inform one of the veterans that he was also going to have to fire some of the people who had just started. I assured my coworker that Michael was full of shit; accordingly there was no tax that had been signed into law nor were any of the first class of new hires fired.

Continued in Part Two!


Ishy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nate said...

Successful "The" Office?

Michael ... Scott?

I must see this individual's blog! Please send me that, on the email tip.

This is absolutely the best work story ever. I think your boss might have been the one who shot Captain America.

Rev. Joshua said...

It's coming, don't you worry. The entire story is finished, so no blue balls here. I originally planned to reveal the pseudonym I used in the first part, but that paragraph was re-written so I'll reveal it here: I took calls under the name "Nate". They give you a list of names to choose from, so I picked Nate as a tribute to our Founder here at Science Gone Mad.

Nate said...

That is fantastic. I feel honoured, even if it means that I could be stalked down by an enraged victim of dishonest clients.

Ron said...

Ok Reverend, I admit that you had a worse boss than I did. You are correct and I claim my five pounds.

Rev. Joshua said...

Yeah, one of the upsides to that job was almost always being able to claim any "worst day" awards. Buck and Jake both had Tweets one day about their shitty days - given Buck's profession and the stupidity of the people Jake deal with, it was a good bet their days were indeed shitty - but I was the winner. It was the day I found out about what Liz' claimed I had done.