Monday, April 6, 2009

Living without a soul

College - my Sophomore year. I was a Fashion Design major and my roommates were all out-of-their-minds-crazy. Well maybe it was the whole chemistry of the apartment. To say that "We did not get on well" would be an understatement. Apparently during the course of the year, I stole a couple of boyfriends and became bi-polar. At least that's what one of my roommates 'Sarah' said. She was an English major so that must have made her an expert on the subject. But that's not why I'm writing. I feel that it's my duty as a blogger to share my experience of living for a short time without a soul. You never realize how precious it is until it's gone. If you're brave... If you have a strong stomach... If you have a craving to hear about wannabe 70's porn stars, please read on. You have been warned.

It was about 6 weeks into the first semester when Jen, one of my roommates decided to get a job at a local business we'll call "Sell your soul for minimum wage in the evenings" down the street from our apartment. I'm not sure how I got sucked in, but I applied for the job too. I should have done like I did the previous summer and following semester - I should have been a TA and tutor. Instead, I opted for the hellish experience of being a... *gulp* - I have a hard time even now saying the word - a surveyor. Yes. I'm ashamed to admit that I (hanging my head in shame) was one of them.

I would call innocent, unsuspecting people at their homes and ask if I could ask them a few short questions. I can't tell you how many times I was hung up on. Those were the best - they didn't cuss at me.

It all started one cold autumn evening. The sun was already down. Jen and I walked the 1/2 block to the business building where it was located and entered the door. It was quite indistinct - you would generally just walk on by without even noticing it. Once inside the door, you took an immediate right so that you could go up the skinny long stairway. It was about 20 steps of pure dread. Every step you got closer to the top was that much farther from the outside world where people knew and cared that you existed. No one would yell at you or hang up on you outside that door, but once inside, you were a demon. The main office was the call office. It was filled with those old privacy desks they had at libraries. Do you remember those? The kind that had just enough room for a computer and telephone with the tall wood sides to make you feel like you were in an "office". All together, the room housed about 20 desks where soulless, blank eyed zombies in headsets stared at computer screens. It took me weeks to notice the flickering of the bad florescent lights - they fit too well for it to be out of place. On the end of the room, there was a real office - complete with a window so that the supervisors could make sure that no one was daring to hope or lose that glazed over expression.

Speaking of supervisors, we come to one of the most comical parts of the experience. I've long since blocked out his name, but the manager of "Sell your soul for minimum wage in the evenings" was memorable. My first trip up those god-forsaken stairs to apply for that horrid job landed me in and interview with... oh let's call him "Mike." Jen and I were in the same interview. They weren't looking for skill, just souls to sap. He wore his Hawaiian shirt half unbuttoned while his graying brown chest hair escaped out the top with (seriously) a gold chain around his neck. (Retching) I had a hard time concentrating and keeping a straight face while the whole time all I heard was 'bow-chicka-wow-wow" playing in my head. He was completely ridiculous. Maybe he was trying to relate to his college aged victims, I couldn't be sure. I was just grateful for the gold chain that pulled the whole look together. Just think how ridiculous he'd have looked if he... no, I can't make it any better. He was ridiculous.

The other supervisor - we'll call her "Bethany" was the one who did our training. This is where the real soul sucking part came in. There was a part of our training when she mentioned that sometimes people ask how long the survey will take. This is exactly what she said - it stuck with me I was so repulsed. "If it's a 15 minute survey, tell them it'll be 7." Ughhh! Even now, the muckiness of it makes me feel dirty. Another really sleezy thing she told us to do is that we had to mark people down as "call again" even if they told us not to. After a while, people would eventually be marked down as do not call, but only after they'd been called several dozen times. Sometimes the pool of people to call got to be so sparse that I'd get a call in my headset that someone else had hung up with less than fifteen minutes before. I can't blame people for cussing. I certainly learned some new vocabulary, butI didn't test it in my English class.

Before I close this (already) very long post, I'll leave you with possibly the funniest memory gleaned from this horror story. My first day of training again, we were taken on a tour of the "office". Of course we were already familiar with where our temporary Hell would be, but Bethany showed us where the break room was (we were to only purchase food from the vending machines - not bring anything from home - it was probably full of mind controlling drugs), the bathroom, and finally the bookkeeper's lair. Yes, I said lair and soon you'll know why. The call office was on the second floor of this non-descript business building. It had a basement too. Yep they kept her two floors down.

We tromped down a back flight of stairs (hidden, perhaps a special getaway in case the missionaries came to help retrieve the captive souls) to the main floor where we all expected to turn off. Nope, on we continued into the very dimly lit basement. Once again, I'm not kidding - I don't think I could make this up and I have a pretty good imagination - all that reading, you know. As we made our way down into the lair of the bookkepper, the stairs above us were... decorated with... homemade artwork. Little crayon and marker drawings that had happy little sentiments like "Welcome to Hell". Man I wish I'd had a camera - it was something else. I'm sure she thought they were hilarious - and they were in a very creepy, "welcome to my office" sort of way.

In the basement itself, we were introduced to the bookkeeper. A college aged (or slightly older) girl that had certainly spent too much time in the basement making welcome signs. She showed us what she did and repeatedly emphasized the need for accuracy in our soul sapping activities - she had books to keep. Halfway through her very long description of how vital she was to the process, she stopped mid-sentence, and just stared at the wall for about 30 seconds. We all just looked around nervously at each other before she started talking again as if nothing happened. Jen and I didn't know what to make of that, but we certainly discussed it when we got home. I'm sad to say that we probably weren't as nice as we should have been, but we were frankly a little creeped out and needed to lighten the mood. She'll always be "Grunhilda" to me no matter what her real name may once have been.

I hated that job - every time I started getting ready for work I felt like I was having a panic attack, but it's an experience I wouldn't trade for a more pleasant one. Now I know. My soul is definitely worth more than minimum wage in the evenings. I'll work at McDonald's before going back into that again.

1 comment:

Seth and Rachel said...

Good old college days you'll never forget. So I'm totally going to share that story with my students! They think it would be pretty awsome to work there becasue they get to text! And you know to a junior high kid, texting is life. The poor pathetic souls. They will learn. Thanks for sharing:)