Sunday, February 12, 2006

How Bizarre. How Bizarre, How Bizarre...

I have just had a truly surreal experience. Yesterday, my mother had to be taken to the hospital because -- according to her caregivers at the elder-care facility where she lives -- she was "non-responsive." They take pretty good care of her there, and as her Alzheimer's has robbed her of the ability to communicate even the worst of discomforts, they must try and guess when she might be ailing. They don't dare take any chances, and I am glad of that.

Well, since they couldn't ask her how she was feeling or where she might be hurting, they had to take a battery of different tests. The prosthetic holding her shattered hip together is still in place, she seems to see okay, etc. After ascertaining that they could do nothing more for in at the hospital, they made ready to send her back home.

I ordered an ambulance from one of the services the hospital ordinarily uses. The guy I talked to didn't sound too swift, but as most of the customer service people I get on the phone generally don't, I didn't see it as a portent of trouble. After more than an hour of waiting, we learned that the ambulance company had lost my order and had no idea who my mother was.

Back to the drawing-board. I then called a second ambulance service and re-ordered a ride back to the facility for my mom. By this time, I didn't trust much of anybody. I had a date for the evening to watch the Olympics, but though the ER people were encouraging us to go ahead and take off, I felt I had to take one last precaution. "Do they know," I asked, "the address of the nursing home?"

This was a stupid question. They were nice, and reassured me that the ambulance company gets paid to know stuff like this, but after the fiasco with the first one, they seemed to understand why I would ask. Once again, before we left, I asked if the hospital had the address to my mom's facility, and they, too, said yes. I'm sure I sounded pretty anal retentive, but I have very little trust left in anybody's competence but my own.

A half hour or so later, as we sat in my living room watching the Olympics, we heard a big engine roar up to the front of the house. "I don't believe it," I said, as I got up and headed for the door. "I don't believe it," I murmured again, at the sight of the ambulance sitting at the curb. They were getting ready to unload Mom into my driveway.

"Oh, but she doesn't come here," I informed the standard-issue, hunky-tech dude who was about to wheel the gurney out the back of the ambulance. "She lives at (I named the facility)."

I should, at this point, not have been surprised at anything I saw or heard. But this pisswit actually ARGUED with me about it. As if I didn't know where my own mother lived, or whether she lived with me or not! As if I'd really be paying thirty-five hundred dollars a month to an elder-care facility so she could get the very best in advanced Alzheimer's dementia care, yet have the bad form to actually care whether they bothered to deliver her back there or not!

Un-friggin-believable. I spoiled his evening by expecting him to take her to the right place.

The guy's whole attitude was the typical, inner-twelve-year-old, whiny-poor-me sort of crap I get from young guys all the time. Now, I hate sexism -- have always hated it with a passion -- but the more I have to deal with young men in any sort of customer-service situation, the bigger a female chauvinist curmudgeon I become! While I have no way of knowing his schedule, the torrent of sighing self-pity I unleashed, simply by expecting him to DO HIS DAMN JOB THE RIGHT DAMN WAY, suggests that he must have had a hard day and been at the end of his shift.

Well, I had had a hard day, too. And I am at the end of my patience with infantile garbage like this.

Not that this was to be it for the evening. A short time later, I called the nursing home, trying to make certain my mom had arrived where she was supposed to and was properly being taken care of. Try as I might, I could not get a live human being (or even a dead one). Thirty-five hundred dollars a month, for a facility that can't even put a real person on the phone so residents' families can check on their well-being. How surreal. How surreal, how surreal.

Having, at that point, no other options, I called the emergency room again and tried to get somebody there to see if THEY could track Mom down. I got -- joy of joys -- another youthful male worshiper in the cult of self, who snapped at me because I dared to bother him. "Why ask ME?" he sniveled. "I just got here...I just started my shift. Why don't you call the nursing home?"

Now, my I.Q. is at least eighty points higher than this assclown's, so it scarcely surprises me that he would misdiagnose me as stupid. Stupid people frequently think that they are geniuses, and that everybody else is stupid. Masterfully keeping my temper in check, I informed this imbecile that I had already attempted to call the nursing home -- which was, quite obviously to anybody with active brain-waves, the very reason I was now calling him in the first place. He then, in a properly professionally-surly tone, told me he was going to get somebody else on the line.

Thank you, kind sir. As long as I don't have to put up with you anymore. I got a woman, which means, of course, that I got somebody who could do the job right. She called the facility, tried absolutely every extension she possibly could, and still couldn't get a human being. As she had done all she could (I thought), I thanked her and let her go.

Five minutes or so later, she called me back to say she had called the ambulance company and spoken with the driver. Who assured her that my mother was now safely tucked into her own, little bed at the nursing home. As busy as an emergency room in a large hospital can get on a Saturday night, this lady still made the effort to go above and beyond. Thank God there are still at least a few real customer service people left. Overworked and underpaid as they are, they are, indeed, the Atlases who hold up the earth and keep it turning.

Why do companies hire men to do customer service? (And yes, even an ambulance-hunk is in customer service, as is every employee who represents his or her company to the paying customers.) I spent quite a number of years in customer service, and I've got to tell you, I can count on the fingers of one hand the even-halfway-decent, minimally-competent men I ever worked with on the job.

I wish I had a dime for every time I heard a male coworker deliver an indignant lecture to a customer about the proper way to address him, the properly-respectful tone to use in speaking to him, the right words to address His Highness, etc. It's always personal, and it's always All About Him.

"I've had a bad day," or "You're the tenth angry person I've spoken with," or "Don't blame's not my fault." Or -- most incredibly stupidly of all -- "Don't get mad about it."

A flash bulletin to guys in customer service: most people don't call you unless they're having a problem of some sort. The happy folks are the ones who do not need to call. They don't know who you are from Adam, it isn't about YOU in the first place, and all they want you to do is provide them with a reason to keep sending money to your employer, instead of taking their business (and your job) elsewhere. You are probably the only human being your company enables them to reach, they almost certainly had to hold on for an hour and a half before they were even able to get you, and if you are that totally lacking in basic common sense, nobody should be paying you to do anything but maybe sweep floors and scrub toilets.

Now, we all get ticked-off from time to time. Customer service ain't beanbag, and it can be trying. There have certainly been occasions when I wished I could climb through the telephone wire and give the bozo at the other end an on-the-spot tutorial in good manners. But because my employer could just as easily hired somebody else to do my job instead of me, I resisted the temptation.

Last night, I seriously considered taking a little trip down to the hospital and paying the rude little jerk behind the ER desk a visit. I knew his name, and I damned sure knew just where to find him. As he himself had told me his shift was just beginning, I had plenty of time. But I decided not to, and I had one very good reason why.

I have been in his seat. I have done -- lots of times, and for many long years -- what he has to do.

Sitting alongside other customer service reps, you learn some very interesting things about them. For example, the same young men who felt it was their duty to lecture customers about proper telephone etiquette -- the very ones whose noses got so pushed out-of-joint by the rudeness of some of the callers they had to deal with -- were themselves among the rudest customers whose calls I have ever had the misfortune of overhearing. You couldn't miss them, on their lunch hour or their breaks, making their own calls -- to their banks, to their insurance companies or you-name-it wherever else. It was always difficult to keep from smiling. I couldn't help but wonder at the outraged lectures they would have given themselves.

It's a good thing we gals do most of the heavy lifting in this world, in terms of jobs requiring social interation (i.e. giving a tinker's damn about somebody other than ourselves). The guys seem to be better at bossing us around, making the big decisions, and then cowering in some back office while we take the responsibility for what they have done.

I have not met too many genuinely sexist men. To be fair to them -- and all sterotypes aside -- most men seem to be less sexist than women. And, it seems to me, women seem to be getting more sexist all the time. I wish I could claim, in all cheerful and wide-eyed innocence, that I didn't understand why.

If you insist upon being a whiny, lazy, cowardly, selfish little self-absorbed shit, all the Mens' Movements in the world aren't gonna be enough to cover your ass.


At 12:15 PM, Blogger Marian said...

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