Freedom from the Headset

I was looking at the Avaya phone on my office desk and I was reminded of my old job as a Call Center Agent. It was not an easy job, mind you. So I’m posting an article I wrote way back 2007 after I, ehem, graduated from a Call Center job. READ:

I admit it. I went AWOL (pronounced as EY-wol by my TL and never knew where it came from) from a leading Call Center in Eastwood City, Libis.

Aside from the lure of money and the shadow that was constantly dogging me here in Naga, I gave in to the prospect of working as a BPOE (Business Process Outsource Employee). Looking back to the process of employment, I realized that it was not easy as promised by some Job Fair guy or the seductively chaste web pages of some companies. It turned out to be my 6th sorrowful mystery; you know what I mean and there’s no need to elaborate, just imagine any of Mel Gibson’s recent movies.

I was fortunate enough to have been chosen as one of the 5 who made it for the day out of 30 plus interviewees, and then was told I need to attend a month-long training for the account I was employed in.  During training, I discovered the call center-invented word ‘petiks’ which has the literal connotation of “walang ginagawa,” very popular for the trainees and later on while I was on the floor and taking-in calls, the most sacrosanct and much anticipated word. Used loosely: “petiks lang pare, walang calls.”

Life with the headset is life with Mussolini or Hitler or worst, living with RULES – unbreakable, immutable and unmindful of Marx’s popular maxim of ‘The law is made for the people and not the people for the law.’ You have to log-in exactly, by the minute or else you lose some much needed moolah (cash cash cash!), there is also a ton-load of possible infractions you can get just by forgetting some spiels or lines like “Thank you for calling (name of the company)” or if you’re doing an outcall, “This call may be recorded for quality purposes.” Forget those lines and your busted big time. And a LOT of other infractions blah blah!

Concerns about security and possible accidents while reporting to work at 2am or 3am has also been hard-wired in my mind. It settles in every inch of the cerebral cortex that you virtually remember all those long-forgotten childhood saints that you’ve read in the Hagiography or The Lives of the Saints. Walking in Cubao, Q. C. at 1am is definitely not a walk in the woods. The experience can only be described as akin to Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. My past was constantly swimming before my eyes each time I struggle to go to work, like as if each step was the last (but of course I forgot to mention my tendency to over-react.)

The lack of sleep is a persistent companion. I sleep for more than eight hours a day, but it was not enough. I was a sleep-walker and I contracted the deadly disease of lethenomia where I forget names, ahhm nah, this has been an old pathos.

Lack of sleep can be funny sometimes. I tend to sleep in the middle of conversations or calls.  I actually have this one caller that I asked permission to be put on hold for 2 minutes, the next thing I knew she hung-up and I discovered I was sleeping for about 10 minutes already and the drool on my workstation was a new-found Philippine lake that I named after my caller, Mrs. Pilkington.

Then it came to the day when I decided I must return to the daylight and shed my nocturnal aswang wings. It was the realization that I was wasting precious time, that what I was pursuing was money and not, well, happiness – that the initial impetus for my work was escape from poverty and the shadowy prospect of my future. I recognized a deeper need. And it was way beyond finances or names. It was a pursuit for something that completes rather than depletes, may it be energy, effort or dreams.

I never tsk-tsk my friends or total strangers who want to work as a BPOE or as agents in Call Centers. I cannot, of course, fathom their desires for financial freedom or stability at an exceedingly hefty cost; I’ve been there. Just go, discover the life of the AVAYA or the MANUAL-IN or the God-given ‘PETIKS.’

As for me, a friend counseled: it is never too late to become the person that I might have been.

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