Stretching tense neck muscles and blinking strained eyes, she glanced at the clock on her PC.
11:55. Almost lunchtime. Then another five hours. Thank God it’s Friday.
Her call center cubicle wasn’t that bad. She had a window now, and hers was the most-coveted cubicle in this section of the building. The jealous looks lobbed her way when Mr. Edwards announced the new seating arrangement made her bite her inside lip until she tasted red.
The inhabitants, her colleagues, would do anything for a glimpse of sunlight within those cement walls. Passive aggression, bribes, favoritism. All were employed. They wanted relief from the garish fluorescence and time off the godforsaken phones. Customers with their endless prattle about self-created issues and unsolvable problems.
She had chewed through an entire box of penciltops her first two weeks. After that, she took to her cuticles and they bled, small drops of red dotting her pad of paper with the company’s logo perched at the top, like a carrion bird. On the pad, she penned a note: Buy pencils with bigger erasers.
Outside the precious window squirrels scampered through the landscaping, tails raised and twitching. Verdant variegated vines lifted leaves high, in search of sun. And big bushes, trimmed every Monday by the grounds crew, burst riotously out of their tidy human-rounded shapes. Nubile nature was having a party and she wasn’t invited. She was desperate for an invitation.
She glanced at her teammates. A few stared into space. Robert, preoccupied with the status of a customer’s account, sat with his head in his hands. “Yes, Mrs. Fowler. I understand you’re having this issue, and we’re very sorry for the inconvenience. We’re working to resolve it as quickly as possible,” he said into his mouthpiece. “Yes, Mrs. Fowler. I understand you’re having this issue, and we’re very sorry for the inconvenience. We’re working to resolve it as quickly as possible.” Four cubemates, headsets at the ready, played online games or checked Facebook while they waited for the dreaded beep announcing a Valued Customer calling.
Even Edwards kept checking his watch and fiddling with the TPS reports. Picking them up. Setting them back down. Picking them up. Was he even working? Why did he own a watch, when there was a clock on every wall of the call center? And yet another timepiece on every cell phone in the place. He had a cell. She watched him play Angry Birds on it from his third coffee until Robert threw his headset on the floor promptly at 4:24 p.m.
Defying authority, she reached into her drawer and pulled out her phone.
A text! A message from outside the window: Taking dogs for walk. Beautiful outside!
Close enough. Edwards will gripe about clocking out early, but I don’t care.
She punched in the computer’s clockout code. Then trudged to the blue-painted cement breakroom to eat her ham and cheese.
published 27 February 2013