I had to call Bell the other day. It’s one of my least favourite things to do. Second only to calling the bank, though they are neck and neck. I realize I’m not alone in my disdain for the corporate giant who enjoys a monopoly in many parts of the country and whose idea of customer service does not make any grade. I usually start each conversation with the following words – I’m going to try to remain calm, but I can’t promise anything. It’s a caveat, a warning. I went through the regular twenty-three menus and then listened to some tinny music while they finished with other customers. It took a little more than an hour and a half from start to finish. I was still reasonably sane at the end of it. Reasonably. And I got a new perspective of working from home.
Diana was the first to take my call. She had a barking dog as a co-worker, barking so loudly I had a hard time making out her words. I imagined the dog had taken the call and was wearing down a complaining customer. Diana and I discussed Bell’s over-billing at great length and though she was very polite, as was I, Diana wasn’t going to budge from her position. She had a script she was following, and I think she thought of it as her lifeline. I did the math for her and was channeling my mother’s no-nonsense voice that I never quite mastered. The dog continued to bark, not relenting to whomever she was barking at. Diana went away and left me on hold while she went in search of someone else who might wear me down. I doodled while waiting. I’m not much of an artist. I think I already knew that, and it made me think of John Jankiewicz and his artistic wizardry when were kids at Alberton Central. I waited some more. She came back and said some indistinguishable words and was gone. As I shouted hello, hello into the phone, Eric came on the line. Eric, too, was working from home or in a zoo because I could hear a rooster crowing non-stop and I had to work hard not to laugh. Really hard. I shared the sad saga of Bell’s over-charging with Eric while the rooster sang his song. Maybe the rooster was on the phone with some other unfortunate soul who had been passed down the chain of Bell employees. I pictured Eric under a palm tree on some exotic beach, the waves crashing in front of him, his laptop on his extended legs, his toes wiggling in the sand, while hens scurried here and there, the rooster warning predators to mind their manners. I wondered if I had fallen asleep and was dreaming this entire scene. I wasn’t. The barking dog was real. Eric was real. The cockle-doodle-dooing rooster was real. The beach et al was imagined.
Eric and I worked through the math again. He complimented me on my mathematical skill. I credited Mr. Hickling. Eric confessed he wasn’t very good at math and could only apply percentages as I tried to explain ratios to him. I was going to ask how he happened to end up in the billing department if math wasn’t his strong suit, but I kept quiet on the subject. We worked it out and came to a compromise. I thanked Eric for his assistance, and we wished each other well and went on with our respective day. Final score: Bell Canada 65,438 Wendi 1.