O. Guy Morley
February 14, 2020
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
It was Serena’s first day as a customer service representative at a large on-line store. The first call she received was a request for refund. She followed the company procedure faithfully. At the end of the process, the caller thanked Serena and made a weird comment.
“You have a very soothing voice.”
“Thank you. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
“Oh, no. Ah, sort of. Um, you know, I am a very attractive woman. Yet, I have never been in a romantic relationship with a man.”
“You know. I have everything. I am attractive. I am intelligent. I am kind. I am healthy. I have a good job. And, I have a house. You know, everything a man would want. Yet, I never had a romance. Now, I’m over sixty. The clock is ticking.”
“I know, I know. But listen. How can you explain my situation? A very attractive woman not having a romantic relationship! It’s very disappointing. Nobody would like to be in a position like this. Nobody.”
“Excuse me, but …”
“Well, I surely had many opportunities. But none of the men I met were interesting. That’s right. It was NOT that they were not interested in me. Rather, they were not interestING. Maybe, I’m overqualified ….”
The conversation went on and on like that for a while. In the end, it took more than half an hour to handle just this call. Serena sighed. Then, she thought about herself. She has not experienced a romantic relationship with a man either. But she is obviously quite different. She is not as proud as the caller. She is not at all gifted nor talented in any sense. Her education is not good enough for landing on a decent job. She does not have much job experience for the first place. She has been an oddjobber.
Then, she recalled that she was at work and started to worry, “Will I be fired, again? I don’t want to look for another job this soon.” So, she tried to calm herself down. But she also started to think, “I’m not as desperate as the caller. Is it because I’m younger? Or, something else? But one thing is clear. I’m not chasing a romantic relationship. It would be nice. But that’s not what I can deliberately plan either. Only when there is a person who I love and that person happens to love me, …. If that doesn’t happen, what can I do?” After this, she took a deep breath. Then, she was ready for another call.
At the end of the second call, the caller said.
“Your voice is really soothing.”
Serena said to herself, “Oh, NO!” but tried to focus on completing the call.
“Thank you, ma’am. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
“No, thank you. Actually, yes. Do you have a cheaper alternative to the item I’m returning?”
“I’m sorry. But I’m just a customer service representative and don’t really know all the products we carry. Shall I transfer you to the sales department?”
“No, no, thank you. That’s OK. I’m just trying to make the best use of my money. I always do so. Sure, I work hard but it’s just impossible to make enough money to buy what I want. My husband and I bought a small house just outside of the city limit. We were so happy. But the mortgage is killing us. Every month, we have to juggle all sorts of payments.”
“Excuse me, ma’am.”
“Yeah. Sorry, but you know, it’s tough. Then, I had an idea. You know those YouTubers, right? They post video clips of walking around a tourist spot or, basically, anywhere. Then, they get millions of followers. Do you know how much money they can make out of that? So, I started my own YouTube channel and posted a few video clips. I told all of my friends about them. Then, during the first few days, I got hundreds of views and likes. I was so excited. But after that, there were not much more. Nowadays, very few people view or like my video clips. Very disappointing. I’m always looking for a way to make more money.”
Serena was actually impressed by the caller’s passion.
“You are trying so hard!”
“That’s right! You got it! Thank you. Thank you. Do you know what else I tried? …”
When the call finally ended, Serena looked at the timer. She was on this call for forty-two minutes. She couldn’t believe it. She started to think, “What was I doing on the phone? Why do these people want to talk so much? Frankly, I don’t have problem listening to them. Actually, it’s kind of interesting. They are not at all like me. As for me, even though I don’t have much money, I’m not trying to make a lot of money. It’s not that I’m noble or selfless. I just don’t feel like chasing money like crazy. I have a hunch. Chasing money must be the best way not to get it. Because, there won’t be the end. If I become rich, that wouldn’t hurt. But that’s definitely not my dream.” Once she settled down, she was ready for the next call.
When the third call was about to end, the caller seemed a little hesitant at first. Then, she resumed.
“You know what? It’s your voice. You have an exceptionally soothing voice.”
Serena almost said aloud, “NOT AGAIN!” but immediately realized that that would not help.
“Thank you for your comment. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
“I don’t think so. But … I’m a little jealous of you.”
“If I could talk like you, that could improve the relationship with my daughter, our only child. She gets mad at me all the time. Of course, I love her and hope the best for her. I literally do the best for her.”
“Sure, you are the mom, right?”
“Right. So, I planned my daughter’s future very carefully. She will go to Harvard. Since we are not rich, she will take advantage of her athletic ability. She practices figure skating. She should be able to get a skating scholarship. That’s not all. She takes piano and dance lessons. She is also learning French. She excels in almost all areas. I’m so proud of her.”
“Wow! Then, why does she often get mad at you?”
“Well, I don’t think she is that mad. But she has to deal with a lot of pressure. Isn’t it natural? When she is pressured to success, she can get a little excited, and anxious. To help her focus and keep the progress, I use stickers and monetary rewards. She has already accumulated a lot. In case she slacks off a bit, I take away her screen time. She doesn’t have much screen time for the first place, though.”
“By the way, how old is your daughter?”
“She is nine. I hope it’s not too late. Some of my friends started their children’s violin lessons when they were two or three. I thought that was too early. They were wearing diapers ….”
This call took almost an hour. Serena started to wonder, “What’s wrong with these people? Why don’t they let me do my work? Or, is there anything wrong with ME? Any way, I can’t believe the caller pressuring her nine-year-old daughter that way. And, why Harvard? Will her daughter really go there? It’s unhealthy. Doesn’t she get it? Maybe, she was raised that way too. But what did she herself become? A pressure cooker? And, isn’t she raising another pressure cooker? Looking back, my mom wasn’t like that at all. Maybe, she didn’t have much expectations in me. She didn’t force me to learn anything. Is that why I’m neither gifted nor talented? Or, was it the other around? Maybe, my mom didn’t pressure me BECAUSE I was neither gifted nor talented for the first place. Doesn’t matter. ‘Success’ is a word I rarely use. In case I become successful in the future, that’d be all right too. But I don’t really need to chase that. That’s not something I can decide. Looking back, I realized there is one thing that saved me all my life. I don’t offend or threaten other people. I was always able to avoid arguments and fights. In the end, am I content with myself, and people and things around me? You bet. Why not? What else would I need?”
On the first day of her job there, Serena handled only eleven calls. Even she knew that it was not enough. At the end of that day, the supervisor reviewed the performance of each representative. It was impossible not to notice Serena’s record. The next day, Serena was sent back to the training program and had to go over the whole thing from the beginning. She was told that she had one more chance to do it right.
The supervisor was also required to listen to the recordings of poor-performing representatives. But when she listened to Serena’s recordings, she got it. The supervisor came to the training room and said to Serena, “Serena, no wonder the callers wanted to talk to you. I’ve never heard a voice as soothing as yours. You know, I’ve been working here for a long time and know a lot of customer representatives. But …”
Can you imagine how Serena reacted to this?