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The Time 911 Called Me

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: EisConfused | September 23, 2020

Please note that at the time of this story I was running on hope and caffeine, and had been awake for thirty hours, so some details might have changed due to my recollection.

It is the winter of 2018. I work at a call center for a power and natural gas company. The worst polar vortex storm the state has seen in ages hits us, with temperatures frequently hitting -25 or below for over a week.

Even the waffle houses closed; waffle houses are so reliable FEMA uses something called “the waffle house index” to rate disasters!

I was living close enough to work that they called me in a few times and all hours of the day over the weeks because the number of people who could arrive safely is small.

At the beginning, our queue could be over 500 people. By day three it is mostly just shouting that we need to reconnect their power before anyone else because of any number of reasons, none of which changed the reality that we couldn’t do that. The power grid is like a vascular system. If the end of the line isn’t getting blood it isn’t because the immediate juncture is stopped up. This is compounded by weather and reconnection surges frying an entire second batch of equipment and causing a second wave of outages.

Me: *Taking a call* “Thank you for calling [Power Company], my name is [My Name]; how may I help you today?”

Caller: “I’m not sure you can help, please let me know if you need to get a supervisor. My name is [Caller’s Name] and I am with [Major cellular company]. We donate facilities to be used as 911 relays and switchboards, and the 911 branch in Minnesota town has a problem. See, we have generators and fuel, but only enough for 86 hours. We are currently at about 76 hours without power. We have a fuel delivery being made on an emergency basis tomorrow after they will have been out of power for about 90 hours. With this weather, we need to remain active so our last-ditch hope was to contact you guys and see what can be done.”

I am staring blankly at the address search screen trying to process this.

Me: “Well… let me put you on hold for just a second, I want to see if we have a protocol for… this. Can I get the address of your building?”

Caller: “Oh yeah, absolutely, ask around! Anything that may help. Our address is [Very Minnesota road in very mid-west town].”

At this point, I just mute and ask the girl next to me what the h*** I do. The supervisors are beyond busy, sometimes even taking calls themselves, but she had worked there for six years and just gave me a blank stare for a moment.

Supervisor: “Huh, that’s new, call dispatch I guess. It is an emergency. Several actually.”

I hop on the line, check to make sure an order to investigate the outage is already there, check-in with the caller and get his callback line, all that, then call dispatch.

Dispatch: “Dispatch, what’s the issue?”

Me: “So I know we don’t prioritize who gets reconnected b—”

Dispatch: “Ya d*** right we don’t!”

Me: “Yes I understand that, but I have a fellow from 911 on my line. He says they’ve exhausted their options for keeping the lights on themselves. They won’t get fuel for the generator until they’ve been offline for several hours. That town was hit some of the worst, the last thing they need is to not be able to contact emergency services.”

There is a long pause.

Dispatch: “Okay, I need to put you on hold.”

I hear a bunch of shouting into different rooms because he didn’t put me on hold or even mute me. The dispatcher’s boss gets on the line.

Dispatch Boss: “This is [Dispatch Boss], I hear you’ve got 911 on your line?”

We go back and forth, I bring the cell rep into the call and hop around in the system getting our protocol stuff done, and letting my team lead know what’s going on. I never heard about the issue again, so I have to assume it worked out.

Honestly, I think that dispatch actually giving a hoot was more surreal than being called by 911. Those guys always sound like every request you make is like squeezing lemon juice in their eyes.

Edge Of Tomorrow

, , , , | Right | September 15, 2020

I receive a phone call on a very busy Monday looking for somebody to come fix a water heater. I tell her that I can get somebody to her house first thing in the morning.

Caller: “I have been without hot water for a week and I am tired of cold showers!”

Me: “I can get someone there first thing in the morning.”

Caller: “Today?!”

Me: “No, tomorrow at 8:00 am.”

Caller: “Today?!”

Me: “We are very busy and I cannot get somebody to you until tomorrow morning.”

Caller: *Screaming* “Promise me you will come today!”

I repeated yet again that we were very busy today but I would promise to get a plumber there first thing tomorrow morning. She hung up on me, screaming first that I did not care about my customers.

Evidently, she called around to other companies and found out that it would be MUCH longer than a day before she could get service, so she called me back, and as usual, I killed her with kindness.

Calling Out And Taking Out The Trash

, , , | Working | August 4, 2020

I live at the top of a hill with houses on either side. It’s not very steep and rounds out across my large yard, but it is a noticeable incline.

One day, after the trash is collected, I notice that the can has been moved from one side of my property to the far side of my neighbor’s yard. Our trash cans are labeled with the house number, so I don’t think someone thought it belonged to them. I push my can back to where it was before, but the same thing happens the next week, this time going to the far side of my other neighbor’s yard. I move it back again, wondering if somebody is playing some bizarre prank on me.

The third week, I am home when trash is collected. I see a young man with a distinctive tattoo on his arm and another on his neck hop out of the truck idling in front of my neighbor’s house, pull my can to the truck, empty both cans, and get back in. The truck then drives by my house and stops at my other neighbor’s house to collect. I try to flag him down, but he either doesn’t see me or he doesn’t care.

I decide to call the sanitation department to see what is going on.

Receptionist: “Sanitation.”

There is silence… and then I realize that was the entire greeting.

Me: “Oh! Hi, um, someone keeps moving my trash can off of my property and—”

Receptionist: *Sigh* “You have to put your trash can beside your mailbox before collection. Otherwise, they won’t pick it up.”

Me: “Yes, I know. That’s what I’ve been doing, but one of the guys collecting is putting it in my neighbor’s yards.”

Receptionist: “Who is it?”

Me: “I didn’t see a name tag.”

I describe the man.

Receptionist: “Doesn’t sound familiar. Is it beside your mailbox?”

Me: “It is now.”

Receptionist: “Then they’ll pick it up.”

Me: “I’m asking why my can was moved off of my property.”

Receptionist: *Another sigh* “I don’t know.”

Me: “Then who does? Because it’s kind of annoying to have to haul it back to where it’s supposed to be.”

Receptionist: “I don’t know. Ask the team next time. Have a nice day.” *Hangs up*

So, I wait until the next trash collection day. When the truck comes down the road, I step outside to watch. The same man jumps down from the truck and begins dumping cans. When he gets to my neighbor’s house, I walk out and stand beside my trash can. He starts walking toward me, looks up, and pauses before turning around to get back in the truck. I wait for him to pull up to my house before saying anything. He gets out, looks me over, and pulls the can toward the truck.

Me: “Hi. Could you—”

He spits in my direction.

Man: “Yeah?”

Me: “Could you tell me why my trash can keeps ending up in my neighbor’s yards?”

Man: “It’s not.”

He puts the can back where it was.

Man: “See?”

I give a short, annoyed laugh.

Me: “I saw you move it over there last week.”

Man: “And?”

Me: “Please don’t do it anymore.”

Man: *Sarcastic tone* “Okay, then.”

Me: *Overly cheerful* “Great! Thank you!”

The next week, my can was left where it was supposed to be. I could understand if I lived at the end of a road or if there was some rule about it, but I don’t and there isn’t. I still have no idea why it kept getting moved but I’m glad it stopped.

Race Relations Are As Broken As The Water Line Around Here

, , , , | Working | July 30, 2020

The water in our neighborhood suddenly shuts off without notice. After checking the city website to make sure there are no planned outages for maintenance, I decide to go buy some bottled water in case it is a while before the utility department figures out what is wrong.

On my way back home, I spot a small construction crew doing some work a couple of blocks down. I stop and roll down my window to talk to one of the workers. For reference, I am a white woman in my early thirties and the employee I speak to happens to be a middle-aged black man. I don’t realize how this will come into play until later.

Me: “Good morning. Are you guys doing any water line work today? The water in my neighborhood went out about half an hour ago.”

Worker #1: “Yes, ma’am. Unfortunately, a water line cap was cracked and we had to shut the supply off. Our supervisor is on the way with a replacement right now. We’re really sorry about that.”

Me: “Okay, thank you for telling me. I know these things happen. I just wanted to make sure.”

I prepare to drive away when a sixty-ish-year-old white man who’s been standing nearby — with a hunk of chaw in his mouth so large it looks like he is chewing on a baseball — cuts in front of [Worker #1] and sticks his head IN my car window.

Worker #2: *Around his mouthful of tobacco* “Fraternizing with the help, huh?”

Me: *Stunned* “Excuse me?”

[Worker #1] gets a look on his face that says this happens often.

Worker #1: “She wanted to know about the water outage.”

Worker #2: “Oh, yeah! The supervisor is on his way now. No need to call the city!” *Grins* “What street you on, honey?”

Me: *Ignoring the question* “This whole area is out. He’s already explained what happened.”

Seeing that I was holding up traffic, I thanked [Worker #1] again and drove away. It wasn’t until I pulled back into my driveway that I really processed what that second worker had done. Not only had he made me feel uncomfortable, but he’d stepped all over the first man I spoke to and repeated the same thing he’d clearly already heard him tell me. Plus, there was that comment about “the help”. Anyone who has grown up in the southeastern US knows the racist connotations that phrase can have.

I also remembered his comment about “no need to call the city” and had a feeling he might have been some kind of foreman or supervisor himself not wanting to get in trouble. I knew a few of my neighbors had called the city already, and I decided to make my own report, too.

Did They Transplant His Brain?

, , , , , | Right | July 25, 2020

I work in customer services for an energy company. This conversation happens through chat customer service.

Customer: “You guys are stressing me out by increasing my bills.”

Me: “I apologize for the inconvenience; let me get this checked for you.”

I check, and the bill was based on estimated meter reading as the customer had not provided them on time.

Me: “I see that the bill is based on estimated readings; if you can provide me the readings, I will be happy to revise it for you.”

Most of our customers provide the readings by themselves or have smart meters. For vulnerable customers, we have meter reading appointments.

Customer: “Are you serious? You are asking me to provide the readings? It’s not my job to get the readings. I recently had a liver transplant and my sister died because of cancer. I’m vulnerable and you are asking me to pay such a high bill.”

Me: “I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Let me add you to our priority list. You can call our number to get the meter appointment at your convenience. Once we have the readings, we can revise the bill.”

Customer: “Now you are asking me to spend more money and call. Arrange a call back for me.”

Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t have access to book an appointment; we have a specialist team who does that. Also, we do not have a call back facility. I would ask you to please call our team and I’m positive they will help you further with this.”

Customer: “Okay, I’ll do it. You guys never help me. Because of you, I have anxiety issues and now I have to stay on the phone for thirty minutes and talk to a person.”

I know the conversation is not going anywhere so I try to push it toward a closing.

Me: “I’m sorry to hear that. To make this easier for you, I have removed the estimated bill temporarily; after the appointment, we will generate a new bill. I hope I was able to help you today. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Customer: “No, thank you.”

Me: “You’re most welcome. I hope for your speedy recovery from the transplant. Get well soon. Have a good day ahead.”

Customer: “I’m already recovered; I had the transplant ten years ago.”