I'm the girl on the other end of the phone.
I'm the girl who gets it done. If it needs fixing, I fix it. I'm a doer.
I'm also a little piece of the puzzle that holds society together. If your cell phone doesn't work, you can't function. If your cable goes out, and you've got a houseful of screaming Spongebob fans, you need that fixed pronto.
That's where I come in.
I like what I do. That's the essence of it. I like talking to people, and I like fixing things.
There's not a whole lot of 'thank you' or 'you did a great job' in my line of work. Most of the time when people call, it's because something's fucked up.
Now, if you expected a lot of fanfare over a job well done, you'll be sadly disappointed. More often than not, I get a whole lot of 'fuck you' even if I've helped someone. But I don't need affirmation to do a good job. I do it because it's who I am. If I didn't do a good job, you wouldn't know it, but I would. And that would keep me up at night.
Anyway, the other day I was thinking about some of the people I've talked to over the years.
There have been lots of bad calls, angry customers, and times when shit got real.
It was one of those days, I'd just finished up with a real shit stain of a caller, when the next call came in.
Immediately, I rolled my eyes, asked them how I could help them.
His name was Jim. And he wasn't happy.
His first sentence to me "This is Jim, and I'm not happy."
Apparently he'd been signed up for service that he didn't authorize. Another eye roll. I heard that about every other phone call, and when I'd check the usage on the account, guess what? They used it up like it was toilet paper and they had explosive diarrhea.
So, as I'm making appropriate soothing noises, diffusing the bomb that is Jim, I check his account usage. None at all.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have a truth teller.
I've already decided I'll issue credit to his account, because I like it when people are real with me.
As Jim continues talking, he's telling me that there is no way he's used the account. I tell him there's no usage on his account, and that I can definitely cancel it and issue a refund.
Jim is a nice guy, and he thanks me as I'm cancelling out his account. He also says to me a sentence that stops me in my tracks, and forever changed the direction that my life would go that day.
With no fanfare, Jim tells me, "You know, I really appreciate this, Sal. I'm homeless, living out of the back of my van, and $20 is two days worth of food for me."
Immediately, I was ashamed. Humbled. Saddened.
He wasn't trying to get anything else out of me, he had simply shared his circumstances in a way that was straightforward, and honest. If that had been me, I don't think I could've offered that up to anyone.
When he said that, when he was sincerely thanking me, telling me how much that money meant in his life, a single hot tear tracked down my cheek.
I could feel my eyes brimming over, and somehow managed to blink them back.
After looking his account over some more, I found that he had been charged six more months of service that he didn't know about.
So, I placed Jim on hold, walked over to the billing supervisor, and talked her into issuing credit for all those back months. It was a total of over $120 that Jim would get back that day. I even pestered her to put a rush on it, because Jim really needed that money.
So, when I went back to Jim, I told him that he'd been charged for a couple months that he didn't catch. When I got to tell him that we were putting over $120 back on his card, it was one of the best moments in my life. He was so stunned, so thankful, that he cried a little.
It was okay, though, I was crying too.
All he could say over and over was 'thank you'. He told me that I had no idea what that money meant to him. That money meant he could eat. He could buy gas for his van so he would have a place to sleep. That money meant he would be warm, and fed, and safe.
When people ask me why I do what I do, I usually give them some canned answer, but inside, where I'm honest with myself, I do what I do because of people like Jim.
*When I got paid later that week, I sent $150 to Jim's P.O. Box. I imagined his eyes lighting up over that anonymous envelope stuffed with money. I imagined how just for a moment, he felt that someone, somewhere really cared what happened to him. I hope it helped him out.