Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One (real) night at the call centre

Haven't read Chetan Bhagat's version, but this is mine...

If you had an evening shift, you'd get to work by 5pm in the office bus...usually smoking a spliff on the way in the back seat with Scarface and Fencydryl, his roomie. Meander through Gurgaon picking up the usual suspects before punching through the main gate with a half-hour to go before log in.
Self used to be a debt collector and since this is India, we got to handle late-stage collections...folks who hadn't paid in at least three months. Credit being such a big deal in the States, this was one fucked up job. Ninety percent of the people we called were either going through chemo, had just lost a child or parent, had just been fired, house burnt down, etc etc etc..
Not easy to get money out of them, especially since we were harassing them for dumb-ass bills from various store credit cards.
There was a nice lawn in front with a tree in the corner, complete with a bench. The first group would start around 5pm...stoning under the tree with another coming along just as the first wound up to spark another spliff. With the sheer numbers in the call centre and with various departments logging and breaking at different times, there was always a joint going under the tree.
The ten-minute break before dinner was the "appetiser round" so we could eat more free airline-catered food with the second ten-minute break being the "digestive round" before the final spliff at logoff at 2am.
Night shifts were fucked.
You had to come in at 1.30am to log in by 2 but in winters with your balls sending the chills up your spine, smoking a spliff under the tree was fucking crazy.
Been smoking under that tree so long, that for a while after, just the sound of truck traffic (the call centre being on the highway) would get me mellow.
Never smoked a lot on the night shift...maybe just at logoff at 9am.
The craziest "weekend parties" were when we had night shifts on Friday..staying bleary throughout, then heading to nearby houses (like Chadha's or the Madari Baba's) for a wake-n-bake chillum and warm Zingaro beer.
Nothing like the taste of glycerine-loaded beer at 10 in the morning, sitting by the highway, watching regular folk go to work.

By the time I was a year in the call centre, the gigantic stoner circle had been well-established with pot smokers from Calcutta, Hyderabad, Mysore, Dehradun, Solan, Chandigarh, Shimla, Guwahati, Lucknow, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Mauritius, Asansol, Patna and more I can't remember.
You had to be present at meal times (or rather dinner and breakfast) to see exactly what cross-culturalism is all about. Walking between tables in the cafeteria and you were surrounded by a sea of Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam, English, Hindi and North eastern gossip.

Had just finished a year in the organisation and had planned a two-week vacation in Goa. Some time in November, higher ups decide to issue a memo stating 31st December a working day. After most had booked resorts, holidays, whatever as the initial holiday list had the 31st (and 1st) as official holidays.
Self had already booked tickets and leave had been approved, but with the general frustration being voiced by all and sundry, made out a letter on my last day before my vacation. Printed out one copy, left in on my desk and fucked off.
Letter basically said that 90% of the workforce is between 22 and 30 and although partying isn't the be-all and end-all of our lives, pulling a cheap trick like this was only going to affect employee satisfaction and attrition rates. Went on for a bit about the blood, sweat and tears, put in a bit on rising revenues of the parent company that had been attributed to the India operations and filled the letter with frustration against the unfairness.
Came back from vacation and first day at work, The BaldMan comes up and slaps me on the back..."Fucker...do you know what your letter did?" he asks.
Goes on to tell me that someone read the letter on my desk, photocopied it and passed it around, more photocopies led to more photocopies till the CEO got wind of it and held a hurried all-employee meeting in the cafeteria.
Here, he put the letter on a projector, read out every line and proceeded to explain how all of it was against company policy. The BaldMan said that after he'd finished, EVERYBODY stood up and clapped!
Which is when they decided to make the 31st halfday, with log off at 10.30pm instead of 2am.
Got a yelling from my AVP...told me the company lost some $35million because of my stunt...

But balls to all that now.


Blogger Sarin said...

you do manage to do some crazy stuff... :-P

12:23 PM  

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