Friday, 23 April 2010

Hangin' on the Telephone

Like what must be about 77% of the UK population, I now find myself working in a call centre. And it isn't exactly a bad job, and I'm reasonably good at it - working in the book shop gave me a chance to develop a certain manner with customers that's served me well, and my always charmingly weird voice seems to have a kind of beguiling effect on the callers - but it does mean that, about once a day, I find myself having the same recurring thought: if I'm going to spend my days talking pretty to people and occassionally being verbally abused, why not just work on a sex line?

Maybe the problem is that, while I'm good at selling stuff to people I'm a lot more service-oriented, and the job that I'm in - while providing a lot of opportunities to be of service - also involves having to make what are called 'add-on sales' i.e. having, at the end of the call, to try and sell the caller some additional product they don't yet have. People wouldn't buy the things we sell 'em if they didn't want them, obviously, but still, it can sometimes inject a certain sense of grubby commerciality into an otherwise pleasant transaction.

And, as filthy as you might consider the phone-sex industry, at least it's founded on a solid and honourable transaction: the customer phones up, you talk dirty to them until they make a funny noise, they leave happier (if somewhat wetter of trouser) and you pocket a slice of the 85p-a-nanosecond they've been paying for the privilege of wanking without the use of their own imagination. You say your goodbyes in a stilted and embarassing fashion, and you don't move in when they're at their most vulnerable with some kind of additional spiel.

Or do you? See, that's where my fantasy falls apart, crashing against the harsh rocks of reality. You see, I've never actually worked in the phone sex industry, nor, indeed, have I ever called a phone sex line myself (due not to some overly-developed sense of moral hygeine but because my mind is filthy enough already without me having to outsource my fantasising to somebody at the other end of a phone line). What if it is actually like working in a legitimate call centre? What if, at the end of the call, as the punter sits there, a shaking human battleground for the forces of relief, loneliness, pleasure and shame, you're expected to chime in and say 'now that I've brought you to orgasm, sir, I wonder if you'd be interested in buying our new DVD, Bukkakic Park: The Tossed World?'

That isn't even the worst possibility, though. You see, as part of the service we're expected to demonstrate, one thing we're supposed to do is summarise the call at the end. Imagine that: having to summarise a sex-line call before letting the customer go. 'Well, sir, let me just check on this for you: you called us shouting that you needed to come, dear fucking god we had to make you come, I've outlined a fantasy scenario in which I get on the floor and you fuck me hard in the ass with your big bad monster doomcock until I scream and call you 'daddy', and as a result of this erotic freestyling you've now reached a physical climax and are weeping gently on a soiled matress and wondering where it all went wrong. Would that be a fair summary of the situation? And is there anything else I can help you with?'

It's a terrifying thought. Perhaps, all things considered, it's best to stick to the respectable end of the phone biz, and content myself with slipping the odd innuendo into my customer conversations as I service them sir, I said service your query. It's a bit of a crackly line.

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