Cold Calling the Dead

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A recent tweet reminded me of the worst job I ever had.

She said:  Cold calling someone that died a few days ago…. #needabreak

I replied:  I have literally done that.  #worstthingever

But everyone has done that, right?  Everyone has had some job where you had to cold call clients and someone you called was dead, right?  No?  Well then, let me tell you about what you’re missing.

There was a time long ago, when people would look for jobs in the morning paper.  We didn’t have the internet to guide us, to take “perfect job” quizzes and have Facebook distract us from looking for an actual job.  Then there’s me, a poor college student, in between jobs and desperate enough to take anything.

I answered an ad (promising me good money and a chance for advancement) to find a call center in a seedy part of Anaheim, CA.  Rooms filled with long folding tables, phones perched every few feet, and sad looking people making phone call after phone call.  Anybody else would’ve run, very fast and very far away.  I accepted and started the next day.

Have you ever filled out one of those cards in the mall to win a free car?  Or a trip to Hawaii?  Those were the people I got to call.  “You filled out a card to win ABC, well you haven’t won anything, but would you like instead to buy XYZ?”  (I don’t remember what they were trying to sell.)  I don’t think I’ve ever been hung up on so much in my life.

And there were these two skeevy guys, the supervisor’s maybe?  They walked around the room being ‘motivational’.  Yelling things like “just move on to the next one”, “everybody wants what we’re selling”, and my personal favorite “no swimming in the company pool”.  Somehow there were a few really beautiful girls working there, and they wanted to remind everyone that interoffice dating was a no-no.

I was terrible at this awful job.

Then came the day that I called two dead guys, and both had been murdered.

The first call went something like this:

“Hello, may I speak with Mr. X?”

You know when you can sense that someone is upset before they even speak?

“May I ask who’s calling?” Angry, she was angry.

“This is Kathy, I’m calling from ABC company about a postcard he filled out to win a trip to Hawaii.”

“Well, Kathy, would you care to explain how he filled out a card to win a trip when he was murdered two months ago? “ Her voice is rising, “And there’s a police investigation going on?”  She’s yelling, “How could he have filled out a card?”

I’m starting to cry and physically shrinking in my chair, “I don’t know ma’am, I’m so sorry.”

She is yelling and crying too, “Take him off whatever call list he’s on.  If you don’t, I’ll make sure that the police include you in the investigation.”  Then she slammed down the phone.

I sat and cried.  One of the supervisors’ noticed and came over; I told him what had happened.  He took the card, tore it in half and said “It happens, just move on.”

This would be my cue to run, very fast and very far away.  Instead I just kept making phone calls.

A few hours later, the scene repeated itself.

“Hello, my I speak with Mr. Y?”

“May I ask who’s calling?”  She was curious.

“This is Kathy, I’m calling from ABC company about a postcard he filled out to win a trip to Hawaii.”

“Well my dear, it’s not possible for him to have filled out any card.  He was murdered about a year ago.  Would you please make sure his name and this number are removed from your list?”  She was sweet.  There was sadness in her voice, but it sounded like it came with the reminder of her loss.

I am in SHOCK.  Two murder victims in one day?  Where were they getting these names?  Why am I working here?

“Ma’am, I am so sorry for your loss.  I will have his name and your number removed immediately.”

“Thank you dear.”

I tore up the card myself this time.  It happens, just move on.

*******

This stupid job only lasted another week.   The company closed and I had one day to pick up my paycheck.  I moved on to other crazy jobs, but this was the worst of them all.

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