Saturday, May 16, 2009

Irish Whiskey

I was working in the credit department when I received a relay call. Relay calls are a service that deaf people use to make phone calls. The hearing-impaired use an IM feature on their computer with an individual who then relays the conversation.

A man, who has been a customer of RC Willey’s for a while, was using Relay to call and discuss his bill, which he received in the mail.  I answered the phone, “Hello, thank you for calling RC Willey Credit Department. How can I help you?”

A woman’s voice came through on the other line and said, “Hello my name is Vanessa. I work for a company that does relay calls for the hearing impaired. Have you ever used this feature before?

“No I have not.” 

She began to explain it by saying that each time you finish with what you are saying, you say, stop and go ahead. She asked, “Are you ready to go ahead?”

My brain started going into overdrive thinking of all the ways I could accidentally insult the man and how this conversation could result in my termination. I saw myself being escorted off the premises and asked to never return again. I said, “Yes.”

She said, “Go ahead?”

“Yes, go ahead.”

Vanessa said, “I have a few questions about my account. Stop.”

I replied, “Go ahead. Stop.”

Speaking for the man, Vanessa said, “Why is my balance showing late fees? Stop.”

I looked at his account and found that he was over ten days late on payments for a couple months and had received late fees for those months. I started to answer by saying, “It looks like you’ve missed your payment due dates by over ten days the past couple of months. That is why you have late fees. Stop. Go ahead.”

He immediately started giving excuses and saying I was wrong. I tried to explain a littler deeper.

Any time you are on the other end of a relay call, the user can interrupt you at any time but the IM feature for the trained relay call employee cannot interrupt. This means that the hearing impaired can interrupt you so you sound like an idiot. Vanessa’s voice came through the phone once again and said, “You’re not making any sense.”

I said, “Sir, let me finish and I assure you I will make sense to you. Stop.”

He asked, “Why am I being charged late fees? I’m not supposed to have interest or payments for six months. Stop.”

I understood immediately why he was perplexed. He was confusing the same as cash plan with the payment plan. I started to explain this by saying, “With this plan you have to make payments each month. If you miss two payments, interest will be charged and you will have late fees applied to your account. Your payments are due each month, which is why your statements say amount due, each month. Stop.”

There was an intense pause. I imagined both the relay lady and the deaf mute jumping through the phone and beating me to an inch of death. Then the relay lady spoke with great disdain.  She said, “You-sound-drunk…”

The deaf man thought I sounded drunk. Imagine my surprise when the man who had no auditory function suddenly developed the sense of sound, even without a phone. That is truly amazing. However, I had no gratitude for witnessing this miracle. I ignored it and focused on my rage.

I felt like telling him off and using some carefully chosen insults but instead I said, “Sir you cannot talk to me that way. I’m trying to explain this to you but if you talk that way to me. I will not help you.”

Then he kept insisting that I get a “sober” manager on the phone because he was tired of talking to me. I, of course, did get a manager on the phone and he was perfectly pleasant to her. He did not insult her or call her a boozer.

I have experienced many things during my employ with RC Willey but this was my first miracle. I will always remember when the deaf man heard my drunken behavior.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Most people who know me recognize that I feel awkward around other's children. Of course I think they are cute and are usually good for a laugh but I'm genuinely terrified of them. I think it's something about their eyes, so wide, and observant. I think they'll see right through me and know that I have no natural ability to pacify them. As the youngest in my family I was not the one comforting or trying to entertain a young child. This is why I am afraid of becoming a mother. I am enormously hopeless when it comes to children.


Just recently I had breakfast with a friend from work who has a 10-month-old girl. This child is simply beautiful.  I have an atypical love for this young child. She is full of life and so much fun.  I have a curiously comfortable feeling around her as long as her mother, Ashley, is right there with me.  Breakfast was enjoyable.  Ashley and I shared laughs and had a filling breakfast.  After breakfast, however, Ashley got up to go to the bathroom.  On her way she said, "Can you watch her for me?"


My pupils constricted and my heart began to race. I answered feebly, "Yes."


Ashley sat the chubby baby directly in front of me and said, "If she cries, bring her to me."


I wasn't sure which prospect was more distressing, the thought of a screaming child that won't listen to reason, or interrupting a private time of a friend.  Despite the fact I love her dearly, I didn't really want to become acquainted with her in that intimate way. I sat there staring at the round face of this tiny person.  I felt foolish sitting in silence, so I said, "Hello Maddi, how are you today?"


Maddi started blank-faced at me. The fear inside me rose. I felt ridiculous trying to make conversation with someone whose vocabulary skills were at most squeals or raspberries.  Maddi was now bored with me and started to play with a teething ring. I watched her play with it for a while. She really enjoyed shaking it. It flew suddenly out of her grip. I started where it fell. I feared screaming and I knew I could not give it back to her because it fell on the floor and the floor was filthy. I decided to what is most natural to me. I made fart noises with my mouth. Astonishingly, it worked. She looked at me and smiled. I was shocked. Fart noised had worked.


Rather pleased with my success, I began to make random noises. It seemed to hold her attention well enough.  It also got the attention of every table around me. I didn't care though.  I was triumphant. I successfully held the attention of a small child without making her cry.   

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I would like to preface this story by saying that I wrote this not because I was feeling sad but because I wanted a record of it. Sad things happen and that is a fact. You cannot hide from them and you cannot pretend that they aren't a part of you. I am grateful for all of the experiances in my life because I know I am stronger for them. I hope that whoever reads this can find some comfort in the fact that my life is good and that while I miss my mother, I am happy.

I came to consciousness suddenly. A faint sound of whimpering came from my sister's bed. The air seemed thick with sadness and torment. "Mom? No, no, no", came more sobs from Brianne's bed.

I knew the moment I heard my sister's lament. My stomach dropped, the way it does when something terrifying happens. For a brief moment, panic set in. They are wrong. I need to check on her. We were supposed to have more time.

Reality set in and I sat up in bed, "Mom!" My voice cracked, "She… she's gone?" That was a dumb question, I already knew what happened.

My oldest sister, Jennifer, came to my bedside. Fear and mourning in her eyes. I could tell what was weighing on her mind. She was the oldest. It was her responsibility to make sure we were okay. "Mom is gone. She passed while you where sleeping," she said flatly.

My eyes felt warm and wet, as if I had sprung a wild leak. My lip began to quiver and I let out a moan of grief. I suddenly pushed myself up out of bed. Jenne pushed me back down to a seated position. I fell back down with ease, my body heavy with grief and sleep. She said, "You don't need to see this."

Flashes of red and white filled the room. Turning to the window, I saw an ambulance pull up to the curb of my house. There was a knocking at our door. "We received a call from this residence that there was a death," a man said.

A hoarse and tired sounding voice, which belonged to my grandmother, said, "Yes, please come in." Metal rattling filled the silent house. My sister left the room at the prompting of this sound.

Sitting there, my senses started to fade. My eyes felt large in my head. My nose felt like someone was pushing a pillow against it. The thoughts drained from my head. Numbness had come over me and the world around me did not exist. There was no life on this planet, no food, no friendships, and no air to breathe.

Suddenly, air filled my lungs as if I had come back to life. It was as though my consciousness came back to this world but it was unlike any world I had ever known. It was lonely, dark, and cold. I could recall that I had a family and friends but not a single name came to my memory. A hollow scuffling came to my ears. It was uncomfortable. It filled me with dread. The plastic wheels of the gurney rolled over the pavement outside of my house.

In a trance, my body stood up. My legs moved, bringing me forward. My body stopped next to the window in my room. I bent over, looking through the broken slats on my blinds. Flashing red and white, there was a gurney with a still body in a large black bag. This image made me pause. It seemed absurd to put a human body into what resembled a garbage bag.

I watched as they lifted the stretcher into the ambulance and they drove away. My body felt vacant, as if I was the one who had died. Sleep never came that night, feeling didn't come either. A colorless world with an ambulance driving away flashed in my mind every time I closed my eyes. I will never forget that night or the lack of sensation, as if I had been alone in a dark cavernous place.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Freezer Diaries

When I was 16-years-old I worked at Arby's fast food restaurant. I worked at the counter sometimes but mostly in the drive-thru since I was the fastest they had there. I hated working there. I disliked the people I worked with, I reviled taking orders for food that would most-likely kill the person ordering it, and I detested the smell of the place. Even to this day when I see the sign for Arby's I can smell the roast beef.

I never really felt like I fit in there. There was no one my age or with similar interests as me. When I arrived to work everyday, I had to take my things to the back of the restaurant. To do so, I had to pass the kitchen where a man named Alfredo worked. He was a 50-year-old Spanish-speaking man who was, let's say extremely affectionate. Every-time I came back there he would stop me and not let me through until I hugged him and said, "Hola, como estas." It was truly creepy. This kind of social environment and the nature of the work was why I had such deep loathing for that job.

One day I was working at the front counter and drive-thru alone. It was extremely slow that day. I remember only seeing our usual costumers there. There was a lady who always came in around noon to get a Diet Coke, no ice, as well as a small curly fry. She would sit there, eat her curly fry, and finish her Diet Coke. There was also a man who came in every day to get the Big Beef n' Cheddar combo meal.

It was the definition of slow so naturally the cooks were blaring their Spanish music. Alfredo, my special touchy-feely friend, was serenading me from the food window. I suddenly heard the door chime. I looked over and saw the largest man I have ever seen. He came up to the counter, wheezing from the trip into the store. He was inquiring about a coupon, "Are you still honoring this coupon?" His massive sweaty hand dropped a crinkled coupon on the counter. I picked it up as his droopy eyes stared down at me. It was damp so I tried to make as little contact with it as possible.

The expiration date, clearly listed on the front, showed that it was still good. I said, "Yes, sir we are still honoring it." The coupon gave the consumer a deal of five roast beef sandwiches for $5.95.

The corpulent man, now sweating profusely, had an expression of glee on his face. He said, "I'll take it… uh they freeze good." His eyes seemed to suddenly shift about at the prompting of this statement.

I paused for a moment, stared at him, and said, "Yes… I'm sure they do, if you freeze them." The man gave me a look of undeserved superiority, as if it weren't a lie, then paid for his order. I placed his order. In a few awkward moments he took his to-go order to the dining room and proceeded to eat every last disgusting roast beef sandwich. By the time he finished his third sandwich, I couldn't bear watching any more of this hideous display of gluttony.

I was alone at my post and really had no one to talk to so I turned to organize some things. The condiments were contained in a grey plastic box on the counter behind the registers. I took them all out and started to stack them by flavor. I was in a trance and forgot about my surroundings. I was nearly half way through my task when I heard something. It sounded oddly familiar but I could not place it. What was that sound… is something leaking, is someone whistling. The smell of musty sweat filled the air. Then I realized. The sound was wheezing!

The incredible roast beef disposal unit was back. I whirled around. There on the counter was another soggy, crinkled coupon and standing in front of me at the counter was the largest man I've ever seen.