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.