Like most people, my job often tests the limits of my patience. I work for an answering service company that provides services for a wide variety of clients, and the caliber of intelligence of the people that I speak to on a daily basis is not very high. Sure, I get the occasional person who surprises me with a glimmer of intellect, but a majority of the people are dumber than rocks. Because of that, it amazes me that I've maintained a good standing within the company for so long.
Each day of work sends a shiver of excitement through me. Is today the day I freak out at someone on the phone and get myself fired? I wonder. I've made it three years with nary any disciplinary action, a feat that I feel should be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, as I am quite possibly the World's Most Patient Man.
I credit my success to my upbringing. If living in a house with two annoying sisters doesn't teach you patience, nothing will.
Last year, as I approached my two-year anniversary with my company, I did a by-the-numbers post, chronicling how I've spent my time working during the previous two years. I consider you all to be smart people, so I'm leaving it up to you to figure out how the numbers have changed over the past (almost) 365 days. I just don't have the brain power today to crunch those kinds of numbers.
Instead, here are some of the things I got to bite my tongue through this past week at work:
- I answered a call from an older gentleman, who wanted to register for a free prostate cancer screening event at a local hospital. The event had been advertised in the newspaper for two weeks, and all the spots that the hospital had made available for the event had been taken already. He said that he knew about the event a week prior to calling about it that day, but didn't think to call to register until now. When I told him it was full, he wouldn't take "no" for an answer. He requested that I schedule a completely new event for later in the month, just so he could attend. He couldn't believe that I refused to do it, clearly not understanding that no hospital would do that for just for one person.
- "I need to register for a Lamaze class," the caller told me, going on to say that she was due to give birth to her first child in two weeks. I looked up the schedule for Lamaze classes, and told her the bad news: There were no available classes in the next two weeks. This, naturally, was my fault. I pulled my headset away from my ears while she aurally violated me with the worst collection of foul language I had heard in a long time. Sure, I felt bad for her, because not knowing what you're heading into with giving birth for the first time must be pretty effing scary. But, it's not like she didn't have NINE MONTHS to prepare for this.
- Mid-day Saturday, Labor Day weekend. I answer a call on a family practice office, who has a notoriously strict no-prescription-refill-on-the-weekend policy. Strict as in I've seen two co-workers get fired for paging the on-call physician for an RX refill for patients. The patient was completely out of his maintenance medication, a blood thinner. I read him the script we had prepared for such a situation, advising him of the office's refill policy (which was nothing new): If it the medication is needed urgently, go to the local ER for a temporary refill to last the weekend. Again, I was assaulted with profanity. I know that going to the ER on a busy holiday weekend isn't exactly desirable, but considering the alternative (a stroke), you might as well just go along with it.
- As I listened to the caller tell me the situation with her child's illness, I came to the realization that my hands were tied and that I couldn't help her. She was calling on an insurance company after hours service, and she needed to get her child's member ID number so she could fill a prescription. Member ID numbers are protected federal HIPPA (medical confidentiality) laws, thus I am forbidden to give them out over the phone. She was understandably upset about it, and didn't change her tone when I told her that I would lose my job if I gave her the ID number. It ended up getting escalated to my supervisor, who told her the same thing I did. Saying the word "supervisor" after your name apparently makes all the difference.
As much as I think I deserve a raise for my never-ending patience and good work performance over the past year, I won't be getting one. There have been enough cutbacks and layoffs in other departments already, so I'm content to keep my job, even if it means I stay at the same rate of pay.
Here's to a better, calmer year. And smarter customers.