I have filled many a blog post telling you about how frustrating my work can be. What I don’t speak enough about is how much of a hoot it can be — about how opportunities for shenanigans and tomfoolery abound. More importantly, I don’t write enough about how I take advantage of such opportunities. Today, though, all that changes!
I don’t spend much time on the telephone when I’m at work. Because I’m a bartender and a server, being on the telephone, thankfully, does not feature prominently in my line of work. It’s one of the things I absolutely LOVE about my job. I almost NEVER answer the blasted thing — the ringing telephone is someone else’s responsibility.
That “someone else” is usually a member of the host staff. By and large, the host staff in any restaurant is comprised of the young and the inexperienced. It’s the place that most future servers and bartenders begin their restaurant careers. Think of it as the chorus line if you like.
As a result of their youth and their inexperience with the ways of the world in general and the restaurant industry in particular, they are sometimes confused, stymied, or even overwhelmed by a caller’s request. That’s when they call in the big guns — I am one of the “big guns”.
The other day I was tasked with fielding, as I often am, a phone call of a somewhat sensitive nature. As it turns out some of my co-workers aren’t all that responsible when it comes to paying their bills — on time or EVER — as a result, their credit card companies, car financing agencies, or, in some cases, their bookies (hey, it’s Jersey!) attempt to track them down at work — via telephone.
Anyone who has ever had any experience with bill collectors (or bookies) can confirm that they are relentless. They call every day, sometimes three, four, or five times a day to make contact with their clients — people who, for the most part, are doing their level best to avoid speaking to said bill collectors. I’m not defending the miscreants with whom I work, I wish they would just make some type of arrangement to pay what they owe, but I have no control over that. I also have little to no patience with the constant phone calls.
Mostly, the debt collectors call for our cooks. These gentlemen like to instruct the hosts to tell the callers that they are not in. I suppose that worked for a while, but now the collection agencies are on to them. The jig, so to speak, is up. And so they call. And they call. And they call some more. They harry and harass an already overworked host staff. And, for the record, they are NOT nice.
Neither am I — which is why dealing with them has fallen largely upon my shoulders.
I’ve been using these opportunities to work on various accents. I’m happy to report that my Pakistani is coming along nicely — it’s kind of a high-pitched mix of upper class British and sing-song. Basically, it’s delightful and lilting. My adventures in mimicry put me in mind of some of my more creative childhood adventures.
My sister and I, when we were old enough, used to ride the bus into Bloomfield Center, which had a better record store than could be found in our fair city. To combat the boredom of the bus ride, we took to speaking to each other in various accents — mostly Irish, Scottish, or British. Inevitably, people on the bus, no doubt to combat their own bus boredom, would ask us where we were from and why we were here. We would, often on the fly, create some crazy back story to satisfy their inquiring minds. (We were “on holiday” from outside of London! We were in from Belfast for the funeral of a much beloved uncle! We were Scottish exchange students!) Whether or not, by the end of the conversation, anyone believed our tales, I couldn’t tell you. We, however, took great pleasure in weaving them!
Call it lying. Call it role-playing. Call it what you will. I call it fun — with a capital “F”! I absolutely love pretending to be someone I’m not — and it’s a whole lot easier over the telephone than it ever was on the bus. In person you are limited by how you look — no one would ever believe me to be Pakistani — that’s why my sister and I had to stick to the British Isles — we were handcuffed by our appearance — well, that and the fact that we just couldn’t pull off Dutch or German with anything nearing the confidence we felt using the brogue or the burr.
Given the circumstances and the nature of these phone calls, I have discovered that not only can I use whichever accent I am in the mood for, but that I can also lie at will. I can say anything that I want to say — and no one can do anything about it. I have, in fact, told any number of these collection agents that the person they are looking for has been deported, is missing, is currently incarcerated for reasons I am not at liberty to disclose (this requires me to speak in a VERY hushed tone — like it’s our little secret), and, finally, that they are dead (again, tone matters here).
The other day, after spinning one of my more creative tales, the guy on the other end of the phone told me that it was a felony for me to lie to him about the whereabouts of whichever miscreant he was in search of — at which point I damn near reverted to my “Jersey girl” accent and demeanor, which, as everyone knows, is peppered with expressions like, “Go f*@k yourself!” Instead, I maintained the brogue and expressed to him, as any nice Irish woman would, that he could just go ahead and grab his cuffs — that I would be outside awaiting his arrival. I told him that I could really use a rest. I explained that “three hots and a cot” sounded like a splendid idea. Splendid, indeed.
What can I say? Sometimes I like to get up to a little no good. It’s good for the soul.
photo credit: spiderweb (morguefile.com)