What does 2013 mean for me? A much more relevant question. A year is a long time, so the answer is much more complex than I am going to make it. For me, 2013 meant exhaustion, pain, loneliness, and disappointment. Before I go any further, I will counter-balance this by reminding my reader(s) and myself that not everything was bad and/or horrible, that there have bright spots during the year for certain, and that I have a solid core of friends that have supported me and helped me cope with life - though, I clearly don't take enough opportunities to tell them that they've done so. That said, let's begin.
My job. I take phone calls for a power company. I get calls about work requests, outages, starting and stopping service, billing, and collections. My company provides service for six states. The economy may be getting better in the general sense, but this year has been really hard on people most vulnerable to trouble in the economy and the idiocy of ideologue politicians more interested finding a wealthy patron than actually helping the people they are elected to represent - especially in the areas my company services. When the economy is hard, the money is tight. When the money is tight, the bills don't get paid. When the bills don't get paid, I get a call from a sobbing 80 year old grandmother living alone on a fixed income of about $500 a month who has to pay nigh a $1000 by the end of the day to keep her electric service on, which happens to be the only thing keeping her alive with her medical equipment. She has exhausted all her energy assistance program funds, which are tight as well because fewer funds are going into the programs and more people are needing to use the funds to stay afloat. She has exhausted her medical considerations as mandated by state law. She is not eligible for anymore payment plans, as she's failed the four or five we already gave her. Did I mention that because the economy is hard, our company has to cut costs and raise the rates to stay solvent? This is the very person I have to say, "Sorry. We can't guarantee your service until the $1000 is paid." This person I just described is completely made up, but the truth of it is what I have been facing constantly since the start of the year and before. There's only so much of this a person can take before he starts to die a little inside.
Why am I even in this job to begin with? I'm very much an introvert. Social interaction requires expenditures of energy. Energy is finite and limited and only recharged when pursuing more introspective and solitary activities (i.e. meditation, creative hobbies, reading a book, listening to music, alone time, etc.). So when I engage in social behavior, I'm saying that the interaction is worth expending energy for. However, this job is being chained to a desk with a pair of headphones and a microphone being forced to take incoming calls all day long with no control or determination over what work has to happen or with who I have to talk with (or, more frequently, get yelled at by). Basically, all my precious energy is being vacuumed out of me and hosed onto random passersby. I end each day an empty husk.
Why did I take the job then? Why am I still here after two and a half years? Because when my temporary position with the Business Services Department ended, I had the choice of being laid off after 30 days or join the training class for the call center. This was during one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. I suck at job hunting and interviews. I just can't sell myself or pretend that I'm everything they ever wanted plus a bunny rabbit. I can't do that. To try finding a job when nearly everyone else was trying to find a job, of which there were a very limited supply, would have been financial suicide. I joined the training class and started taking calls. My intent from the start was to tough it out and transfer to another department in the company. The internal website for job postings sucks. It continually locks me out and can only be unlocked by e-mailing the administrator. That was a minor concern, though, compared to a bigger concern in this area.
Every year, around November, everyone in the call center bids for what work shift they will have for the year. These shifts then become effective early December. I should mention that December tends to be busy and hectic. We also bid for what days we can request off for vacation for the year. Any days we request off come out of a bank of paid personal time off. It's a serious no-no to take off more time than you have in your PT bank, which results in unpaid time off. Every year, I try to make it to MAGFest at the beginning of January to see all my OverClocked ReMix friends as well as expand my network as a composer. This means that I'm not only busy and hectic due to work, but also due to planning a trip across the country for a week. My ranking in the vacation bid was good enough that I could request all the time off I needed for MAGFest and give myself a little recuperation time after I got back. According to all the stats I had available to me, I had enough PT to cover all this.
However, my manager e-mailed me - did I mention we cannot check e-mails while on a call and we are always on calls? - that she had made a mistake in entering in my used PT, that she cannot update the system as it is locked due to the end of the year accounting stuff, and that I actually have less PT than the stats indicate. I definitely marked the e-mail as read, but there is no way I read it any more than to acknowledge that it existed. I went to MAGFest, had fun, and came back. When I got back to work, I was informed that I had gone over my PT balance by four hours which were now unpaid, but covered with my next batch of PT a few days later, and was now being written up as a result. Being written up means that I could not apply for any internal job for a year without first talking to my manager and/or HR. Well, shit. I would later get a second write up - a mark that lasts for two years - for coming in late a few too many times in August, which happened to be one of the most stressful and ridiculously stupid times this year. I'll go into more detail on that in a moment.
--to be continued--