11
Feb
10

Still here, still safe and…sane?

Sorry for the delay in updates, folks, but I do have to sleep sometimes. I’m operating on about 4 hours right now. Might attempt a catnap before work later.

Last night was my first trip across town in daylight hours. I experienced something that my colleagues had warned me about. Beggars come up to the car window and tap on the glass. No one acknowledges them. I briefly made eye contact with a woman who came up to the car. That was a mistake. She tapped on the glass until we drove away. I don’t like to think about the ugly reality of the poverty here. I could have handed that woman twenty USD and who knows what sort of difference that might have made in her life. I spend twenty dollars in tips for a guy to spend 5 seconds putting black pepper on my Caesar salad back home. It’s nothing to me. I wonder how far she could stretch it. Then the cold settles back in. I can’t save anyone today.

As we pulled away from that intersection and into the next stretch of chaos I noticed a baby, maybe two years old, walking through traffic. This is Delhi rush hour traffic mind you. Work trucks are loaded with men on the way to jobs; motorcycles are piled with helmetless riders. Horns are used in an entirely different context here. Rather than an expression of dissatisfaction, a horn blast here signifies “Don’t deviate from your current course or we’re all dead.” Saying that the roads have lanes here would be a gross overstatement. In the middle of all of this, here’s this little girl walking along a short concrete wall that divides the opposing streams. I wanted to get out of the car and go collect her, but instead I grabbed a quick, blurry photo of the scene. Even at her age, she’s probably much better equipped for survival on that street than I am.

Every few seconds there’s another scene like those. Luxury hotels and office buildings stick out like icebergs floating in the surrounding sea of dirt and squalor. The building I work in has a giant multi-story banner on the side depicting a smiling woman wearing a headset.

Had a good training session last night, although at a couple points the on-site trainer shouted something in Hindi and ejected a drowsing trainee from the room. I stopped the first time this happened and he said “If he’s going to sleep, he might as well be taking calls.” Interesting point of view. It’s nice to know my training style has them on the edge of their seats, even if it’s the side edge – as they’re falling over. Those people in the group that I expected to stay engaged were paying attention and asking good questions all night. The agents with potential are starting to differentiate themselves from the pack. There’s an opportunity to build a good team here, provided they don’t burn out.

I witnessed first hand the “shouting from the center of the room” behavior that I had been warned about. I was discussing a call with an agent, offering my critiques and compliments, when someone shouted his name from somewhere beyond the row of cubicles. I asked him what that was about and he said it was because he was on wrap up too long. For those that haven’t worked in a nightmare call center, wrap up is the time between when the customer hangs up, and when you’re ready to take the next call. This is time that agents use to complete customer records or type in case notes. They’ve got them on a pretty tight leash. We were barely offline for two or three minutes before we got a knock on the head.

In all honesty, it’s not that bad. It’s just something that white collar Americans aren’t used to. Regular blue-collar Joes have to deal with bosses like this all the time. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it’s almost inevitable when you give someone a little power and the room to use it. Neither the call center manager nor the foreman on a team of roofers is interested in catching flies with honey. Treating people with dignity and respect goes a long way, and changing this behavior wouldn’t cost us a penny.

After the session I spend a few minutes talking to the guy from the night before who was interested in audio engineering. I tell him about my experiences, projects I’ve worked on and software I’ve used. Turns out we’re both into the same specific subgenre of dance music, and he’s spent some time as a DJ as well. He’s a cool guy, very enthusiastic. It’s nice to end the day chatting about subjects that I still have genuine enthusiasm for.

The folks that work in this place are an interesting mix. On average, they’re probably close to college age, though some are older, maybe mid thirties. Some are dressed urban casual, with Western branded designer t-shirts and jeans. Others are more traditional in dress shirts, ties and the occasional vest. This doesn’t seem to correlate with age. Each person dresses according to their personality. Before and after the shift changes they gather together in clusters outside the gate and talk, smoke or buy food from improvised stands or truck bed vendors. I tried to snap a few shots of this, but I didn’t want to use flash and it was dusk, so I have a lot of shots of streaking lights and smears of human activity. It captures the feel pretty well.

Tonight we’re going to cover one of my favorite products. There’s not much to say about it, so I’ll probably end up listening to calls most of the night. At times it seems like they’re all the same caller. Some exhausted white guy, working alone, annoyed at having been on hold for who knows how long. They all have the same complaints about the process. Some are friendly. Some are assholes. Mostly they just want to get back to work. Sometimes we help them do that.

My sleep schedule has been so scrambled for so long that I’m starting to get a little weird around the edges. Moreso than usual. I need to go squeeze in another short nap before the car gets here, or I’m going to be pretty punchy on the floor tonight.

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