It was an accident, in my own defense. But it happened all the same…
I was in my early 20’s; young, skinny, and downright stupid. My first job out of college had not been anything glamorous. It was a job, it paid… some of the bills. I worked at a car rental company.
At this point, I had been an employee for less than a year. Long enough to know the drill but not long enough to know I didn’t actually know anything. Let me paint you the picture…
A nice, fall day in Southern Louisiana, approximately Eleventy Degrees. I am in a suit and heels. That’s the uniform this company requires I wear to be spit on, yelled at, sweat in, and most importantly: wash cars in. I have mastered the pleasant, customer service face. I feel my soul dying; that’s how I know I’m good at my job. Smile, nod, be accommodating, feel empty inside.
This particular office was the third branch I had been in. It was previously a “Chicken Shack.” Yes, you read that correctly. We love fried chicken here in Southern Louisiana. It had a few bullet holes in a window that were covered by scraggly bushes. The carpet at one time may have been appealing, but were now covered in what I can only assume were dead hopes & dreams. The counter was a beautiful formica with two computers that I believe were from 1995. We also had a super functional dot matrix
printer. The smell was a stale, mildew smell. Body order lingered from all the employee’s sweat from being outside with customers and washing cars in violent heat and humidity. When the drivers (octogenarians who would move cars between branches or when one was getting pulled from inventory) would come into ANY branch really, but mostly this one, they would “blow up” the bathroom. So a solid mix of mildew, sweat, and poop.
Have I painted a soul crushing image for you yet?
On this particular day, I’m sure I was typing a ticket for a customer. We are trained to multi-task; type a ticket, answer the phone, coordinate a drop-off/pick-up, and somehow also be washing a car. That’s why I have a degree and made the big bucks… $10/hr. HOLLA! Anyway, I’m typing a ticket and the phone rings.
“Thank you for choosing [MJ’s Car Rental]. The company that picks you up! How may I help you?” I said in one short burst, but with the vocal range and interest of a local newscaster.
I hear a lovely British accent on the phone, “Um, yes. Is Johnny, the manager, available?”
Now, from time to time branches pull phone pranks on each other. I thought this was my time to shine…
I respond in a horribly atrocious, obviously fake British accent, “Right-o! Do hooooooold a moment!”
I smile to myself, turn to Johnny and shout “Hey-yo Johnny! Kathy is on line 3! She’s pretending to be British!”
“Really? She’s never done that before… ok!” Johnny is all smiles; the prank is on!
“Kaaaa-theeeeeee! What up girl?!” He emphatically says in to the phone. He’s got a twinkle in his eye, but it quickly changes. I see the glimmer fade, he’s back into the soul crushing world of customer service. Did I tell him the wrong line? Did Kathy hang-up before Johnny answered?
“…yes ma’am I can look into that for you. Do you have a reservation number…” Johnny must have picked up the wrong line. I’m back focused on the customer in front of me, but I’m almost done. I won’t be able to hear the finale! What happened?
Once I was done with that customer, I came back into the office ready to go with another angry, dissatisfied customer who could tell me how I’d ruined their day / vacation / life. Johnny looked pissed! And not just in general pissed, but pissed AT ME! He pulled me aside.
“That was not Kathy.” He scolded.
“Yeah, I gathered that. What happened?” I was genuinely curious.
Turns out it was never Kathy… we asked.
I literally mocked a customer, to her British face.