Home > Life or something like it > The Five Things I’ve Learned – Part I

The Five Things I’ve Learned – Part I

03/22/2006

     Where do I begin…?

     It’s been just over nine weeks since I’ve found myself making a choice between becoming a runaway, or sucking up my pride and living in a homeless shelter trying to get myself back on my feet, and recover from the depression that I had been going through for the latter part of 2005. Instead of listening to my pride, I succumbed to humility, and ended up allowing myself to pack up what I could — put my cat into a bording kennel, take what I could in my laundry bag and a carry on bag, and headed over to the only mission in the area that had a bed and room for me to move into.
     Jeannie had said to me while she was helping me drop off my cat that this would be a growing/learning experience… While I had realized that what she was saying was a condolence for the horrible decision that she thought she had little control over — it took some time for me to realize that she was right; and that it would definitely be a growing and learning experience. However, not all of the lessons that I learned while at the mission (and later on, when I moved out) were necessary for me to learn… In the time I was there, I had learned the following:

  • That I’m getting too old for having to pick fights with idiots and backwater hicks to educate them: diversity is good.
  • I should always follow my heart.
  • That sometimes — no matter how naive I can be — some people simply shouldn’t be trusted, or given the benefit of trust.
  • To stop being so bloody minded about my own self-reliance, and seek out help when needed.
  • And no matter how good the intention and the want to make peace — sometimes family is so fucked up and dysfunctional — it’s better to sign off on them and write them off never to talk with them again , than open yourself up to the world of hurt peacemaking and bridgebuilding can cause.

     Now to break down the stories for those things that I learned…

     That I’m getting too old for having to pick fights with idiots and backwater hicks to educate them: diversity is good.

      Now this is one of those stories that was told in multiple entries in a traditional paper journal — that while it did get the gist of what was going on — didn’t quite catch all the anger and the frustration that I was going through at the time. That’s the drawback with my keeping a traditional journal — I can’t write as fast as I think. Which meant a lot of what I was going through at the time was lost between the lines. While I’ll be able to eventually reconstruct what was said and what was meant — I’ll try to draw it out as best as I can without all the agonizing I had gone through at the time.
     I had been warned by Jeannie that the area of Pennsylvania I was moving into was less than "gay friendly". Hell — some of the stories sounded as though I had returned to my hometown twenty years ago, and were listening to all the brouhaha regarding Aaron Fricke bringing his boyfriend to the Cumberland High Prom back in the very ealy 80’s. But I thought that having survived it, coupled with it being the 21st century — perhaps it won’t be as bad as it was twenty-six years ago when I first came out of the closet. So, I decided to job hunt and see what I could find when it comes to a job that would allow for acceptance of diversity. I lucked out by finding Reese…
     Reese had not only an EOE that covered sexual orientation, but also one that covered ageism. While I had seen it in the news and heard mention that some companies have thought about incorporating such a thing into their EOE — Reese was in fact the first company that I had personally witnessed having such an executive order in place. So I did everything in my power to land the job — not that it really was a problem actually given that looking at it in retrospect, what with the turnover it was astronomical…
     Now, working the job had it’s own special considerations and stresses. One, it’s a low paying job to start. You have to invest a lot of your time into learning the "tools of the trade"… Within the first three weeks, they don’t actually teach you the necessary tools of the trade (which is totally ass-backwards in my opinion, given the next issues)… That out of the 450 – 600 calls made in a day, 80% of them are call-backs, 15% of them are rejections, 4% are people that are so fed up with telemarketers, making you become the target of that frustration, and 1% (perhaps less than that, but I’m rounding) are actually successful sales calls.
     What made it interesting is the fact that once I was taught the necessary tools of the trade — a class of an hour and a half — I went from a C classed caller to an A classed caller immediately after the class. I even maintained that A Class caller status for the remainder of the time that I had worked there to boot (in spite of the one week towards the end they had me working this wretched list that had been so over-worked the two months that I was there).
     However, what was really concerning me wasn’t the fact that the job was stressful — it was, don’t get me wrong there — but what was bothering me incredibly was hearing people around the office, both on the call center floor, and in the break room — supervisors, and workers saying "That’s so gay!" in the patently derogatory way that teenagers in high school use. But I think the one that truly, truly got me was the one towards the end of January/beginning of February where one of the folk on the floor said, "I love you [Cookie]… but not in the gay way…" While I didn’t mind that so much as I’ve never really heard it used in a derogatory manner, the response from the man it was said to was… "That’s good, because I wouldn’t want to have to shoot you…"
     Totally uncalled for!
     Needless to say, I agonized over it for a couple of weeks. While I did bring up immediately, "excuse me!" while looking at the offending manager I wasn’t entirely sure how to bring it up to the manager in question, or his manager either for that matter. So I sat on it, and continued to question whether this was something to be brought up or not. An opportunity however, did present itself when I was getting a written warning for something that I found was more towards playing favorites than I liked… I was sat next to one of the other A Class callers — Patrick was his name who had exceeded 200+% customer satisfaction for as long as anyone could remember — in order to learn the skills that he used to make successful sales. I followed what he did to the letter (which is part of the reason why I had become a Class A caller as well), and in doing so — I was caught not giving proper gatekeeper responses. I was pulled in to have it explained to me, of which I looked at my boss — Tim — and then the offending manager — Cookie — and told them flat out that I followed what Patrick did to the letter (including the averages of which he gave proper gatekeeper responses vs. improper responses). Tim, my boss said to me that I should only be mimicing/learning Patrick’s sales skills only.
     I looked through him, and then asked him, "if that’s the case, then how is he becoming team leader if he’s not performing proper gatekeeper responses?"
     Both of them gave me bullshit excuses about how he’s (Patrick’s) now supposedly under incredible scrutiny for the position, and everything he does will be monitored. Which, like it or not, translated to RHIP (Rank Has Its Priviledges). So I confonted the two of them based on the comments that I had been hearing since I had gotten onto the call center floor, and particularly Cookie’s rather hateful/homophobic comment.
     They both told me, I needed to be "more tolerant".
     I looked through the both of them. Tim — well, Tim was oblivious. It’s apparent that the only reason why he has the job of manager is because of his sales skills — nothing more… Nothing less… Cookie on the other hand knew that it was the wrong thing to say, and he had a hell of a guilty look on his face. But I said nothing, took my lumps for the written warning, and was determined right then and there to quit the job, and consider whether I had a legitimate case for litigation.
     Frankly — I’m tired of having to be the advocate for gay and lesbian rights. I’m especially tired of being the token queer wherever I go… I have advocated the rights of queerfolk since I came out of the closet when I was 15, and when I was old enough to vote, I worked as an activist both in Massachussetts and Rhode Island up until 29 when I moved south to Georgia. In Georgia — I had attempted to advocate rights there as well, which turned out to be a total abortion, given that there were way too many groups trying to fight for way too many niggling things; and by the time I was 35 — I was tired of being the activist for gay and lesbian rights wherever I turned. By 40, I was seriously tired of even being the educator for heterosexual folks that don’t know the ups and downs of queerfolk. To me, it’s time to enjoy some
of the fruits of all my labor, and allow others to do the work that I used to.
     Seeing the attitudes that I was getting at Reese, I just wasn’t up for more of that sort of fighting/advocating… Especially given that my experience with EOE’s that cover Sexual Orientation can be rather sketchy and even hypocritically nonexistent, in spite of them being put in writing.
     So, I quit, to pursue the next thing that I learned…

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