Two Truths and a Lie

Submitted into Contest #146 in response to: Start your story during a team building exercise.... view prompt

4 comments

Contemporary Funny

“Your lawnmower burned my house down.” I tuned the headset volume and hitched myself up in my seat. I was on high alert. I scrunched my stress ball. The customer's voice paused and waited for my next move. My chair squeaked. “I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said. The thing was, at that moment I wasn’t sure if he was kidding. He wasn’t. The customer's voice got really mad and said I had a bad attitude. Our lawnmowers were dangerous and his insurance company sucked and he hated my accent. Something about hold times and his credit rating; he was really rolling...

The voice had a very long sleepless night. I didn’t really get a chance to sympathize…his house burned down and he says our lawnmower did it - clogged blades full of dry grass and sparks and gas and whoosh! All in all, he handled it pretty well. He never cussed me and when he regained himself he asked to talk to a supervisor. Sadly, I couldn’t tell him that lawnmowers and garden tractors, and even snowblowers burn down lots of garages and sheds. And houses. I transferred the call to my boss - Jack and did a warm handoff to ensure the customer wasn't sent back into the queue.

This wasn’t my first job, but it was my first ‘out-of-college’ job so in that sense it was important to me. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to advance and make better money of course but I had a long way to go. The thing was at my age, I only had a small idea of what a career was supposed to look like or how to go about getting to the big office in the corner. I majored in Geology and got my BS degree after a lot of hard work the old-fashioned way. Before laptops and Grammarly and spreadsheets we had calculators and typewriters with ribbons and white out. I took classes called Optical Mineralogy and Invertebrate Paleontology. So, when I found a job writing warranty adjustments for tractors and lawnmowers and a slew of lawn and garden machines: I wondered how I got there. Sometimes it’s best not to dwell on our choices though and to just put our heads down. We do the best job we can and hope it’s getting close to lunchtime. Growing up, I had a pretty good work ethic. I was a paperboy before old people decided to do that from their cars and I worked at McDonald’s and made pizzas somewhere else.

In college, I had a bookstore job and that was fun, they gave me a ball cap and a 10% discount. The bookstore was the first job where they really started telling us about teamwork. We talked about it in meetings and we had teamwork emails and quizzes. It seems teamwork is a big deal everywhere you go and whenever there is some kind of a failure - inevitably some guy is gonna say “well, they had poor teamwork.” Or, something close to that. When you work for a big Fortune 500 company they’re going to take their teams very seriously. You will need to learn a new team-oriented vocabulary and social skills. Often, there will be a dress code where every Wednesday for example you will all wear a jazzy team polo and khaki pants. At my job, we do lots of meetings, and all of these orbit around the idea of teamwork and teams. Sometimes we have competitions where everyone tries to out-team each other doing stuff. Last week we attended a lecture called 'The Biology of Decision Making' and we all sat around looking at each other waiting for lunchtime. Sometimes, this team stuff can wear you out. We tried self-directed teams for a while but that was a bomb. Self-directed teams are like the wild west of teaming. Basically, everyone is empowered to do stuff and the managers just sit around waiting for people to complain about each other. At least that’s how it was here until they said enough was enough.

Anyway, today before the five-alarm fire phone call came in we were having a team meeting. Jack, Kaye, and Marla. Dave, Lainie, and yours truly. All together we are the CCC Riders. The Customer Communications Center Riders. Individually, we are called customer advisors and individually my name is Paul. Some customers give us a hard time because we’re called ‘advisors.’ We got our picture taken - all of us posing together wearing leather jackets and boots and jeans. It’s a pretty cool picture. I didn’t have a leather coat so Kaye let me wear her husband’s crimson red one. It’s too big on me but that adds to the artistic feel and effect. We are all wearing sunglasses too and Lainie - our youngest, is hitting a sassy pose with her hip jutting. Kaye is sitting atop the borrowed Harley ‘Softail’ motorcycle. She looks really natural on there and some wonder if she has a biker background and maybe some biker tats. So, we all have this picture somewhere on our desks next to the bobbleheads and coffee mugs. Jack is our fearless leader and he makes the team rules and sets the agenda. This morning we were playing ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ again because this is one of Jack’s favorite teambuilder games. It’s a get-to-know-you-type thing but in my opinion, it’s basically a sneaky way of bragging about yourself. For example, one of Jack’s truths today was “I was my class homecoming king.” You can see where this type of game is going with everyone telling some kind of personal fact. Dave calls Jack the ‘stem’ which is an insult of course. Dave was an Eagle Scout and he thinks Jack is a dumbbell. Worse, Dave thinks everyone is a dumbbell. One of Dave’s truths is “I was an Eagle Scout,” which is disappointing because I always thought the Eagles were supposed to be loyal and kind persons who were also expert knot tiers and fire makers and campers. My two truths are: “I was Captain of my high school track team,” and “I got a 26 on my ACT test.” My Lie is “I got a 29 on my ACT test.” Marla puts up with me. Deep down I know she likes me but she is externally a very grumpy person. We share our cube and our snacks though and you can’t expect people to be friendly all day long. Marla has been doing customer service work for over 40 years so things bother her that I can only guess at. The first thing she does in the morning is sign on to her Solitaire game. I have never seen her when she is not either playing or pausing in between shuffles. If Jack walks by she doesn’t mind and he never says anything to her. The CEO could walk in and Marla would sit there playing Solitaire and bat, not an eyelash. Kaye is very classy and by far the most professional person in our little department. Lainie is her ‘wingman.’ Lainie covers for Kaye and vice versa. They are both usually up to some kind of office intrigue that reaches beyond the borders of our cubes; upstairs into accounting or even downstairs into the unknown and mysterious tech support nerd-realm. Kaye can charm the pants off a customer and she is usually assigned to handle or ‘de-escalate’ the angrier calls. She is also a secret gum-chewing addict. She is one of those people who can chew gum but you never see her mouth moving. The only way you know she has gum is by the faint, thin odor of spearmint in the air. Lainie is a graduate student at NC State. She writes poetry and says her boyfriend is lazy. Kaye says she ought to dump him but we all know how that kind of advice goes - it only leads to people being mad at each other while the boyfriend goes right on being lazy.

That’s our group - or was our group. My CCC Rider days are behind me now. We were a little weird but we were a good bunch and a real team. The five of us and Jack did more than just manage phones and juggle papers and invoices. We helped each other and we helped loyal customers. We crafted business correspondence and advised company lawyers about consumer issues, complaints, and compliments. And all of us felt bad for the small angry hurt voice who called in to say his house burned down. "I'm so sorry to hear that..."


May 19, 2022 19:55

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4 comments

Aeris Walker
00:22 May 26, 2022

Hi Paul! Welcome to Reedsy! (Still in your first month here, so I guess a welcome is appropriate, right?) I loved your first line—grabbing from the get-go and introduces us right away to the kind of situations our main character deals with at work. One technical piece of advice is to divide up your paragraphs a little more. There’s some paragraphs that could be turned into two or three without making the story read too choppily. I think that would help organize your transition from one character to another, and make the pace smoother. I re...

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Paul Wilhite
21:13 May 26, 2022

Thank you!

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Beth Connor
03:45 May 22, 2022

This story felt so nostalgic. I spent a free years working in a call center, with very similar experiences! I laughed at the beginning when the man placed blame. Your story was a fun read!

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Paul Wilhite
16:46 May 22, 2022

Thank you Beth. That was actually a pretty typical day at my old job!

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