Saturday, October 24, 2009

Conference Room Comedy

Somewhere, in the conference room of a large corporation, I can imagine a certain ritual. The ritual is probably enacted a couple of times per year when the boss is on vacation. Elements of this ritual could block me from ever becoming President of the United States.

In my imagination, there is a group of workers involved in customer service. They are charged with improving the experience for callers who interact with the company's maddening, computerized phone interface. They survey customers, attend conferences where system improvements are discussed, and generally work to make the system better. They also review actual recordings of callers to gain insight into how effectively the system routes calls to the correct destination. To amuse themselves, they collect the digital audio files of particularly upset callers who lose their patience and go ballistic. They save the most prolific examples of exasperation and string them together in a "best of" collection.

I star in several of these recordings.

I imagine that, when the boss is away, they play these creations over lunch in the conference room and laugh until milk comes out of their noses. Perhaps they have a competition to see who can unearth footage of the most upset caller. It could be that such a competition has lead them to purposely build design-flaws into the system in order to illicit entertaining reactions from callers like me. I wouldn't be surprised.

Since I am usually calm and rational at the beginning of these calls, I offer all sorts of definitively identifying information. This means that if I run for President and these recording air, there will be no denying that it is me making the calls. The voters will know that I can sometimes be transformed into a vituperative lunatic spewing the raunchiest, curse-speckled diatribe imaginable.

I know it's a computer on the other end of the line -- just a bunch of electronic circuits and silicon with no empathy or consciousness. I realize that exploding in violent anger is a complete waste of energy and shows a lack of intelligence and control. It is totally embarrassing but entirely effective in terms of processing my frustration.

On the other hand, I might be completely wrong. Perhaps "the people" can relate. Maybe they would feel close to the chain of command if they knew that the President might be in the oval office at any given moment, tormented with rage, whacking the receiver repeatedly on the desk, and using the loudest voice he can muster to scream at a computer.

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