I was told on Friday that handling abusive language is simply part of the job. No rudeness or irritation or anything that isn’t strictly professional is allowed, and we can’t transfer the caller to a supervisor unless the person makes direct threats of violence — a pattern of either will lead to being fired. I can’t tell you how nervous and, well, unsupported that makes me feel. I’ve never been in a situation like that before, even though the rest of the people in the class seemed to take that as being pretty standard. Nowhere I’ve ever worked would have told me that I should just get used to be shouted and sworn at. I’m really not looking forward to training being over and having to actually start the job.
The astrological chart my friend sent me has the following to say about my Pisces sun and moon: “Extremely sensitive and emotional,” “emotionally vulnerable,” “you can be a sucker for anyone who needs help,” “you are easily upset,” “it would help if you had a thicker skin.”
This just doesn’t feel like a good fit for me. I’m not very good at just ignoring other people’s emotions — and most of the people calling are very emotional. They’re often going through deep hardships (they’re about to be evicted, or they’ve got medical bills they can’t pay, or some other near-disaster), or they’re freaked out about the stock market and want to take their frustration out on someone. In the first case, it distresses me that I can’t do much to help them; in the latter case, well, it’s hard to not let it affect me when someone’s swearing at me.
I am, in some senses, relieved that it will be over the phone (the job is almost exclusively speaking on the phone to strangers). Over the phone, people can’t see that I’m a person of color, and they can’t see my gender presentation, so at least the verbal attacks should be fairly generic.
The one thing that might cause issues is my voice — people don’t always think that it matches up with my name (“Oh. Based on your name, I thought you were a man”), and my voice is currently cracking and squeaking and doing other odd things nearly every other sentence. I just keep hoping and hoping that the T will work its magic, and my voice will drop enough that people won’t be too confused (or at least, they won’t express confusion). Partly because it’d be nice for people’s frustration to remain general and partly because being called “ma’am” and “Ms.” still throws me off in an upsetting way, and I need to remain upbeat and focused and enthusiastic in order to keep the job.
For so many, many reasons, I am just counting down the days until this job will be over; it was always intended as a semi-temporary thing, a way to fund top surgery and get myself back to Chicago. I acknowledge how fortunate I am to have this job, especially given the state of the economy and, correspondingly, the job market. Still, it’s stressful in a lot of ways. I’m not sure how I’m going to get through this year, but I’m just going to take it one day at a time.