As some of you may have noticed, it’s been a tad warmer than usual these past few weeks here in … the world. Also, the number of hurricanes and tropical storms have almost doubled. But I’m sure it’s nothing to be alarmed about. If there was a problem, our stalwart leaders in Washington, DC, would be on the case faster than–
Sorry, I couldn’t keep that going any longer.
In the wake of this global-warming-induced drought, I learned a term I had never heard before: Urban heat island. An urban heat island occurs when there is not enough wind to disperse the heat energy absorbed by the asphalt and metal of large cities. These materials absorb the heat from the sun quickly during the day, but release that energy slowly overnight. If there is not sufficient air flow, the heat energy just accumulates, making conditions a little hotter every day. This is what happened here in Chicago in 1995, when a five-day heat wave killed almost 740 people.
When I first learned about this phenomenon I found, in my own self-centered way, that it made a decent metaphor for the way I handled my job. Until a few days ago, I worked in customer service for a company that specializes in foreign and independent films and documentaries. It sounds cool, but let me assure you it is not. It may have been cool once, back when it was the only place that did what it does, but now there is nothing my company provides that cannot be gotten faster and cheaper through Amazon.com. My company pretty much completely failed to keep up with the times, and now the only people who call are extremely pretentious film twats or people to old or too stupid to handle the Internet.
I sat at the same desk doing the same job for four years. I enjoyed it for a while because I dealt in movies, and how fun is that? But soon I learned that I didn’t quite have the patience necessary to make this job truly enjoyable. The type of customers who called, combined with the shoddy way my company is run, made for a number of very stressful phone calls. Unfortunately, I was never able to just shrug off the frustration from one call gone sour before the phone would ring again. My patience was like the asphalt and metal of the city, and the customers would radiate heat that wouldn’t begin to dissipate until the weekend. Occasionally, there would be deaths.
Metaphorically speaking, of course.
I suppose I got burned out. It reached the point where I felt my pulse elevate every time the phone would ring. I would slam the phone back into its cradle at the end of every call, no matter how the actual call went. Sometimes I would just stand up and announce to anyone within earshot that I had been sitting at this desk too long and I need to find another job before I killed someone.
For some strange reason, the managers decided it might be time for a transfer. They called me into a meeting to let me know that “some changes were coming down the pipeline.” I would finish the week on the phones, then make a permanent switch over to our warehouse.
At first I was indignant. They gave me no choice in the matter. I stewed overnight, and was still simmering the next morning, until I completed my first phone call of the day. After slamming down the phone once again, I thought, Well, I don’t have to talk to that asshole ever again.
I have been working in the warehouse for a week now. It is not air-conditioned. It involves a great deal of paperwork and heavy lifting. Occasionally trucks need to be unloaded. My dad will probably think I’m not living up to my potential, or some such thing. But I gotta tell ya, ever since I ended my last phone conversation with my last idiot customer, a cool breeze has been blowing, and my own personal heat wave is lifting. I think there will be more temperate days ahead.