I hear a dial tone in my dreams. Each ring slips through my psyche. These nightmares always end the same, “Hello, I can’t take your call at the moment. Please leave a message after the beep”
Working at a call center is hell. ‘It’s just a job’, you’d tell me. Just a job.
And what is a job but just a way to obtain money. Fuck all the deadbeats who told me through highschool that “money can’t buy happiness.” They didn’t get how important money is.
I’m not saying that I prefer those on the other end of the spectrum, all those sociopathic wallstreet types always blathering about “Time is money.”
Their attitude isn’t entirely wrong, but they’ve got it the wrong way round. Money is time.
Time spent talking to pensioners about their problems in my depressing cubicle.
Times have changed for men.
I wish was out in the fresh air chopping wood, exercising my body with each swing of the axe all while the great beautiful sun is shining down. In my mind I can hear a gentle stream and birds singing simply because they enjoy life.
Then I open my eyes and I’m brought back down into reality. The sound of the stream is Gareth loudly enjoying his coffee while endlessly whistling some out of tune melody.
We aren’t volunteers, we’re fundraiser paid on commission to get donations. There is no real work going on here, we produce nothing. I have no axe to swing and there is no need, we humans have technologically ‘advanced’. My fingers are well defined from tapping all day while my back is slowly deforming from sitting at a computer all day.
It’s not like outside of work is much diferent. Each night I arrive home exhausted despite doing nothing and eagerly throw myself into the warm hole of Youtube, Reddit, and Facebook. It’s all escapism of course. Same with video games, why go out to the club when I can rescue the princess with no risk to ego and esteem.
The only purity in my life is the walk tofro work. As well as being my sole source of vitamin D- it’s in those precious 30 minutes that I feel most alive. I am moving and can feel the world: dirt grass, trees. Not the lifeless plastic of my keyboard and mouse.
As I arrive to the center we start off the shift with a motivating talk. As if I’m meant to feel good that we are fundraising for charity.
We are worse than door-to-door salesman, at least with them you get an ‘absolutely amazing’ 16 knife set. With we sell to some poor sap all they end up with is a nice feeling and a tax receipt. That nice feeling wouldn’t last if they found out we took half of their donation.
I’d like to construct some Robin Hood fantasy, taking from the rich and giving to the poor while in actuality our donors are the poor.
And the sick.
And the old.
The irony isn’t lost on me that the great pay is what attracted me to the charity industry.
It’s true- charity is big business- and I can’t speak for the results of our fundraising but I can speak for the people we take our money from.
It takes a certain type of person to donate:
First- capacity, having money.
Secondly- they need to be fragile. Emotionally malleable. This is why our donors most consists of women and the elderly, we pick the bones of society to help those at the bottom. Like advertisements we create a problem that didn’t exist before(in the prospect’s mind)- some earthquake on another continent, a rare disease. It’s really irrelevant what it is. Not only do we try to pull their heartstrings, we tune their heartstrings and then strum a heartbreaking song on them.
We just a need something to band the masses against. For the Nazi’s it was the Jews, but the terrifying thing is that it could have been anyone. Modern society doesn’t understand the true terrifying nature of the Third Reich was in it’s constantly morphing moral ambiguity. The tragic history of the Jews is nothing to dismiss. However, the horror of the holocaust resides in the sheer heartless practicality of Hitler’s takeover.
In the same way we fundraisers takeover the minds and hearts of own prospects/prey. We are admittedly, the lesser of the two evils, in that we manipulate people to act out of love and compassion – as opposed to hatred and indifference. However it is equally manipulative and underhand.
I wonder if humankind will lways be at the whim of the man at the speakerphone. There is a scene that comes to mind from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’, just after the famous speech which the film is mostly known for. Just after delivering his inspirational speech he strangely takes of a face of pure hopeless as the crowd wildly cheers. This is not explained explicitly however I am drawn to the theory that Chaplin is horrified at the crowd cheering in equal fervor as they did just previously for Hitler’s ideas.
It is this same cosmic eternal horror that I constantly find myself in. Our offices own ideology is split between two major schools of thought. On one hand we’re encouraged to feel happy that we are doing this for charity and are simultanously bombared with salesman propaganda (Always be closing, Glengarry Glen Ross type stuff).
Caught in the middle are us fundraisers who come from all walks of life. From students looking for quick cash to middle agers looking for fulfillment in their twilight years. And we’re all looking for that Margaret with her juicy pension that she is just ready to give away for that sweet ticket to heaven. A younger Margaret would have laughed in our faces and hung up. Time has come to the rescue, 80 years to be exact, and now she’s asking herself, “Will they let me in when I get to the pearly gates?”
And I answer that thought, “Absolutely… with only $20 to sad shit foundation you can find salvation.”
And then again I’ll call in a month and this time it’ll be an “Wonderful $30″.
Next month it’s $50. Once you show that precious weakness we won’t stop until you’re bankrupt or dead.
Without a doubt, doing charity work has been the most depraved job I’ve done.
But that’s not entirely true. I try to think of a job that would be morally ‘good’ or philanthropic. That query is beside the point when faced with the greater question of what defines a selfless act at all?
My personal reasoning is that many of the selfless acts we celebrate are in fact not different from regular acts. We’re all chasing that good feeling, looking for a fix whether it be sex, drugs, or charity induced euphoria. All motivations are essentially selfish.
We jump in front a bullet for our lover because our life would be unbearable without them. In conclusion the only real selfless acts are either done by accident and not acknowledged or are done in a neutral fashion where you don’t get that warm fuzzy feeling.
I’ve come to a realization that this essentially defines my job. I’m neither Mother Theresa or the Wolf of Wallstreet but rather reside in a neutral zone. Perhaps I can feel good about getting this money to the extremely unfortunate but I am taking it from the unfortunate. It balances out, I am in one of the few jobs that allows me to do truly selfless deeds of charity. Not that feel anything about that fact, if I did it would cease to be selfless.
Unfortunately, I am actually kind of feeling proud about this strange twist of logic so I suppose I was right the first time. My job is depraved, in a strangely beautiful way.