Part 1: Customer Service: Chapter 1
In a cubicle in a dark room somewhere, a young woman pushed a blinking amber button on her desk phone. She forced herself to smile as she adjusted her headset microphone. She spoke English with the bouncing lilt of an Indian accent.
“Customer service agent twenty-five sixty-one. How may I help you?”
“Guns,” the caller urgently whispered. “They’ve got guns!”
He said something more but the words were obscured by a muted scuffling, as if he was stuffing his phone in his pocket.
The operator scribbled three words on her notepad.
Old. Male. American?
“Hello?” the operator said. “Hello, sir. How may I assist you today?”
A whoosh filled her ears, as the caller’s mouthpiece was uncovered. The caller was mid-sentence.
“-not sure how to use this thing. Is anyone there? Is this working?”
“Hello? Sir?” the operator said. “I will be glad to be of assisting today. The connection seems to breaking. Can you get-”
“They’re storming the ship,” the man said, interrupting. “Men in masks. They’re taking hostages. Come get me. Now!”
“I will be glad to provide you excellent customer service today. However, I will be requiring your account number before I am able to process any request.”
The operator winced as a woman near the caller screamed.
“Oh, my God! They’ve got guns!”
“I told her that,” the man barked. “Hello? You there? Come get me right now!”
“Sir,” the operator said, “I am sorry but I need-”
The woman on the caller’s end screeched again, unleashing a sustained piercing squeal. The operator’s headset earphones peaked and ruptured into static. When the electronic equipment recovered, the woman on the caller’s end was yelling.
“-such a cheap ass! We just had to do it like this. You could have bought your own boat. You could have bought your own plane! You see what happens? You see!”
“Shut up!” the man yelled back. “I’m calling for help!”
“Sir,” the operator said, her eye on the script tacked to the fabric walls of her cubicle. “I want to provide you with exceptional customer service, but I am sorry and cannot hear you. Can you move someplace with more silence?”
“It’s my damn wife,” the caller said. “Are you coming to get me or what?”
“Sir, this is a private line,” the operator said calmly. “We require your account information. If you do not provide it, I will sadly be necessity to terminate this call so I may excellently serve other customers.”
“Don’t you dare hang up on me, you curry-munching cow-kisser. I’ll buy your whole damn village and burn it to the ground.”
The operator felt her cheeks burn as she ran her finger down her operator tip sheet, stopping at the line that said, ‘Customers may be angry, but you can always be respectful.’
“Sir, I am trying to provide you with top quality serv-”
The woman on the line screamed again, this time further away from the caller. “They’re shooting! They’re shooting!”
“Damn it, lady,” the man yelled into the phone. “Don’t you know who I am? I could buy and sell you a million times. Can’t you see the number I’m calling from?”
“Mister, it is possibly you are using a stolen phone. Provide your account number, please.”
“Hide in the closet!” the woman on the caller’s end said. “In the closet!”
The operator endured several seconds of scratching and grunting noises. Her eye caught the digital timer on her phone’s display flashing as it passed fifty seconds. The note taped next to the timer read, “Over one minute equals failure.”
“Sir,” she said, “your account number.”
“This is ridiculous! For how much I’m paying, you should-”
“Sir, without your account number-”
“Fine. Let me find it. I can barely see. Wait. Here it is. Seven nine seven six five two one. Now stop messing around and get me out of here. This is deadly serious. Life and death.”
The operator punched the numbers into her computer. The screen responded with a friendly window that said simply, “Verified. Confirm password.”
“I am pleased to tell to you that your account number has passed confirmation,” she said. “Now I will be needing your password.”
“More questions? Just send help. Do it now!”
“They’re close!” the woman on the calling end whimpered. “I think they’re on our deck. Oh, no! No! No!”
“Will you shut up? They’re going to hear you.”
“Your password. Sir?”
“Oh, let me think, it’s-”
A loud bang obliterated his words.
“I’m sorry sir,” the operator said, frowning at the phone timer, now well over one minute.
“There was a background noise. I couldn’t quite hearing you.”
“Sweetheart! It’s sweetheart!” he yelled before quickly dropping his voice to a whisper. “Please hurry. They’re here. They’re breaking in next door.”
The woman on the calling end was sobbing.
The operator typed in the password. Her computer screen responded with a form, most of the fields already were populated.
“Thank you, Mister Sinclair,” the operator said. “Your account has been activated. Now please can you give me details on your situation?”
“I’m on a cruise ship,” the man whispered. “The Sunset Mist. Terrorists are taking over. Guys with guns and ski masks. Now get me off this damn boat!”
“Our system has confirming your approximate locale via satellite GPS through your cell phone. Now I ask that you to do the needful and get to a safe pla-”
The line crackled and was silent.
“Sir? Hello? Sir?”
The operator grumbled to herself as she completed the computer form and then pressed enter to submit it.
“What a jerk,” she mumbled to herself. “I hope they find him in that closet.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, she noticed a tiny, blinking red dot in the corner of her computer screen next to the words “Call Recording.”
She flicked off her phone and looked over her shoulder as she slouched a little lower in her seat.