lørdag, april 28, 2007

To hell with it all/Martin-phobic

Dear readers, I sincerely apologise for my long period of absence. Contrary to public speculation, I have not vanished from the face of Earth. Understandably, much to the utter disappointment of many, I am still alive, though not exactly kicking. As mentioned previously, nowadays I am spending such an obscene amount of time at work facing the computer that by the time I reach home the mere sight of my own adorable personal computer would immediately appear extremely repulsive and unbelievably nauseating to me - a reaction quite unimaginable, given how much time I used to spend online, most of the time to the extent of foolishly neglecting my studies simply because I couldn't resist the temptation to procrastinate. My employers have heartlessly banned access to other websites other than our very own company page, and to be fair, perhaps it was a correct move, especially when employees like me find surfing the Internet an infinitely more interesting activity than answering an incessant stream of calls for hours on end. Sometimes even when everyone is already diligently answering calls, the number of calls which are queuing to be cleared can still hit more than ten - and everytime I see the statistics for the number of pending calls I feel such an indescribable sense of dread that time seems to pass incredibly slowly for me suddenly. I work for a hospital, you see, and while answering calls we must also record in our computers the contents of our conversations with the callers - whether they want to change or book or cancel their appointments; take down their requests for continuous prescriptions if they have run out of medication; answer general enquiries; et cetera. I can't escape facing the computer. I've encountered really difficult patients too - some were downright nasty, some were fussy and troublesome, and some were irritatingly long-winded. 3 more months to the end of my contract, and I am already counting down.

Of course, there are other reasons why I dread going to work. But over the past one week or so, my dread has not only intensified, but I've also developed a phobia, and acquired a new reason to my list of Reasons Why I Dread Going to Work. You see, around one week ago, a certain caller whose name is Martin Koh (this name is ubiquitous enough to allow some degree of anonymity, so I shall not attempt to conceal it at all) called in for the first time. Unfortunately for me, I was the one who answered his call. He asked a lot of questions and it took me an awful lot of time to entertain him and clarify his doubts. After spending 20 minutes explaining things to him in a very detailed manner (while other callers whose calls were pending at that time had to wait and suffer in silence) and informing him of the consultation charges as well as everything that is relevant to making appointments to see specialists, he finally understood what I said and decided to book an appointment with a neurologist. Before hanging up, he asked for my name because he didn't catch it when I was introducing myself - we all have to introduce ourselves to callers - and naturally I told him my name without any hesitation. If only I had known or foreseen the consequences of such a seemingly harmless act.

He called again the next day, and he requested to speak to me. My colleague transferred his call over to me, and again the conversation took at least 20 minutes - he asked the same questions all over again, including some very stupid ones like, "What are intern doctors?" And I had to try my best to contain my irritation and condescension by answering politely, "Intern doctors are medicine students who are on internship programmes as part of their curriculum to attain qualifications which will certify that they are professional doctors in their own specialised fields." I felt an almost insuppressible urge to snigger audibly and add 'you idiot' at the end of my sentence, but since I am working in the healthcare sector I decided to be charitable and compassionate, because I understand perfectly that not everyone is genetically identical - disparities in IQ are certain to occur, and we must never look down on the less privileged who are handicapped in one way or another, including the severely mentally challenged. Eventually, he asked to change his appointment, and I changed it for him accordingly.

On the third day, a nurse at the hospital called Martin and told him that due to changes at the last minute, he was unable to see the doctor with whom he had the appointment, because this particular doctor had other urgent matters to attend to on that day, and had thus cancelled all his clinic sessions. The nurse asked Martin if he wanted to see another doctor instead. Martin then said that the nurse had confused him - though there was obviously nothing confusing about the whole affair at all because it was really very uncomplicated - and so the nurse, being very kind and forgiving, repeated everything she had just said all over again, stopping occasionally to ask, "Up to this point, is there anything you don't understand?" Martin answered, "No." When the nurse had finally finished, Martin said, "I understand..." And while the nurse was about to clap her hands in glee and celebrate her success in making an imbecile grasp the complex concept of something which is unthinkably profound at his level, he dealt her another unexpected blow by continuing, "... But it was still very confusing." He then told the nurse that I "know him better" and requested to speak to me, and helplessly the nurse called my office and asked me to call him personally to explain matters to him. Reluctantly I took down his number and spoke to him, and was flooded with a deluge of silly questions again. Some were truly ridiculously stupid, like, "What do you mean by 'clinic sessions'?" Don't laugh, even though admittedly it was indeed achingly hilarious that such a shamefully brainless question should exit the lips of a 37-year-old, whom you thought should have had more self-respect than that. After much hassle he finally granted me permission to book an appointment for him with another neurologist.

On the fourth day, he called and requested to speak to me again, and asked to change the time of his appointment. He would prefer it to be in the early morning between 8.30am and 9am instead of 10.40am, which was the time slot I had given to him. I told him that it was not possible because all the other appointment slots had already been taken by other patients, and if he wanted to come in the early morning, he would have to till the 23rd of May, when there was an available slot at 9.15am. That led to another barrage of inane questions, like, "Why are all the available dates on Wednesdays?" (the answer to this question is, by the way, that neurologists at the hospital which I am working for are all visiting doctors from other hospitals, and they only come over once a week) and "In Singapore we have National Heart Centre, National Skin Centre, National Dental Clinic and other establishments which specialise in specific problems, so do we also have a similar healthcare organisation for neurology?" At that point in time I really felt like screaming at him, but I tried my best to be nice and controlled my temper. I seriously wanted to be sarcastic and tell him, "Oh yes, there is the National Institute of Mental Health too, perhaps you'd like to find out more about it?" But I wasn't ready to be fired yet, so I tolerated his crap and continued being friendly. Answering his calls is highly infuriating, frustrating and exhausting, not to mention absolutely time-wasting. If I were a caller I'd be totally pissed off if I know that one big reason why I always have to wait forever before a customer service officer is ready and available to answer my call is because there are Martin Kohs all over the place.

The story has not ended yet. I wish it has. But it probably won't be ending anytime soon. In fact, it may carry on till the day I resign. On the fifth day, Martin Koh called AGAIN, asked for me AGAIN, and my colleague transferred his call to me.

Richie (my colleague): Hey, a caller is looking for you.
Me: Who?
Richie: Martin.

And I almost burst into tears. 'Martin' has become one single word which possesses tremendous power to reduce me to tears and drive me to the brink of insanity. Cries of excruciating desperation escaped from my throat. I couldn't imagine having to spend another 20 minutes on the phone with Martin, listening to his endless baloney, answering his annoyingly stupid questions, and not being able to release my anger and scream at him and ask him to please do me a favour and stop calling, because God damn it, he is a royal pain in the neck.

I braced myself and answered his call, my voice sounding perfectly normal and unnaturally cheerful while my facial expression was greatly distorted with exquisite pain - you have no idea what sheer mental torture it was to be in my position, to have a nuisance calling in every single day asking to speak to you when he does not even have anything worthwhile to ask. On the fifth day he asked if he could change his appointment time to be in the afternoon, when he had only requested for it to be in the early morning just one day ago. I told him the doctor does not have clinic sessions in the afternoon on the day of his appointment, and he started asking the same old questions all over again ("Why don't they see patients in the afternoon?" "They are visiting doctors and usually they will be around for only half a day; in the afternoon they'll return to their mother hospitals." And etc cetera.), and I was extremely tired from having to repeat myself all the time, but I still had to be nice and polite. I am sorry if my following question will offend readers out there who have senile (but lovable nevertheless) grandparents/parents, but in all seriousness of the world, is Martin Koh senile or what?

I don't want to sound thick-skinned, but I think he is just finding excuses to call everyday and talk to me, and therefore to justify his behavior he asks all sorts of stupid and repetitive questions - which even old people stricken with Alzheimer's disease as well as one-year-olds who have barely learned how to talk would find highly embarrassing to ask - at the risk of appearing stupid, though chances are that he is stupid anyway. This is where I find the whole situation curiously strange and fascinatingly awkward - my voice, in my objective opinion, is neither irresistibly sensual nor highly appealing, and it is certainly isn't coated with countless layers of sweet saccharine, it doesn't possess any soothing quality, and it definitely isn't gentle or beautifully feminine. I seriously have no idea why he is attracted to my voice in the first place - as suggested by some of my colleagues, who find the whole affair rather amusing. Now I'm officially Martin-phobic, which is saddeningly unfortunate because I have enormous respect for influential crusaders like Martin Luther King, who exhibit dogged perseverance and admirable courage in fighting for their beliefs, as well as astounding geniuses like Martin Heidegger, whose groundbreaking systems of thought are products of invaluably fine intellect, and not to mention Martin Scorcese, one of the most famous, successful and outstanding directors of our generation. Whenever my colleagues tell me that Martin is looking for me, I would cringe and my face would screw up uncontrollably.

Come to think of it, he is already 37 years old! Doesn't he have a life? Is he desperate? Why is he calling me every single day? I have come to a conclusion that he must be extremely lonely and deluded, but I don't know if it is his pungent air of loneliness and delusion which drives females away, and thus he has to resort to seeking solace in talking to strangers; or if it is his constant failure with females which slowly compels him to retreat into his own cave, and speaking to strangers who are friendly towards him (even though they may be friendly only out of obligation like me) has provided an outlet for his imagination, where he can pretend that he can start afresh all over again with someone who has no knowledge of his history. What he doesn't know is that his compulsive behavior will sooner or later piss everyone off, even those who genuinely try to be friendly. Not only is he affecting my work performance because the amount of time I usually spend talking to him can be used to clear at least 4 pending calls, he is being very unfair to other callers as well.

If I were given the liberty to give him a piece of my mind and tell him to stop calling and irritating the hell out of me, I surely would. I am usually very sarcastic and I don't make any effort in trying to conceal my opinions of other people - if I don't like someone, I will make it very obvious by displaying my dislike for that particular person in its entirety, and I will not hesitate to dish out caustic remarks whenever opportunities arise, with each word crafted specially and carefully to inflict the maximum amount of hurt. But too bad for me, I am denied the freedom to voice out what I sincerely think of Martin Koh.

If there is something I really don't like about my job, it is the fact that I don't get to be myself. Sure, it has taught me to be more tolerant and patient, and I appreciate my job greatly for that, but I completely hate it when I am not able to tell a person to go to hell or get a life even when I really have and need to. But perhaps I am a hypocrite myself, and my suffering due to a lack of freedom of expression is really a result of my own doing - I have allowed my salary to dictate who I should be, instead of bravely breaking free and just forking out the money nonchalantly to compensate my job agency for terminating my contract before the term is up, and saying without a care for the world, "To hell with it all."

10 kommentarer:

raindrops_jx sagde ...

arh.. harassment can be so irritating.. there was once this guy (whom i was unlucky enough to have smses meant for someone else, namely my bf, directed to him due to network errors..) who smsed me all the time trying to pick me up till i practically cursed him off.. haha.. when u seriously feel like quitting, try it.. gets him off ur back AND gets u sacked =)

arh.. internet.. i have free access to it at work.. i'm ike the luckiest soul n earth because on one else seems to have.. haha..

jia you kx?? must be the strong and flexible Miao, n pls try hard not to be the super sarcastic and critical one in case ur words caused poor Mr. Martin Koh to have a fear for all recepts in the future.. hahah.. =)

ps: jfyi, ahmah is still in Shanghai and she's spending, or thinking of spending, a hell lot on books to free herself from boredom.. haha..

lots of love,

Miao sagde ...

raindrops_jx: Hm, Ah Mah has never been the sort who invests her money in books... Anyway it's been ages since I last kept in touch with her because I am online so little nowadays, and her blog takes a damned long time to load on my computer. :( I sent her an email and she didn't reply, hmph. I bought an international calling card two weeks ago, but I've been too busy to call her. Sigh.

sunfloral sagde ...

It's a story my friend Wx likes to tell me, "When I was younger, my brother and I used to irritate the hell out of my sister, L (who happens to be a close friend of mine too). Then my Mum will tell her, 'God sent some people into our lives to test us.' So L's now got a PhD in Patience."

Work hard towards that PhD of your own too ;)

SPHINX sagde ...

Maybe Martin is just lonely. Perhaps it isn't just your voice he's attracted to but the compassion and kind-heartedness he senses in you. Just a thought. :)

gneake sagde ...

Ahahaha. Working is all about tact, and we must put up a facade to uphold the professionalism we are bound to.

Sometimes I face the same problems with patients themselves, either that they are confused, and need constant explanation and rejogging of memory, sometimes to the extent where I laugh on the inside and it partially shows, but i doubt they pick it up, so they just smile back! they're really cute though...

but as for you, I can sort of understand how frustrating it must be especially since you are on the phone with them and you could of course simply hang up, but that would be more confusing to them and will promptly call back asking, "why did you hang up?" The insanity never ends, never ends, never ends. Just deal with it lah.

Anonym sagde ...

hi, miaoyu! xinhui here. hope u will hae a nice time working in POC! I had left and missed the workplace and some of its ppl terribly.. lol. anyway, just to inform u I had changed my blog add to www.ilivemy-life.blogspot.com : )

Jingo sagde ...

I'd be flattered if someone was obsessed with me... (even if it is a weirdo with health problems).

Reminds me of the time when I was a receptionist for a a dental surgery.

The Usual Stuff sagde ...

Oh, my dear, I'm so glad you're back!
3 things:
1. Rest assured someone understands you. I worked in a banking call-center (Citibank, nonetheless) and, although I learned a lot, I HATED it. Believe me, I know how you feel, AND YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO IT!
2. Thank God for the enemy is not inside. The General Manager here is just like that, always looking for the opportunity to make other people feel like crap. One of these days, he might be poisoned.
3. You have officialy won the LOUD RAMPAGE prize from "Planet Complaint" for the best-described complain ever. I wish I could describe my frustrations in such a fluent and coherent way... in my NATIVE language! CONGRATULATIONS!!

Hope this makes you feel better.

raindrops_jx sagde ...


she seldom replies emails la.. wonder why too.. i was quite shock about her heavy investment in books as well..

she's apparently waiting for someone to bring "Harry Potter and the Hallows" (or the wateva) and another book over to her cux she cant find them (or wont be able to, anyway..) in the major foreign bookstores..

dun bother buying international call cards la.. waste money.. might as well invest in a mic/headphone then can talk to her online.. video conference via msn or something..

oh btw, have u gotten any letter/call from any uni so far? i'm dead worried.. well, actually, i'm not. haha.. just gg a little crazy as u can tell la.. lalala~

lots of love,
chill out~

Dean sagde ...

"Working is all about tact".

Not for me. If it's no fun: find another job.