If you think that people can be assholes in person, try dealing with them on the phone eight hours a day. In addition to my highly-paid job as a Music Journalist, I spend 40 hours a week as one of the friendly voices behind an 800 number, taking reservations for a major hotel chain. Having worked retail for years, I knew that working with the public could be stressful. I figured that I’d have it made in this job, not having to deal with them face to face. Ha! People are even more belligerent, rude, arrogant, and stupid on the phone than they could ever be in person. Sometimes, I’ll wonder how they can go through life with their heads shoved so far up their asses that they can’t pull them out. Here’s a sample of the shining beacons of humanity I’m forced to deal with on a daily basis.

Quite possibly the rudest and most ignorant thing people will do is yell at me about the rates. When you call Microsoft’s 800 line, do you expect Bill Gates to answer the line? Here’s a news flash for you: I don’t set the rates. If I did, they’d include a healthy kickback to enhance my salary, rather than the $7.75 an hour I’m (under) paid to deal with assholes like you all day. Screaming at me isn’t going to do you any good, I’m not going to say “oh, well since you threw a fit, I’ll take 10% off.” I don’t have that kind of power. Moreover, if I did, I wouldn’t be inclined to help you after you’ve yelled, bitched, moaned, and called me names.

Equally as rude are the people that will just hang up on me, presumably because they don’t like the price I’ve given. I say presumably because this inevitably happens right after I quote a price. This is the equivalent of going into a retail store, finding out an item costs more than you’re willing to pay, and then throwing the item in the nearest clerk’s face. There’s no excuse for it. What’s more, a lot of times, you’re only hurting yourself. You didn’t give me a chance to check for any discounts, or for another location in the area that might be less expensive. At the least, you could tell me you aren’t interested, or that the rate’s too high. Don’t slap me in the face with your receiver.

Speaking of discounts, if you expect to get one, you’d better tell me. At least fifty times a day, I’ll quote someone a price only to hear “is that the Triple-A rate?” Well, no, asshole, you didn’t tell me you were looking for a Triple-A rate, and I’m not one of Dionne Warwick’s psychic pals. If you want me to read your mind, pay me $3.99 a minute.

Another factor is that people just don’t listen. You’d think that this wouldn’t be a problem on the phone, since there is no visual input, just audio. You’d think they could pay attention. Ha! From the moment I answer the phone, they don’t listen to a word I say. My employer requires we answer the phone, in part, “Which city and state may I check for you?” Inevitably, I’ll get a reply like “June 1st,” or “I need a room for four people.” The same thing happens when I ask for their name to hold their reservation; nine times out of ten the response is “a Visa card.” OK, Mr. Card. That’s an interesting name, by the way. Any relation to Orson Scott Card? I don’t ignore what you tell me, the least you can do is have the decency and respect to do the same for me.

Then there are the charming individuals that get on my case for asking them questions. “You don’t need to know all that, I just want the rate,” they’ll yell. Guess what, I DO need to know all that, or I can’t get you the rate. I’m not asking you these questions for my health, you know. There are a lot of variables that can affect your rate, and if I tell you the wrong rate, you’re going to be really pissed when you get to the hotel, and make even more of an ass of yourself. Believe me, I don’t want to talk to you any longer than I have to, and I’m not asking these questions to start a conversation.

Still, the absolute worst type of jerk that I deal with is the one with lots of kids. There are two breeds to this type. The first are usually nice enough — to me. It’s their callous behavior to their children that sickens me. “I have 2 adults and 3 children in my party, and I want a room with a king size bed. The kids can sleep on the floor.” Excuse me? Aren’t you supposed to make sacrifices for your kids? Why don’t you ask them how they feel about it? Sorry, but you and hubby can scrunch your fat asses into a double bed, so the kids can have a bed, too.

The second breed are just callous all around. See, all hotel rooms have a maximum occupancy. We don’t make this up arbitrarily, it’s set by the fire department in each city by each city’s local fire codes. This means that I can’t cram 6 people into one room, even if the kids are small. It’s against the law, and I can’t force a hotel to break the law. What’s more is that the law is there for your protection. If there’s a fire, do you really think you’re going to get all those people out safely? No, you’re all going to trample each other. Your beloved little children, who you were too cheap to spring for two rooms for to house properly, were turned into crispy critters. And let me guess who’ll be hearing from your lawyer. Sure, you’re not going to take responsibility for your own actions when you can blame the hotel. These people inevitably get belligerent about it, though. “My kids are too small to sleep alone!” Well, you can stay in one room with some, and your husband can stay in the other room with the rest. If you can’t handle the expense and responsibility of caring for your children properly, then you should have kept your legs closed. If you really loved them, you wouldn’t put their lives at risk, nor would you ask me to.

Dealing with people like this all day, I can understand why people “go postal.” Something about the phone makes people lose any dignity and restraint that they might display in person. They’d be afraid that I’d turn around and smack them. With me miles away, though, they think they have open license to abuse me. Guess what, kiddies? My phone has Caller ID on it! Do you have any idea how easy it would be for me to find out where you live? Lock and load, baby. It could happen to you. Remember that there is a human being on the other end of the line that didn’t do anything to earn your abuse. Now, let’s have a nice, civilized conversation, shall we? Which city and state may I check for you?

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