Thursday 21 May 2015

Shout, shout, let it all out!

Please note that certain expletives have been altered (but not harmed in any way) in the compiling of this blog so that you feel comfortable sharing it with your children, or your mother, without embarrassment

The voice droned on...“Or press star to return to the main menu.” Oh damn, what was the option I needed? Bored by all the choices, I had been scrolling through emails that I should have been attending to, instead of being on this call. Now I couldn’t recall what I meant to select. My uncertain finger hovered over 2 and 3 on my phone, terrified of picking the wrong one. That would take me into the cul-de-sac of “Sorry you need technical support, this is the general queries call centre. Please hold while I transfer you…” to that long beep, the signal of disconnectedness.

My heart beat faster. Did I dare to select, or should I resort to * and risk the repetition of the exhaustive list of options? “Invalid selection, please reselect.” Bother – I was still paralysed by my choices. My shaking finger moved to the *, but before I could “select” – “You have entered too many invalid options. Please call again so we can assist you.” Long beep. Flip.

I hate darn call centres. I hate them more when they call them “Helplines”, or “Customer support”, or the dreaded “Customer Care, how can I assist you today?’ They always fill my heart with very uncharitable thoughts towards the people who set them up. The call filtering systems, when they work, make me angry. Sometimes I get through to real human beings and it’s even worse. I need to remember to take my blood pressure medication before becoming number 256 in the queue of clients that they value so much that they can’t have enough people answering calls. The image in my mind is of a team of people, on a tea break, laughing with their feet on desks, phones flashing madly. Not one is being answered, or even ringing. If you work there every day, you know how to mute phones. And here’s little me, boiling with rage, and all I can do is slam down my phone. Helpful, that. Thunderation.

I have learned that my anger is completely ineffective, even if it is wholly justified, in these situations. I will never forget my complete mortification when a Telkom call centre employee told me very politely that he would have to disconnect my call if I kept using bad language. (Yes, this is the pastor’s wife speaking.)

We have all wanted to – as did the character in the iconic movie “Falling Down” - take out our weapons of mass destruction and blow taxis, laptops, or Departments of Home Affairs to bits. If you haven’t seen the movie, Michael Douglas plays a Bill Foster who, gridlocked on a highway, snaps, and abandons his car to walk to his ex-wife and daughter. Along the way he gets to be angry and say things we all wish we’d said. He also gets to use a machine gun and blow up whoever and whatever pisses him off.  Ever wished for one of those days? Crikey.

Here’s an extract from one of my favourite scenes.

Our nation seems very angry. A friend experienced some of this at the Franschhoek Literary Festival. The session was entitled (ironically) “Is anger overrated - Does anger have moral purpose? Are we an irredeemably angry nation? Or should we just stop being so pissed off all the time?” Instead of the anger being confined to the panellists, it overflowed to the largely white audience, and ended with a white doctor, in the profession because of the social justice she could achieve, making the statement “I don’t know how much longer I can feel guilty for being born with white skin.”

Earlier, and in a different context, Thando Mgqolozana asked “What should blacks have done? I don’t know. It’s difficult to know what to do when you’re angry.”

And that’s the point, isn’t it?

We feel angry. Yes. We have a right to. Yes. But what can we do about it that will change things?

Stephen King has noted that “Humor is almost always anger with its make-up on.” People, let’s put our make-up on. Let’s be creative about expressing our anger effectively and doing things that make a difference.

I'm not going to list all the things we can do with our anger and get preachy here. I refuse to believe that human beings don't have the potential to change for the better. Yes it's hard. Yes some of us have tried and failed. Yes it will take time. But let's stop shouting and whining and take some action. 

And if you, like me, need an antidote to all the rage out there in SA, and you live in Joburg, do something fun, or find someone funny. If you don’t live in Joburg, you shouldn’t even be angry – you are always telling us how much natural beauty you are surrounded by – go find some of it!

You may also enjoy I get knocked down or Not my best day


Lindsay said...

I'm off to Knysna to surround myself with all the natural beauty 😄😄. Enjoy the book fair tomorrow 😘

nataliesimmons said...

I have dstv down pat. I wait exactly the right amount of time (not bothering to listen to all the options) and then press 9 to get an operator.

Bev Bouwer said...

You've done this before, then, Natalie?!

Bev Bouwer said...

Enjoy Knysna!