Yeah, so, I’ve been trying to make this post for over a week now.

Once upon a time, I worked at McDonald’s. We had these nice rectangular cleaning cloths for wiping stuff. We called them “towels.” It was, in fact, the policy to call them “towels” rather than “rags” because the image of “rags” in a place where food is prepared is a negative one, and the restaurant is supposed to be an “experience,” not just a place. Glossing over the utter absurdity of anything implying McDonald’s to be a positive experience, I totally agreed with this policy. I got so much into the habit of calling rags “towels” that I would automatically correct anyone who said “rag” at or even away from work — a customer would come up to the counter and say, “I just spilled my drink; do you have a rag I could clean it up with?” and I’d say, “Towel — yeah, I can get you a towel;” my mom would say, “Can you take a rag down to the downstairs bathroom and –” and I’d break in with, “Towel! I’m sorry, and what?” When I was a manager, I even wrote someone up once for persisting in saying “rag” after I’d explained the whole thing to him.

The purpose for this little dissertation on McDonald’s towels is that I was reminded of it rather amusingly about a week and a half ago (yeah, when I first tried to make this post) when Virgin Mobile, for whom I now work, came out with a whole new set of plans and changed everything around. Now, for the last several years, one of VMU’s big mottos has been “Live without a plan.” What they really meant was “live without contracts and restrictions in your cell phone service.” Because of this, although every customer had a plan set up on their account, they didn’t like to use the word “plan” because that, they felt, implied contracts and restrictions to a customer’s mind. So the various ways you could set up your service were called “service offers.” “Plan” was an absolutely forbidden word, and, just as with the towels at McDonald’s, you’d eventually start correcting anyone who ever said it.

So. New plans at VMU, and suddenly we’re actually allowed to call them “plans.” For a lot of employees it was downright therapeutic to be able to use the word, given that some of them have been with the company since before the word was banned and had to struggle over the last few years to say “offer.” I was hired during the “offer” period, and therefore never had a problem with it… but even so, for me, saying “plan” has an oddly liberating feeling, and makes me remember the McDonald’s days more fondly than I usually do. And that’s my entire story, the entire purpose of this long-delayed post. Pathetic, ne?

Well, I’ll throw in my other work-related stories here too. The other day some guy called and bitched me out because he had to pay for his minutes. “I thought this was prepaid!” he shouted at me. “I put a $20 card on there and then talk until the $20 is used up and then put another card on there! I shouldn’t have to be paying no 18 cents a minute!! That’s fucking ridiculous!!” “Well, sir,” said I, “how much do you feel you should be paying per minute?” Angrily he replied, “Well, I think I shouldn’t have to pay for them at all!” I thought he was joking, but then he continued, “If I do have to pay for minutes, they shouldn’t be more than a couple of cents each!!” Then he started reiterating his idea about the $20 card. The general implication of it was that the $20 was supposed to deplete mysteriously while he talked without a rate of any kind. I was silenced, baffled by his stupidity. I just couldn’t come up with a reply snarky enough, and therefore said nothing (which is my usual response to extreme stupidity, but not something that often happens to me on the phones). Eventually I managed to get across to him the fact that he had to choose a rate of some sort, at which point he said he’d return the phone to the retailer and hung up on me. My coworkers and I all had a good laugh over that one.

The other funny thing was when someone sitting near me took a call from some guy who apparently thought he was supposed to have gotten a bonus of some sort recently and hadn’t. What I could hear of it was this: “OK, sir, what bonus was this you were supposed to get? Yes, but what bonus was it? Five dollars? OK, why were you supposed to get this five — oh, eleven dollars? OK, what was this eleven dollars — what, eleven fifty? Well, why were you supposed to get this… eleven sixty? No, no, I’m just trying to figure out which bonus you’re referring to. We have a lot of bonuses we give out. Yes, I understand why you want the bonus; I need to know why you think you were supposed to get the bonus.” At “I understand why you want the bonus,” I was laughing so hard I actually had to mute myself because I got a call just then and couldn’t greet the customer for a good twenty seconds. I understand why you want the bonus… heh…

And the third thing. Yesterday (so this obviously wasn’t going to be in the original post about towels and plans), a woman named Jayne Cobo called in to change the credit card information on her account. I was pondering whether to say something to her or not all through the cc-update process… then I happened to glance up, and my eyes fell on one of the TV’s that are scattered about the call center, just in time to see that teacher-woman stab River in the head wis that stylus thing. As I was permeated wis Firefly thoughts at that moment, it seemed so natural to look up and see that that I didn’t think anything of it for another half-moment… then I double-took (which is not a real verb) back up to the TV and was amused at the coincidence. At that point I had to mention it to the customer on the line; she had never heard of Firefly or Serenity, which might be the better for her wis a name like that. And it was still not as good as the call I once got from a Jayne Tam XD XD XD XD

OK, that’s all the work talk I have for now. Finally.