Monday, January 13, 2014

how may i assist you?

when i find myself biting my tongue at work, it's usually because i'm dealing with a customer of the water department who's distressed because their water has been turned off for nonpayment and the city didn't show up on the day they finally paid to turn it back on. (inevitably, they have their grandmother and at least three children in the home, and every one needs a bath or to flush the toilet or something.)

i have a terrible time resisting the urge to point out that such a crisis could be averted simply by paying the bill on time, but somehow i do.

i had a call this morning that tested me for a slightly different reason.

we also answer for several mental health facilities and practices, and a woman called in the wee hours of the morning to seek assistance from the office. she said her issue "wasn't really an emergency", but she was still quite upset, so i asked what was going on, in an effort to determine whether or not she actually needed to speak with a counselor.

without using the derogatory term she uttered (unless she was using an old term for a cigarette), this woman's issue was that she wanted assistance finding a place to live simply because she met her new male neighbor, who happened to have dating preferences that were alarmingly similar to her own. 

it was all i could do to keep from pointing out that she clearly needed mental health assistance. somehow, i was able to very politely suggest that perhaps the office had the right resources to help her out if she called back when they were open. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

the hothouse flowers vs. old man winter

the cold does strange things to people- especially when they aren't used to it.

first, let me preface this post by saying that, of the five states i've lived in, this is the only one that hasn't had snow by now. i understand that the natives aren't used to things falling from the sky. (in fact, it's a lesson i learned not long after i first moved here 13 1/2 years ago. i was amazed by how many folks seemed to go catatonic behind the wheel when anything- even rain- fell out of the sky.)

the first strange call came last night, and i'm going to shamelessly copy and paste what i posted to facebook:

i just fielded a call from a woman at a housing development who was distressed because her heater was broken. since the development is picky about what constitutes an emergency (especially at 3am), i asked her what the temperature was inside her home.

"80 degrees"

"okay, ma'am. is your thermostat set at 80 degrees, or is the temperature in your home right now 80 degrees?"

"the thermostat is set for 80 degrees, and it says it's 80 degrees in here, but it feels cold and i have small children. my heat only comes on for a minute, and then it shuts itself off. how long will it take for someone to come fix it?"

i explained to her that this was not something the office would consider an emergency, but i'd sent a message to the office and ask them to give her a call in the morning.

"they won't fix it tonight? will they at least give us another place to stay?"


i thought maybe this was an isolated incident. however, it appears i was horribly mistaken.

when i covered at the radio station earlier, one of the main topics of conversation was the weather. it does not get very cold in south carolina (especially in the central and southern parts of the state) often, and the predicted overnight low of 19 degrees had everyone in a tizzy.

before coming into work this evening, i briefly wondered aloud if there would be any more strange calls regarding heating issues.

two hours into my shift, i've already had a call from a gentleman who was disappointed that it was only 75 degrees in his apartment (he had the thermostat cranked to 80), as well as a lady who was distraught because it was "only" 78 degrees in her residence. the former also made a point to emphasize that his unit was running constantly, which concerned him because it was "probably bad for the environment". (it was all i could do to refrain from pointing out that if he were really that concerned about being "environmentally friendly", perhaps he should throw on a sweater and turn the thermostat down to 68 or less.)

before the night is through, i fully anticipate getting at least two more calls of this nature. if my caffeine lets me down, i'm afraid i might slip and actually use the phrase "suck it up, buttercup" sometime before heading home to my comfortably 65-degree domicile.