29 April to 1 May 2015
The working week started off gloomy. It seemed our hoping for cooler weather for the marathon had proved the old adage to be careful what you wish for. The Wednesday walk to work was drizzly and grim, brightened only by the sight of the black swans as I approached the boardwalk. After the beautiful warm, sunny weather of the week before it felt as if winter had returned.
There were a ton of emails to go through and one of the first was an invite to a manager training meeting. When I say invite I mean summons, there was no refusing. The trainer turned out to be the same verbose Irishman I’d had for my last training session. It was hard not to roll my eyes and groan when he walked into the room. He is very much quantity over quality so I knew it was going to drag on with him taking three hours to say what could easily be said in one.
Despite my misgivings it was actually pretty useful stuff about staff assesments. When I managed the sales reps at Dream Factory our assesments were very informal, just one to one meetings over coffee where we discussed any issues or ideas. If there was an issue I usually dealt with it there and then, not that there were many. The process is more formal in this office so it was good to have it clarified, even if it was all a little on the wordy side.
Things did overrun considerably and I left the office almost an hour late. This actually turned out to be a good thing as a terrific Storm was just ending as I walked across the car park. I followed the storm along the river, keeping just far enough behind to stay dry and, for my trouble, a bright rainbow kept me company. By the time I reached the bridge the rainbow had faded away but the sun, peeking through the brutal looking clouds lit up the boats and houses in the bay.
At least the Thursday morning walk to work was dry, which is about as much as I can say about it. The most interesting thing I saw was a group of dandelion clocks at the end of the boardwalk. The majority of the morning was spent preparing for a performance appraisal with one of our newbies. Mostly this involved preparing statistics and evidence gathering. It didn’t make pretty reading so the meeting is likely to be difficult. There was also another summons, this time to a training session about recruitment processes.
Unfortunately, I seemed to have been put into an advanced session when what I actually needed was a ‘for dummies’ one. The majority of it went over my head and I spent the whole hour trying to keep my eyes open. There were a few moments when I had visions of losing the battle and disgracing myself by falling off my chair. Somehow I got through it but I was none the wiser at the end. To her credit the trainer did offer to put me on a different course later.
Friday morning would be my last of the working week. It was also my wedding anniversary and the day before my birthday. The start looked promising, an impossibly pink sky so bright I went out into the garden in my PJ’s to take photos. The only downside was the knowledge that the show would be over by the time I’d had breakfast and walked to the river. A sky like that reflected in the water would have been breathtaking.
Of course, by the time I did get to the river, there was nothing much to see. The year has moved on, the dawn is now earlier and the days of watching the sun come up on my walk to work have passed for now. All that was left was a slight peachy tinge in the distance and some ragwort to brighten the walk along the boardwalk.
It ended up being one of those days. Usually Friday is lost property day or so it seems, this Friday seemed to be angry person day. By nine o’clock I’d taken two manager escalation calls, both of them unreasonable shouting people. One was an elderly lady complaining about buses stopping at the bus stop outside her house. There were too many buses, the people waiting were too noisy and dropped litter in her garden. The fact there had been a bus stop with a bus every ten minutes there before she moved in was beside the point. She wanted it moved at once because the stress was making her ill. It was going to be a long, long day.
Things didn’t get better as the day wore on. I’ve never taken so many manger calls in my life from people who seemed to have no sense of proportion about what was reasonable. The cherry on the terrible call cake came late in the afternoon. It involved almost all the staff on duty in the end.
It was obvious from the side of the conversation I could hear that Pam had a tricky customer on the phone. The call seemed to go on forever and I sat poised to take over at any moment. In the end I didn’t have to because, after several warnings about swearing, Pam had had enough and cut the call off. Within a few minutes Lewis was dealing with the same man and having similar problems.
“All I got from him was a long rant and lots of swearing,” Pam whispered across the desk. “Every time I asked him what his complaint was he started shouting about wheelchairs and not being let on the bus but he wouldn’t tell me which bus or where.”
“You did well to put up with it as long as you did,” I reassured her.
“The silly man told me I was useless and should sack myself and that we were all ‘see you next Tuesday’s’ and shouldn’t be allowed to run a bus service. He didn’t say see you next Tuesday though, but I’m not repeating that word.”
Lewis, normally the calmest of all of us, was beginning to raise his voice by this time.
“If you keep swearing and shouting I can’t help you,” he said. “We need some information to be able to look into this for you.”
This time it was the angry man who put the phone down after a tirade of obscenties that had Lewis’ eyebrows almost disappearing into his hairline.
“All I got out of that was his name and that we don’t let wheelchairs on our buses and he’s going to go to the court of human rights about it,” Lewis said, looking rather shell shocked. “Then he told me to go f*** myself and put the phone down.”
The next person to get Mr Sweary, was Sabrina. Of course by then she knew what was coming and it wasn’t long before she put the phone down too.
“I don’t get paid enough to listen to that,” she said. “He said the driver threw him off the bus and I’m not surprised if he was carrying on like that. I’d have thrown him off too.”
Then it was my turn. The first thing his said to me was “my name is Fred Smith and you’re all crap.” Which is hardly a good way to start a phone call.
“If you would like to make a complaint, I’m happy to take the details from you and investigate it,” I said. “You have already spoken to three of my staff this afternoon and sworn and shouted at them. If you want me to help you, you need to tell me what the problem is calmly and without swearing. Do you understand?”
“Your driver threw me off the bus,” he said. “That’s what my problem is.”
“Which city are you in?”
“Which city did this happen in?”
“We don’t serve Barcelona,” I said, feeling as if I’d entered some parallel universe.
“I know you don’t you stupid c***, I’m in Bristol.”
Obviously, I put the phone down. If there is one word I will not listen to, it’s that one.
Sabrina got him again a few minutes later. She put the call on speaker and we all heard Mr Sweary tell her he hoped she died and we all went out of business. Lewis took the phone from her.
“We are here to help you deal with whatever issues you have,” he said, “but if you continue to swear and abuse my staff, I’m going to send the recordings of your calls to the police along with the phone number you are calling from.”
Mr Sweary put down the phone and, miraculously, didn’t call back. Putting together the information we had managed to get out of him between the obscenties all we could gather was that he was in Barcelona, or Bristol, he name was either Fred Smith or Arthur Tobinson, and he had either been refused access to a bus in his wheelchair, thrown off a bus in his wheelchair or the driver had parked too far from the kerb to let him on the bus. Where this all happened, what date, time, or actual bus it was is still a mystery. True to his word, Lewis did pass the call recordings and phone number to the police. Hopefully Mr Sweary will learn a valuable lesson when he gets a call from them about making obscene and threatening phone calls.
When five o’clock came it was a relief to get away from the madness and walk home along a stormy looking river to Commando and a quiet evening celebrating our wedding anniversary. There were no fancy restaurants or expensive gifts. When you have had as many anniversaries as we have there is no need for a big fuss or overblown romantic gestures. Commando bought me some chocolate, proving he knows the way to my heart, and I sent him a photo.