This is the story of a woman named Tamara.
Tamara was like any other single middle-aged woman. She worked an 8-hour job 5 days a week. She prepared her meals for two making sure to leave the extra to reheat for herself and binge watch Netflix exclusives as well as old Seinfeld seasons during the weekends. The only recreational activities she participates in are discussions at her book club, catching the latest Ryan Gosling film at theaters, and rearranging her ever-expanding stamp collection on those lonely Saturday nights.
At first glance, you may think that this type of lifestyle may be boring. And you’re right to assume so because it was. But to Tamara, it didn’t matter in the least. She likes her simple lifestyle; dare I say she even feels proud of it somehow.
You’d think that being the customer service representative for a beauty product company would be the most taxing and morale-deflating job ever, listening day to day to the problems of angry, confused or clueless customers that could test the patience of even the most highly trained Buddhist monk with who has reached the true level of Zen.
But, she prevailed. In fact, she was too good at her job, extraordinary at it, even.
Every day she would sit in her little cubicle answering calls under the fluorescent lights of her office building with the dulling sounds of clicking keyboards, followed by the ringing phones and lastly, the repetitive proclamation of, “Good afternoon. Thank you for calling Nova Aura customer service line. Proud winners of Excellence Canada’s highest achievement award. How can I help you?”
It was her daily soundtrack.
Company policy required them to start every phone call with this statement. Annoying of course, but the company needed to keep their brand recognition somehow. So stroking the giant ego of the system it is, as long as they get paid.
Her co-workers were rather busy, dedicating their efforts at talking with their customers through the line with their never-ending struggle to satisfy their insatiable needs. The remorseful sighs, occasional f-bombs among other crass statements could be heard amidst the ringing and clicking, even right at the cubicle beside Tamara’s.
But not her. She would keep her composure in the face of even the angriest and most unreasonable customer. Her willingness to unweave her emotions was a rather unnatural skill of hers. Some of her co-workers envied this trait, others even pondered at the idea of her even being human.
She was a rather peculiar woman, who never flinched or faltered at anything tossed at her. Instead she kept her rather unnervingly calm smile at the forefront of everything, always ending her calls with a simple “Thank you for your patience, I hope my assistance was of value”; that is of course if they didn’t hang up first in anger.
But today was special. She would receive a phone call from a unique customer, someone who would influence the course of her life more than she could ever believe.
“Good afternoon. Thank you for calling Nova Aura customer service line. Proud winners of Excellence Canada’s highest achievement award. How can I help you?”
“Yeah, I’m calling over my Nova Pore Cleansing Mask order.” The person sounded like a young woman. A teenager apparently. She continued “It never arrived and I’ve been sending you guys emails about where it is.”
“Oh yes, Lindsey I presume?”
“Wait? How did yo-”
“I’ve been the one receiving your emails. It wasn’t difficult to remember your name, given the rather colourful language you used.”
Lindsey begins raising her voice.
“Well yeah! What did you expect when I’ve waited almost a month for that stuff?”
Tamara remained unfazed. It wasn’t as if she had heard this type of response before, it’s just that part of her had grown numb from such behavior.
“I sense some hostility in your tone. Please be patient ma’am and we’ll resolve this carefully. I’ve informed you before in the emails that your package is currently in transit. It should’ve arrived within three weeks or more based on the location. Has the tracking number given you any updates on its whereabouts?”
“It says that it’s in transit but it hasn’t arrived at my local post office. I tried calling them about it but they literally have no info on the parcel.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. There is a slight chance that it might’ve been lost in transit and sent to the wrong location. Did you double check your order address?”
There is a sigh of desperation. “Yes! It’s the same one!! God, this is the last time I ever buy online. I should’ve just gone up to the stupid store!”
“Why didn’t you?”
”What stopped you from going to the store? I can gladly redirect you to a nearby outlet in your area.”
There was no immediate response. Tamara could hear some shuffling at the other end. It seemed as if Lindsey was struggling to find a response, but eventually, she replied.“I dunno. they were out of stock.”
Tamara pushed further“For an entire month?”
“I just…the stupid store is downtown and I don’t have anyone to drive me there! And my last bit of allowance was used for this order. There! Happy now?”
“That sounds bad. I’m sorry for your predicament Lindsey. I’m sure I can still help you somehow. Perhaps I could replace your order and send you another package of our Nova Cleansing Mask. If your first order happens to arrive, you can keep the other package for free. Does that sound fine?”
Lindsey clicks her teeth through the phone.“I don’t know. That’s 3 more weeks of waiting.”
“Well, it’s either that or having to make a long walk to one of our outlets.”
“Pfff, like that’s ever gonna happen.”
“Well, if I may. It sounds as if this means a lot to you. I know our blackhead removal mask has been known to create some fantastic results, but I’d be able to live with it for a while by covering it up with some our certified Nova shade makeup. Just a suggestion”
“Well, I tried, but it’s expensive and I can’t keep covering my entire face everyday. I’m gonna run out of makeup eventually and… Wait, are you trying to sell me something?”
Tamara smiled, swiftly dismissing that last part.
“It doesn’t matter anyway. You said that you didn’t have enough money to go out, right? So just don’t cover yourself in makeup while at home.”
“The hell? What kind of Customer service representative asks all these personal questions?”
“I didn’t realize the nature of the issue was too personal. It was simply meant as a suggestion until your cream arrived.”
“Well, no, it’s not that personal, but it’s none of your business either. You wouldn’t get it.”
Lindsey was hiding something. While it wasn’t in Tamara’s business to meddle in the personal affairs of clients, she felt compelled to dig in further. Lindsey was hitting close to home for her.“Perhaps,” she said, “but I did have children like you before.”
“So, what? I’m not like your kids.”
“They’re all the same.”
“Nu-uh. You don’t know me.”
“No, but I can tell that your physical appearance means a lot to you. Is it to impress someone?”
“So? What if it is? You gonna judge me how everyone else has?”
Bingo.“Depends. You want to be judged? Or do you want to be heard?”
“Are you for real? You really want to know?”
“Doesn’t make a difference to me; I get paid by the hour anyway to talk to people. It’s your choice.”
The receiver went silent. She appeared to be thinking about the offer. Perhaps she’d pushed her too far? Would she hang up?
A sigh of defeat followed through.
“Ugh… It’s just… I don’t feel I’m respected around here. I always get criticized by my family.”
Tamara raised a smile. “How so?”
She could hear her pacing around now “Well, they’re like: ‘Oh Lindsey you shouldn’t wear so much makeup! I didn’t use to wear that much makeup when I was your age!’ or ‘It makes you look like a smut peddler!’ whatever the hell that even means.”
“It’s a fancy way of saying slut.”
“Wait, really?” She sighed “Jonathan that son of a bi-”
“Is that your brother?”
“How’d you figure?”
“Your parents obviously wouldn’t say such a thing. I’d imagine one of your brothers would’ve been the one.”
“He’s an asshole.”
“Absolutely, but I’m sure he means well.”
“How can ‘you mean well’ saying stuff like that?”
“Everyone criticizes for a reason.”
“So, it’s wrong for me to want to look pretty?”
“Well, what’s the real reason you want to look pretty?”
“I just do! It’s normal for a girl to want to wear makeup!”
“Of course, but I know you’re lying.”
“So you’re a mind reader now?”
“I wish, then I’d probably make better money elsewhere than taking calls in a cubicle.”
“Why do you always have to have an answer for everything?”
“It’s part of my job, really.”
“Ok, so let’s say that I do like looking pretty for someone. Is that a terrible thing?”
“Only if you’re letting it get to you. You do sound rather desperate to have the cream at this moment.”
“Blackheads don’t go out that easily. This stuff you guys are selling is supposed to be, like, really frigging good, and I’ve tried everything.”
“Is there a lot of them?”
“Just around the cheek area.”
“I’m sure nobody will notice.”
“That’s not the point!”
“You don’t feel that’s enough then.”
“You think that makeup makes you feel fulfilled.
There was a long pause. “Yeah”
“It’s like….. I want to be with someone in the future, and I feel that the only way is by looking good. And yeah, I kind of get desperate when I don’t get what I want.”
“Is that how you got grounded then?”
Lindsey stifles a small chuckle.
“It was that obvious?”
“ It’s fine. But I can tell you from experience that appearances aren’t everything. It’s healthy to feel good about yourself, but if you let it control you it can be dangerous”
“It’s not destroying me.”
“I believe you. But it will someday if you let it”
“Well, you don’t sound destroyed to me.”
“I witnessed it. Not the greatest sight in the world.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“ Was it somebody you knew?”
An awkward silence followed. Tamara is taken aback by the conversation as she didn’t anticipate it to turn around at her. She quickly does her best to regain her thoughts and shift the topic elsewhere. She continues.
“What does your mother have to say about this?”
“Oh, her? She’s not home. She went out to get some cigarettes”
“Must’ve been the rare type to find though, cuz that was like, ten years ago.”
Tamara hesitates for a bit at this interesting revelation. The plot thickens, but she swiftly responds to keep the momentum going.“Oh. No point in worrying then.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. I guess that makes us even.”
The girl is much more troubled than Tamara had anticipated. Perhaps it was time for her to end her teasing. It already served its purpose at breaking through her strong resolve, so it was best to soothe her on what she wanted as matters were becoming increasingly personal.
“Alright, tell you what?” Tamara replies. “What’s the nearest drug store in your area?”
“Umm, there’s a Shoppers near Queen and Carlaw. A block from here actually. Why?”
“Ok, so I’ll call that location and ask them about the blackhead cream you need. If they’re out of stock we can send them some reserved just for you. Our partner companies get faster stock than our main stores sometimes.”
“You’d really do that?”
“Of course. And if your other order arrives anyway it’s still free. Just call back in case you didn’t get your cream.”
“Well, thanks. That’s, real nice of you.”
“But if it’s still not here, you haven’t heard the last of me.”
“I guess. Time will tell.”
“Uh…... yeah. Okay”
“Would that be all?”
“I think so.”
“Thank you for your patience, then. I hope my assistance was of value.”
And thus she hangs up. Even though the day continued with more calls coming in and out, with each customer having stories to tell and troubles to share. Lindsey is the one that stands out. Somehow, this girl had evoked sympathy in Tamara. She felt it when she read her emails as there was an underlying sense of suffering in her words, and it only perpetuated further in their exchange.
Part of Tamara hopes that she will call back. It is unusual for her to want someone to reach out to her for comfort. But perhaps it is really Tamara’s who’s the one in need of comforting after all.
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