Sometimes, the callers would be embarrassed. Many of the customers just wanted to yell at someone, even if it wouldn’t do much good. If they asked for their money back, I could offer up to a 60-day refund. If that wasn’t good enough, they might demand to speak to my supervisor, a person who didn’t really exist in the traditional sense. The VP of the entire digital department had hired me, and he wasn’t really in the business of flagging calls from pissed-off home-cooking fans. There wasn’t much I could do but respond politely, give refunds, and wish the customer well.
I realize some people do this for years, even for their entire careers, in call centers where the phone rings nonstop. My calls came through intermittently, and for the most part, I spent the day responding to emails, which were easier to handle. Still, it was thankless, monotonous work, and I was floundering.
I was too thin-skinned to absorb the rage of these faceless customers. I would cry silently as I apologized for their frustration. Some days, I would hold it together in the office only to burst into tears on my lunch break. When I moved to Boston, I fell in love with the New England summers. Now, I was dealing with the other side of the coin: the long, cold winters. To get away from my desk (and the ringing phone), I would sit in a small neighborhood park, my mood perfectly matched by gray skies and leafless trees. If I called my mom, just hearing her voice was enough to trigger the waterworks. Once, all it took was seeing a lost glove on the sidewalk. I was struck with such a sense of sorrow for that poor, lost glove — and I started sobbing, right there.
I never thought of quitting without another job lined up, but I didn’t really see how I could stay. Logistically, I was too emotionally wrung-out at the end of the day to write cover letters, and the thought of waiting it out while I built my escape ladder was becoming untenable. I was debt-free, single, and childless. The only thing tethering me to Boston was this job and a lease on the apartment. The breaking point came when I told my mom how badly I wanted to leave. Most of my friends were happily living in New York. She asked how many people I knew there, and when I listed names in the double digits, she told me to go ahead and do it. It was all the encouragement I needed.