My work is nothing stunning: my official title is ‘Collections Coordinator.’ This is shorthand for “calls insurance companies to try and convince them to give us the money they owe us for serving their members.” The up side to this job is that it is better than Patient Advocate (“gets screamed at by patients who do not want to pay their bills”) because I am calling other customer service agents who, while they are not necessarily obligated to be nice to me, are at least not allowed to raise their voices.
It also means that I get to talk to people from all points on the map. Many are in India, of course (“Yes, hello ‘Mark’, what’s your real name?”) but not all. There are the fairly laid back ladies who answer the phone for an insurance based in Chicago, but the call center is in Jamaica. I call a few Florida-based insurances, and while I’m fairly sure the person on the other end is not actually in Cuba at the time of the call, many of them were recently. Calling Texas, likewise, is similar to calling directly to Mexico. And then there’s California, where you’re likely to be speaking to someone native either to China or JUPITER.
The reps from Jupiter have barely any accent at all.*
Of course, this is not the extent of my job. My job description includes such details as sending money back to insurance companies when they sent it to us in error. And then there are the details that are not strictly in my job description. As my team lead put it earlier this month, I wear many hats. You may also call me a jack-of-all-trades, or the department bitch. To date, no one has called me the department bitch despite the fact that I am capable of living up to that description in more ways than one. I think this is because they do not want to have to do my jobs.
Behold, a typical month amalgamated into a single day.
I rise early, though early for me is later than the entire rest of my department, and stride into mine own personal wind tunnel at or before seven thirty in the morning. My cubicle is conveniently located close to the men’s room and equidistant from all women’s rooms that are not cordoned off in the executive hallway. It is also directly beneath the air conditioning vent, which means I enjoy a constant temperature of approximately seventy degrees with a strong breeze year-round.
I am a trusted employee, so I am the one to whom my supervisor delegated the running of daily and monthly performance reports for my department which she simply does not have the time to run. These I send out via mass email each morning with as much peppy wit as I can muster in order to inject some small dose of amusement into the dreary, frustrating, but still better than Patient Advocate lives of my fellow collectors. No sooner have I settled in to my fleece jacket to begin my own work on this amalgamorning than my supervisor approaches.
“Hi,” she offers meekly, which tips me off to exactly what she is going to ask. “Do you think you could do data entry on Thursday? I hate to ask, but the entire department has dying relations and I don’t want to make them come in…” That she asks me is natural, since data entry is my native department, and I still remember many of the strange and arcane rituals we practiced there despite having left its less-than-fertile lands several years ago. She also knows I am not really able to say no, since there is no one else who knows how to do the job, and what am I going to say? No? Can’t, have to collect? Would prefer not to go home with mush brain that day? Plead sudden blindness?
“It’s fine, I’ll be happy to do it.” The answer is that I will lie politely as is good and proper in a business environment.
“Oh thank you,” she beams, relief clear on her face. I have spared her the horror of having to learn the system herself, and earned a couple more brownie points for my stockpile. “Wow, it’s really cold over here.”
“Yes,” I agree, “it is.”
An hour later, my team lead calls. “Could you come over here?” she asks. “I’m having a problem with my computer.” I’ve been IT first aid since I entered the department, and its actually one of the hats that I like. I rise and wander the ten yards over to her desk, reaching it before her phone has actually touched the hook. “I want to make this picture my background, but it’s small, and if I make it big, it looks bad. How can I make it big, but look like this?” My team lead, I should note, is a very intelligent woman, but like many people, treats computers as though they are some magical being that defies normal rules.
“That file is 100 x 200 pixels. Your screen resolution is 1024 x 800. There is no way you can make it look good at a larger size.” I pause, considering for a moment when her gaze is disbelieving. “It doesn’t have enough data to fill in all the little details,” I offer, and this is both sufficiently simple and explanatory that she nods.
“By the way, were your vacation hours correct?” she adds, off topic, because she is good about keeping up with department issues. “Some of us did not get hours when we made the transition to the new payroll system.”
“Well, you might have maxed out.” I assume this as a possibility because, like many of us there, she almost never takes a day off. “How many hours do you have in your bank?”
I proceed to explain to her how the time off accrual works, and what happens when one has accrued a year and a half’s worth of vacation days. That she has not read the employee manual in the same detail as I have is not that large a surprise; she focuses on the job, I focus on the employment. What is a surprise is later when she asks me to explain it again in email to our supervisor, who then forwards the explanation to the entire department. There is a quiet percussive fanfare and a small shimmer of light: I have gained the HR hat achievement.
I add that hat to the precarious stack upon my head and slip my gloves back on before turning back to my work. It won’t be long, though, before one of my comrades-at-arms will shuffle over from ten feet away to deposit a two-inch stack of papers in my box for medical records to be scanned for electronic storage. Of all my tasks, this is the most akin to my humble beginnings of data entry, but this has a subtle perk: I get to spend ten minutes by the laser printer, basking in the three-hundred-fifty degree glow of the fuser assembly.
“Brr! It’s cold over here!” my coworker will exclaim.
“Yumph,” comes my muffled reply from within my scarf. “Ih innh.”
*It is important to note that I do not bear any animosity toward immigrants. Except those bastards from Jupiter, lazy jerks.