Revealing A Hidden Character Trait

Whooo's to judge the helper on the other end of the line? Jane Esaki photo

Whooo’s to judge the helper on the other end of the line? Jane Esaki photo

I don’t pretend to be compassionate. Doing so would be out of character for me.

But there comes a time when even the most obstinately unsympathetic of us can be put to trial — as I was the other day.

I call the cell phone company to update personal information, and I am helped by a young man whose slurred and hurried speech are alarmingly questionable, like someone wanting to irreverently check you off his list and move on. I immediately ask him to repeat my information and sure enough, my ZIP code, credit card and phone numbers all are slightly off.

But there is no such thing as being “slightly off,” in this case. It’s like being slightly pregnant — you either are or you’re not. If you’re not, then nothing’s going to happen. If you are, mark my words, you will be in for a surprise down the road.

While giving birth can’t be compared to being charged a late fee because of inaccuracies, it can be avoided — the fee, that is. So I make every effort to overcome his hasty demeanor while correcting his mistakes, which is taking twice as long to fix now that all the wrong information confuses us to no end. In the process, my adrenaline gets going.

How should I deal with this ludicrous ineptness?

I could be equally flip-pant by complaining to his boss and asking that all my information be checked for accuracy. But that’s only going to complicate matters and further prolong the call. And the worker, who just might be having a bad day, even could get fired, which I don’t want on my conscience (if I have one).

By choosing not to retaliate, the task before me now is primarily twofold: Meet my needs and try not to get him dismissed. After double-checking the numbers, I tell him that it’s OK to slow down, that I am not going anywhere, and to try to enjoy his job. He slows down for a brief moment, chuckles and offers a pleasant, non-offensive affirmative. Even if he wants to tell me to go take a hike, our conversation probably is being recorded.

It’s a rough world out there.

A few minutes later, I get a call from the company asking me to rate this employee on a scale of one to 10. Did he serve my needs? I could give him a zero for all the screw ups. But he did finally correct every single error, which was no easy task, so I could give him a five.

But I don’t give him a five because it would mean nothing … it would be like the grade of the average schoolkid who “falls through the cracks.” No, I want him to succeed in life beyond his wildest dreams. Via a voice comment, I plead that he did correct all of his mistakes and that he be allowed to keep and enjoy his job.

So I give him an emphatic 10.

I get one, too, for having a little conscience.