Do-Not-Call List by Laryssa Wirstiuk
Not even Google Maps could navigate me to the address listed on the customer service page of the company’s website. I ended up first at a nail salon, next at an optometrist’s practice, and finally at a non-descript facade with the correct number, no thanks to digital navigation software.
A small plaque next to the main entrance read “Digital Delegates.” I took the elevator to the third floor and opened the door to the office suite. The receptionist’s desk was unoccupied, so I simply walked into the open room full of mostly empty cubicles. I approached the first person I saw: a rather ugly but soft-eyed middle-aged man wearing a light blue button-down shirt and khaki pants.
“I’m looking for someone to assist me with my account,” I said. “I want to stop all communications: phone, e-mail, letters. Everything.”
“I’d be happy to assist you with that, miss,” said “Greg: Customer Care Specialist,” according to the name plate on his desk.
“Great,” I said.
“But before we proceed, I want to let you know that we also fulfill these requests on our website. In fact, I’m surprised to see you here. We don’t advertise our offline services and prefer to handle all business online,” he said.
“I know. Everything’s easy online.”
“Remarkably easy. Our website has been optimized for customer convenience.”
“It’s too easy,” I said.
“I’m happy to hear that you’re satisfied with our services.”
“I never said I was satisfied.”
“Please clarify, miss.”
“Just because something’s easy doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s so easy I don’t trust it,” I said. “That’s why I wanted to see a live person. To make sure this would be handled.”
“I understand your concern. Was there anything else?”
“Well, I also came because I wanted to tell a certain person, not you, why I’m unsubscribing from the service. I think it’s important for this person to know.”
“We appreciate that, and we welcome your feedback.”
“I’ve been on this list now for two years. So I care, you know? I’m invested.”
“Thank you for your continued loyalty. May I offer you some coupons?”
He threw a handful of coupons on the desk in front of him, but I waved them away.
“No, no. That’s okay.”
“Alright, well, I’ll just need you to fill out this form and sign at the ‘x.’ Then you’ll be all set.”
Greg handed me a clipboard with a sheet of paper pinned to it.
“Great,” I said.
“We aim to please.”
“I’ll be able to speak to this person though, right? You didn’t really answer my question.”
“You’re speaking to me right now.”
“No. I mean this person is someone who would really care.”
“Didn’t you see the sign there? I’m a ‘Customer Care Specialist.’ ‘Care’ is my middle name.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. You’re paid to care. The person I want to speak to doesn’t need a paycheck to care.”
“Unfortunately I must follow standard procedure. You fill out the form you’re holding and sign at the ‘x.’ Then you’ll no longer receive communications.”
I noticed him glancing at the screen in front of him.
“You have him up on the screen there, don’t you.”
“That’s confidential, miss.”
“Why would it be confidential if it’s somehow related to my account?”
“I can’t discuss this matter any further.”
“I know him, though. He’d recognize me. If you call him, he’ll know who I am.”
“Like I said, our customers’ information is confidential.”
“But I already know him. My issue concerns him.”
“I can’t help you, miss.”
“He’s the one who sends me the communications I no longer want.”
“I’ll be handling that for you.”
“But why does it have to be you? Why can’t I just tell him? I feel like I owe him an explanation.”
“We’ll be serving as a liaison. You can count on us to inform the other party involved.”
“But he is the other party.”
“May I ask, miss, why you’re making this more difficult than it needs to be? With all due respect, I’m here to make your life easier, so that you don’t have to confront the opposing party.”
“But he wasn’t always the ‘opposing party.’ In fact, we used to be best friends. He was my boyfriend. Well, I guess he stillis my boyfriend until I sign this form.”
“I’m not following.”
“It’s just recently, you know? This is going to hurt him. But, at the end of the day, I have to do what’s best for me. We’ve grown apart.”
“If you’d prefer to sign the paperwork at home and return it at a later time, we could arrange that. You could also mail the paperwork or, as I said, complete your request on our website.”
I wasn’t satisfied with his response.
“Miss,” he said. “Other customers are waiting.”
I looked around the empty room.
“No. You don’t have any other customers waiting because everyone takes care of their business online.”
“I’ve tried to be as accommodating as possible, but now I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.”
“Why does it have to be this way?”
“We’re contracted to assist our customers with initiating, moderating, and finally terminating communications. If you disagree with our procedures, you can file a complaint online.”
“Can you turn that around? I want to see what you see.”
I have to admit that I kind of lost it. I ran over to his side of the desk because I needed to know what he was seeing on the monitor.
“You’re not allowed over here! Security! Security!”
“I take back anything positive I’ve said. This is even worse than my worst nightmares.”
“So you really do have a record of every e-mail and phone conversation. Well, maybe you can help me figure out why I’m no longer in love. Do you think you could help me with that?”
“Miss, we don’t analyze. We simply observe.”
On his account, I noticed some conversations I didn’t recognize.
“But what are these other chats he’s been having? I didn’t know he has a friend named ‘Sandra.’ ‘I miss the scent of your hair’? Timestamped one month ago. What? Who is that?”
“You were supposed to stay on that side of the desk.”
“You mean to tell me that you’ve seen my boyfriend flirt with other women, but I’m not allowed to know about it?”
“Complete the form, and he won’t be your boyfriend anymore. Problem solved. You don’t even have to provide a reason.”
“Well now I want an explanation. And print-outs of everything you have. Come on, you have to do this for me. We’re basically best friends. I mean, you know everything about me.”
“Look, miss, I really don’t have time for this. I realize, if I may speak frankly now, that this man is a jerk. If I ‘accidentally’ increase his monthly bill, will it make you feel better? Will you return to your seat?”
“And here I am making all this effort to leave him in a civilized manner. I feel like an idiot.”
“Some things aren’t meant to be discovered. You either feel something or you don’t. And then you proceed in the direction of that feeling. With our help, of course.”
“But I just don’t understand why he’d do that to me. Go behind my back like that.”
“I’m surprised you haven’t done it.”
I thought about some of my most recent flirtations: the front-desk clerk at the gym, the mailman, even my dentist.
“You can’t know everything about me.”
I felt more ready to complete the form but gave myself a papercut before I could sign it.
“Ouch! Why do paper cuts sting so much?”
“I don’t want to say ‘I told you so,’ but if you had just done this online…”
“I could have avoided the pain, right?”
A somber tone emanated from Greg’s computer speakers.
“And it looks like he beat you to it,” he said.
Greg handed me a Bandaid from a compact first-aid kit he removed from the desk drawer.
“Thanks,” I said. “There’s no app for that.”
© Laryssa Wirstiuk, 2014
Laryssa Wirstiuk lives in Jersey City, NJ with her miniature dachshund Charlotte Moo. She’s a writing instructor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland, College Park. Her collection of short stories The Prescribed Burn received an Honorable Mention in the 21st Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
Do-Not-Call List was read by Tiffany May McRae on 6th August 2014