“Hello Sir, you have reached the post-sales service offices of T-rex Inc. How may I help you today?” Jasmine speaks in her trained neutral accent into the headset.
“Uhm, I have this instrument I brought from you guys……” The deep, hoarse voice of a man in his early 40s trails off on the other end.
“What is your name sir?”
“Richard…. Richard Claymore.”
The white fluorescent tubes overhead flicker, a persistent issue she has complained about multiple times to no avail. She types the name into the system and ‘Claymore, Richard’ pops up on the screen in bold green colour. “Mr Richard Claymore, from Santa Fe, California. You have purchased our XTRMNTR-2000 last month, model number 876asd3, which is still under full warranty. Am I right Sir?”
There is no reply for some time, but she can hear pigs screaming in the background. Protocol dictates staying online for 20 seconds before you hang up. With a couple of seconds to go on the neon green clock on her screen, he speaks. “Yes. That’s me.”
“Okay, Sir. What is the issue you are facing right now?”
“I have……uh…. misplaced the user manual somewhere.”
She feels that he is lying about the problem, he probably burned it and is ashamed to say the real reason. “No problem. I will register the issue and you will receive the manual in two days at your registered address.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” He’s impatient. “Fuck that.” She wasn’t expecting to hear swearing so early. Jasmine takes deep breaths to keep her emotions in check as they taught in the meditation centre. “Sir, I would request you to…”
She is cut off by a deep, growing voice – like her landlord’s when he threatens her with eviction. “Now listen here, you Filipino shit. It’s a fucking emergency, so help me run this stupid thing or I will sue you guys so hard they will fire your ass back to whatever stupid village you come from. Am I clear?”
When she first joined this call centre, they had instructed her on how to deal with customers like him. ‘Politely ask the man to wait, call your supervisor, and handle the case to him’ – the standard protocol. But she knows from experience that if this man sends in a complaint, which he probably will if she asks him to wait, she can bid this job adieu. It’s already hanging by a thread, she has one of the worst ratings on the floor, and the only reason she wasn’t fired in last quarters’ layoffs was that the supervisor fancies her and she allowed him to fuck her. It was a disgusting experience, and she is not looking forward to going through it again. There must be hundreds of companies with call centres in Manila, but it will take some time to find a new job and she can’t really afford to be unemployed even for a week.
No, she must put up with whatever language this man is using, and she must make sure this call goes smoothly. “Yes sir, I understand,” she says meekly into the headset.
“Good. What’s your name, young lady?”
“Jasmine. Good. Nice name. Good. Now, Jasmine, I am trying to cut through something with this stupid machine, and it’s getting stuck in the middle. I need your help with that.”
“What kind of thing are you trying to cut sir?”
“It is none of your goddamn business.”
Deep breaths. “Sir, the user manual suggests pressing the red button the handle to increase the speed if you want.”
The man doesn’t reply for a few seconds. The only thing that keeps her from hanging up is the thin watery soup she used to drink every day when she was unemployed.
“You must think I’m a moron who can’t see a button literally in front of his eyes. Of course, I increased the speed you stupid cunt, and now it fucking destroys everything, everything. bl…waste is spreading all around.”
She feels like a schoolgirl being scolded for not informing that she’s on periods. She doesn’t know what this man is doing with the saw, and she has no desire to know. “Sir, I can’t understand what you want.”
“I want a clean-cut, you bitch. A clean fucking cut.”
“Have you tried other modes, sir?”
“What other modes?”
Did he just ask her about the other modes? Jasmine wants to scream into the headset and stab the round of face of Dew with the pen she is holding, sitting right in front of her. Dew dared to sleep with her fiancé and then smile like nothing ever happened. Jasmine hears the cheap plastic thing break in her hands. “Sir, there is a latch on the bottom of the handle, it must be yellow….”
“What do you mean by changing the modes?”
“Sir, you can change the length of the metal teeth on the blade to get a cleaner cut….”
“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier, you third world scum. I knew these motherfucker pointy things were too big. Did you say a yellow latch…?”
There is a loud thud he throws away the phone, followed by the sound of the handle being hit with something. He will probably break it in this manner. He comes back a few seconds, “It won’t open.”
Deep sigh. “Sir, as I was saying, you need to use a small screwdriver to open the latch.”
“What? Where in this shithouse will I find a screwdriver now??” As if it’s her problem to find one for him. “I… Sir, I can’t help you with that.” Jasmine realises that she is still trying to maintain a neutral accent. No wonder her head is hurting.
“Wait, and don’t you dare hang up.” His voice has a menacing quality which makes the headset feel like a gun pointed at her head. She can hear the man smash the handle on a hard object, again and again, mixed with the pig screams she heard earlier. The man shouts something in anger and then comes back on the phone, breathing hard. “Yeah, it’s fucking open now. But I think the charging port broke.”
“Sir, we are not liable for something you broke on your own acc….”
“Shut up”, he cuts her, “I don’t care about the handle. Just tell me what to do now?”
Now that she has gotten accustomed to his misogyny and racism, she finds his entire demeanour extremely hasty and strange. He doesn’t seem to care about the batteries as they can’t be recharged anymore, as if he’s ever going to use the machine anymore.
“There must be a small lever if you pull or push it….”
“Got it.” He whoops, and she can hear him tinkering with the lever, changing the size of the teeth. “Don’t hang up,” he shouts at the phone and the sharp sound of a small powerful motor follows. The mic of his smartphone is good, and she can hear the blades of the saw as they encounter whatever object this man has been trying to cut, and there is a loud, squishy sound as the blades cut through it in seconds. There is another sound that accompanies it which she can’t place. The blades come to a halt and he picks up the phone again.
“Yeah. It’s much better. Thanks for your help.” His voice feels softer now.
“Do you need any other kind of help Sir?”
“No, that would be all.”
“Okay, Sir. Before I terminate the call would you like to give small feedback about your experience?” It’s a new gimmick the company is trying, getting direct feedback from customers, probably due to pressure from the white men sitting in the States. She is secretly hoping for him to end the call when he replies, “Sure, why not?”
Jasmine follows with a couple of standard questions to which the man is surprisingly very receptive, going as far as adding a few words like ‘helpful’ and ‘understanding’ to a five-star review, her first in a couple of weeks. Turns out this asshole is not that bad in the end. ‘Must have been under some stress that his costly purchase isn’t working properly’ she thinks. It still doesn’t explain why he broke the handle, but he can do whatever he wants, it’s his money.
Just before Jasmine can hang up, he interrupts. “Don’t you want to know what I am trying to cut?”
“It’s okay sir. You don’t need to tell.”
“But don’t you want to know?” he asks again. She is intrigued, no doubt, and now she doesn’t seem to mind his idiosyncrasies too. “Why don’t you tell me then?”
“Is this call getting recorded?” Uh-oh, Jasmine knows what is coming next. Another lewd remark. Just for the heck of it, she decides to humour this one.
“The company only record the first five minutes of a call sir. We’re way past that.” Which is true. The recording software stops after five minutes, something about saving server space.
“Good.”, he clears his throat. “I am a married man Jasmine. I have a lovely wife, and one week ago I left for Denver, it’s a city in here in the States, you wouldn’t know about it. I was supposed to come back next week, but fortunately, the work got over early and I decided to surprise her with a nice little diamond ring for our fourth anniversary last month. Do you know what I found when I came back this morning? My best friend, fucking her brains out in our bed. My goddamn bed. He had tied her to the bedpost and all. Fucking slut. So, what do you think I did?”
Jasmine is afraid to say anything or hear what happens next. But more than that, she is afraid to end the call. The man continues after a few seconds, “I beat the shit out of them with the baseball bat I always keep behind my bedroom door. And then I tied them up and brought them to this pig farm, and now that they are conscious again, I am going to cut them up with this brand new saw which I purchased from your company, and then I will feed the pieces to the pigs. Hahahaha. Have a good day, honey, & thanks for the help.” He hangs up the call.
Jasmine sits there in silence, utterly shocked and horrified at what she has just heard. She wants to shrug it off as a joke, but a feeling tells her that there were no lies in his words. His actions, his anger, the voices she was constantly hearing in the background, all made sense now. She thinks of going to the supervisor. But what good will that do? Richard Claymore is thousands of miles across the ocean from her. What proof does she have of what he said? What if they find nothing and she is fired? But he also just talked about cutting two people up alive with an automatic chainsaw. She must do something. Nausea overpowers her and she is about to vomit in the garbage can near her chair when cold hands touch upon her shoulders.
She turns in half-horror, expecting the bloody face of Richard Claymore behind her with a devilish smile on the face and chainsaw in his hands. Instead, it’s the supervisor with a leer. She is ready to blurt out everything she can remember from the call when speaks, “Jasmine…. I see that you finally got a five-star review. Good, good. Good for you. Hee-hee.” He suddenly leans down and whispers in her ears. “At this rate, you will probably need to give me only a blowjob next quarter.”
She looks back at him, the disgusting piece of shit with his close-set, shifty eyes, dirty teeth and onion breath. She smiles back at him, “The customer had some problem with selecting the modes of the XTRMNTR-2000. Glad I could help him out.”
“Keep it up.” He winks at her moves on to his next target, the new girl on table nine. Jasmine takes a deep breath and puts back on her headset. She has already forgotten about Richard Claymore.