Monday, January 14, 2013

Job Journal: Outbound Customer Service, Call Center in Oak Ridge TN

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Outbound Customer Service, Call Center, Oak Ridge TN

Duration: Two months

Year: 2002

I first detailed the particular tortures of this job, and what led me to it, in this entry.  Take a moment to refamiliarize yourself.


I mentioned there was one good thing I took away from the job, amongst all the cold calls telling people they couldn't yet get the service they were paying for, watching the redneck next to me obsessively and clumsily hit on the girl next to him for months, and wondering just how much the Starfox poster in my furry boss' cubicle turned him on.  That one good thing was Pocket Tanks*.

My shift would occasionally overlap with Mark's shift.  You may recall him as my friend who was hired the same time as me, but in tech support.  That meant he was somewhere else on the floor, and we only got to hang out on our lunch breaks.  Lunch breaks here were sad, obligatory affairs.  The break room was small, situated between the main part of the floor and the entryway.  There was barely room to sit and have lunch, and if I remember correctly, no real meals were available for purchase.  I brown-bagged it.  However, there were a few computers in there, and when our breaks coincided Mark and I would play Pocket Tanks.

It's an incredibly simple game, variations of which have been around for as long as personal computing.  You set the angle and power of your shot, pick your weapon, and fire.  This continues, one shot per turn, til your enemy on the other side of the screen is exploded.  That's it.  No graphical innovation (nor was any needed), no fast-paced run-and-gun action, barely any sound.  Just a cool, subtle guitar track that can only be described as mid-90s video game music (see also: Spider-Man and X-Men in Arcade's Revenge, and Streets of Rage).

After four hours of obsessively clicking and calling strangers in an otherwise completely silent environment, this game was like Call of Duty.

Pocket Tanks and the drive home were the only bright spots in the dim majority of my day.  Once I got home, life was good.  I was freshly graduated from college and content to simply have a job and hang out with my friends.  We watched TV together, played Xbox (the first Halo) and Gamecube (Super Monkey Ball), and generally goofed around.  This wasn't just Saturday nights, mind you; we all lived close enough to see each other regularly.  We didn't have any other obligations or the strangely crowded lives of people in their 30s.  Most of us were in the same apartment complex.  As such, I actually have fond memories of this time period; memories scored by the sweet, almost-rockin' guitars of Pocket Tanks.

But good god that job was terrible.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.

*You can download the game for free at this link.  I see Super DX Ball is also available.  If you'd like to murder the next four hours and fail to accomplish anything else today, go ahead and download them both.


  1. You know what? Pocket Tanks just recently stopped working on my Mac (outdated programming basically). I'm going to try my darndest though to get it working again tonight. We'll see what happens. :)

    Yeah, I'll have to say Pocket Tanks was the highlight of my tenure there too. I do remember thinking that $9 per hour was really awesome pay. Wow, how wrong I was. I should have been building crappy websites for people in PHP. :) Oh, but I was so happy the day I called the UTK Media Center and was told that I could work there instead. I just walked over to the managers' station and said that I wanted to turn in my headset. "Today's my last day." Oh, that was such a load off. That place was sooo negative. Everyone hated working there. Some experiences in life are incredibly valuable because you learn a hard lesson about how you absolutely DON'T want to be spending your time on this earth.

  2. Wow, they have an updated Mac version. And an iPhone/iPad version now. My progress towards anything for 2013 has come to a halt.