Choosing Your Passenger

We have been trying to switch Internet providers, and I have lost count of how many conversations I have had with that chipper automated man who exists on the other end of the 1-877 phone number. But I can assure you the sound of his voice makes my blood pressure tick up the minute I hear it.

You know him, or some version of him: “Hi! This is X Y and Z! Either say or enter your account number, or if you don’t know it, say “I don’t know’.” Then you hear the pitter patter of little cyber feet before he chirps, “Great! Now let me get an idea of why you are calling. For example, if you need technical support, say ‘Technical support…’ BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.” I have cursed at him, I have demeaned him, I have thrown my phone across the room in exasperation at him. And all the while, I know full well how absolutely obnoxious, immature, and ineffective my behavior is. But does this stop me? No.

A few days ago I was once again on the phone with him when he announced, finally, that my replies had earned me the much-coveted, live ‘customer support technician.’ This was the first time I had made it this far, and I was excited. So excited I could feel my bladder filling. The chirpy automated man calculated my wait time to be 18 minutes, and being the gambler that I am, I kept my cell phone stuck to my ear and headed straight to the restroom. With more than a quarter of an hour of wait time ahead of me, surely I had time for a quick tinkle…

Of course, the actual minute my task began in earnest, the long-awaited live and in-person customer service rep came on the line and asked me for my account number — which of course I did not have because I was, well-mid stream. So there I was, finally making my connection with a company I had been genuinely ‘pissed’ at all week long — and there I sat, quite literally with my pants down.

I have to say, being caught at such a disadvantage completely took my edge off. If I had been sitting at any of my other thrones (at the kitchen table, my desk, even in the driver’s seat of my car) when this connection had been made, I am going to make an educated guess that I would not have been very nice. But being caught in an obviously vulnerable position (I had to flush the toilet before I could go get my account number – and when you are facing dead air space on the phone, we all know that all plumbing systems sound about as subtle as Niagara Falls…) changed everything. Suffice it to say, my disadvantage had turned the tables a bit.

My vulnerability turned what would certainly have been an unpleasant encounter into a much different one. My sense of humor kicked in and I made fun of my predicament. This customer service agent was kind, apologetic, and infinitely helpful. I, in return, was kind, understanding, and patient. I know it could have gone a hundred different ways — and regardless of how she and I treated each other, our journey together, in one way or another, was only going to take us to one place; from point A (broken internet) to Point B (fixed Internet). Nasty or nice, I was going to arrive at the same place.

The destination was set, the only choice I had was who I was bringing with me. I could either let anger hop in, or allow peace of mind to ride shotgun. Which passenger would I have chosen if I had been ‘in my power’ rather than sitting on the toilet? Odds are good it would not have been peace of mind.

What a great reminder that on the fixed journeys that life forces all of us to take, like mine here — those journeys where there is only one destination ahead — the only thing we get to pick is who we let ride shotgun. And if the journey is not going to change regardless of who rides next to us, is it ever worth picking up a wayward passenger that steals our peace of mind and makes us act nasty?

I am going to try to remember this lesson in the future and work to avoid picking up any of the more-untoward hitchhikers that are always milling about on the roadside with their thumb out. You know them, they travel in a pack — Anger, Hostility, and Aggression are the ringleaders, but there are lots of others too.

This whole experience was a great reminder to me, that none of my personas, nasty or nice, have vehicles of their own. The only way they get anywhere in the world is if I let them hop a ride….