THE other morning I overheard Stanley reading the riot act to a mobile phone service rep about her company's deceitful practices.
While Stanley was right, he's relentless when he makes a customer complaint, and I couldn't help but feel for the hapless employee on the receiving end.
I've been there, trying to justify the policies of my employer to irate callers. My first real job after university was in the credit department of the Calgary Herald. When customers wanted to place a classified advertisement but still owed the paper for a previous ad, their phone calls got transferred to dweebs like me. I had to point out that they still owed the newspaper money, and would have to clear off that debt completely before it would provide the service they sought.
This was the height of hypocrisy since, living independently in a new city at the age of 21, I had amassed such high long-distance phone bills due to loneliness that my rooming house telephone had been repossessed. It wasn't long before I took a pay cut and moved into the newsroom - my desired destination anyway. Working in a credit department may be a dream for some, but it remains my most hated job.
Of course, one of the luxuries of our generally slack life in the First World is our ability to find the "awful" in the most mundane situations. Witness the laugh-out-loud book Please Fire Me (by Adam Chromy and Jill Morris, Citadel Press), spawned by the website of the same name. Both feature the weary appeals of workers who have reached the end of their rope. These people find their jobs tedious and idiotic, and they're even more unimpressed by their confreres.
"Please fire me," one correspondent begs. "Last week a co-worker asked me, 'What day is black history month?'"
One employee of 20 years gripes that she has to share a cubicle. Worse yet, "My cubemate surfs the net all day and searches for images of 85-year-old actress Cloris Leachman."
These stories might strike a familiar chord in you - then again, maybe not.
"Please fire me. I am dressed like a smoothie," writes one contributor, surely texting while trudging up and down a busy street waving at cars.
"Please fire me," another beseeches. "I was invited to a meeting to discuss the fact that there are too many meetings."
"Today I Photoshopped eight small children into a sardine can," one creative type bleakly reports.
Some of the trouble arises when employees are given inappropriate tasks.
"Please fire me," one of them demands. "I have an extensive knowledge of women's blouses and old-lady tea hats. I am a 23-year-old male."
Occasionally, however, the website's contributors feel they're drowning in a vat of morons.
"Please fire me," one sad sack entreats. "The only skill I need for my job is knowledge of the alphabet."
"Please fire me," urges another. "Last week I was accused at work of thinking."
Of course, there are countless workplace bummers. Bosses who believe their employees respect them, for instance, appear to be both sadly misinformed and infinite in number.
"Please fire me," an anonymous worker pleads. "I heard my boss say 'Talk to the hand' three times today."
"Please fire me. The boss thinks the phrase is 'For all intensive purposes,'" sighs one vaguely literate peon.
At least those bosses aren't so stressed that they've taken to chewing their hair in front of their underlings, like one female superior who appears in the book. Nor are they as weird as the manager who always hums "Mr. Bojangles" when he uses the urinal.
On the other hand, for eccentricity, few can top the woman who inspired this correspondent: "Please fire me. My boss doesn't believe in daily bathing, but instead rolls around in cedar chips nightly. Yes, like a hamster."
Sometimes, the book suggests, the underlying issue is that the employee, the company and the customers have a "hate-hate-hate" relationship.
"Please fire me," one benighted doofus urges. "To cut down on costs, I am now only allowed to wear gloves when preparing food in front of customers. All the prep work in the back is done sans gloves. Today I had to squeeze out all the juice from a giant can of tuna with my bare hands."
Desperate times call for desperate measures, some contributors believe. "Please fire me. I eat raw cauliflower all day so the smell of my bad breath will keep people from talking to me."
"Please fire me. I started smoking again just so I'd have an excuse to leave the office for an extra fifteen minutes a day."
And now for something completely heartbreaking: "Please fire me. Sometimes on my lunch break I drive to the park and cry."
There you go, gentle reader. If you're now feeling a lot better about your job, my work here is done.