The Metropolitan Life Insurance office I worked in, located in an office park a stone’s throw from a major highway in an extremely suburban part of St. Louis, was the epitome of corporate, in every way imaginable. The offices of important managers and salesmen lined the walls, while a dense and depressing patchwork of cubicles that resembled an exit-less lab maze in which mice were studied to see if they were mentally capable of realizing that there was actually no way out, while being given cancer or something, filled most of the remaining office space. Those cubicle bound workers were just like mice, trapped, and totally getting cancer at some point. What’s sadder is that as someone who wasn’t even given a cubicle, I was jealous of them. “Fuck you, Sarah! You think you’re better than me because you have somewhere to hang a college pennant, a Cathy cartoon, and enough space to put a picture of your dog? YOU’RE NOT!” In truth, she was.
The cubicles left only narrow “hallway” thoroughfares to awkwardly navigate past men and women who had long given up any semblance of physical dignity, prematurely resigning themselves to their rotund inevitabilities in their early to mid-30s, trading what I assume could have been decently successful sex lives instead for bear claws and what a physician might describe in layman’s terms as bed sores, induced by sitting in moderately priced office chairs for 12 hours a day.
My position at Met Life was a “marketing assistant.” At 24, if you tell someone you’re a marketing assistant for Met Life, there is a better than good chance this random hypothetical person will be impressed by, or at the very least, respectful of, your job. That’s because marketing sounds like a hip and cutting edge field, and because Met Life is a Fortune 500 company, but mostly because people are fucking idiots. I was a “marketing assistant” in the same way a prostitute is an “escort.” At the end of the day, the marketing assistant and the escort both feel fucked at a thankless job. That’s not true actually; I bet people thank prostitutes all the time. I would call the job underpaid as well, but I was getting paid exactly what the job deserved, let alone what my work ethic deserved.
I had a college degree, so did all of my marketing assistant coworkers. We were not “marketing” anything though, we were working a call center, asking a never ending list of Met Life clients if they would like to expand their already existing policies, or open new ones, or at the very least meet with a Met Life
salesperson representative to totally just go over their existing policies and not be given a shameless pitch on new policies that they probably definitely needed. The amount of elderly people I lied to at that job is rivaled only by the nursing home attendant who has to convince their residents that the medication is actually just candy and that no, the ghosts of their room’s former, now deceased residents aren’t haunting them at night. Sorry grandmas, your nursing home room is haunted like five times over, bury yourself in those covers and pray for dawn. I probably hooked several of those ghosts up with unnecessary life insurance policy expansions before they passed. Hey families of those dead old people, you’re welcome. We actually made up a slogan for the call center. It was “Tricking old people into setting appointments.”
The job in the call center at Met Life was mindless, and as I said, we were all college graduates. The old saying is that idle hands are the devil’s playground. I’m here to tell you that an idle mind is the devil’s fucking Disney World. Everyone in that call center, all eight of us, were complete assholes, and made so by our disdain for the job. To be fair, we were already assholes on a personal level, but the worthlessness of the job brought out the assholes in us, professionally. We routinely tried to one up each other by getting away with making ridiculous statements and claims while on calls with clients. Sometimes we would do funny accents too. Every time there was an irate customer on the phone they’d be put on speaker and we would all laugh at their fury. “What’s that contributing member of society? You’re angry that we interrupted your afternoon? Well suck it! Everyone in this room, most of whom live with their parents and make $10/hr, are going to laugh at your rightful outrage and call you stupid!” I couldn’t tell you definitively why the economy crashed in 2008, but our sort of workplace behavior has to be in part why it stayed down.
We loved fucking with customers because we hated our jobs and encouraged each other’s terrible behavior way too much. The pinnacle of all this came when I stumbled across an Asian policyholder on the aforementioned never ending client list we were tasked to call named Mei Butt. To this day I do not know if her first name was pronounced “Mee” or “May” or “My” but it did not matter to me then and it certainly does not matter to me now. We all assumed it was pronounced “My” because a name that sounds like “my butt” is hilarious, and more importantly because we all had the sensibilities of drunk 11-year-olds.
I called dibs on phoning Mei Butt. After several days and many fruitless attempts, we finally got a hold of a member of the Butt household. From what I could tell it was her husband, not Mei herself, which considering the conversation you are about to read actually made it all the better, given the name. As fate would have it, it seemed that the Butt family was relatively new to the states, at least insomuch as Mr. Butt (lawl) did not speak English very well. Or maybe he was just wildly confused and horrified by everything I was saying. To be honest, that’s a solid possibility. Naturally, I put the call on speaker for the rest of the room to hear. As soon as we heard someone pick up on the other end giggles broke out and were quickly stifled all across the room, like a third grade class that just heard a fart in the middle of a lesson. Seriously, this was one of the most immature groups of people I have ever encountered in my life. God I loved them.
Me: Hello, this is Rob Fox from Met Life insurance, I’m calling to speak to my butt.
(*long, awkward pause*)
Me (CONT):: Is my butt available? Can you grab my butt for me?
Mr. Butt: Uh…no.
Me:: Do you plan on seeing my butt any time soon?
Mr. Butt: Yes?
Me: Great. When you see my butt, which is hopefully soon, be sure to let my butt know that I would like to speak about possibly expanding my butt’s life insurance policy. We just want to make sure my butt feels protected and comfortable.
Mr. Butt: Okay…uh…this call is for Mei?
Me: My butt, yes. Like I said, I want to get a hold of my butt, but obviously I can’t reach my butt, so you’re going to have to grab my butt for me. Do you, perhaps, have any questions about Met Life’s relationship with my butt? Is there anything about my butt that you would like to know?
Mr. Butt: No. No no no.
Me: Okay Mr. Butt, well I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me about my butt. I’m sure you’re a busy man and obviously my butt is very busy as well. Please be sure to let my butt know that I called. You and my butt have a great day.
(*another long pause, hangs up*)
As soon as I hung up, the room erupted in laughter. I’m fairly certain this was the highlight of all our weeks, maybe months. Those were grim days in all our professional lives, so little bright spots like getting cheap laughs from a dumb joke, and assuming the lightheartedness of the joke made up for its blatant racism (debatable), was kind of important. Those sorts of things kept us from going insane.