Another week passes and Sassy Saturday rolls round again.
Carrie’s determination to be successful for once is severely tested in this week’s episode of Mission Improbable. On the plus side, it seems at least one of her work colleagues is prepared to be a friend.
“Hello?” said Carrie. A stream of loud curses spewed from the receiver, and she jerked her head away. After waiting until the stream slowed to a trickle, she tried again. “Can I help—?” More curses followed, some of which were new to Carrie. She attempted to make eye contact with her work colleague in hope of some information or advice, but the woman was deep in conversation about the pros and cons of taking children out of school during term time. Cradling the receiver between her shoulder and neck, Carrie opened her file and scanned the pages while listening for a mention of something even vaguely familiar in the customer’s rant, but she could not recognise anything. She tried once more to interject, but the man was so irate she could not break into the flow of words.
Carrie’s heart sank. She wanted to do a good job, but how was she supposed to help if the customers would not listen to her? And the instructions in the file were complete gobbledygook. It did not take long for her to grow frustrated and bored. “Thank you, sir. We’ll deal with that at the earliest opportunity,” she said, and slammed the receiver down.
The work colleague paused in her conversation. “I don’t think you’re supposed to—” But Carrie was already returning to her desk.
By ten, Carrie had dealt with four more complaints in a similar way. Maybe she was not exactly following procedure, but when she had more time to learn the ropes she would improve, she was sure. This job is a piece of cake, she thought, and as she had the thought, she noticed that cake had been shared around the office. Everyone seemed to have put their customers on hold because they were all chatting and eating.
No one had brought her any cake. Carrie swivelled her chair round to face her desk and buried her head in her file, trying to pretend she had not noticed what was happening.
“It’s Jerry’s birthday today,” said a male voice. “I thought you might like some cake.” Carrie looked up. It was Mr. Handsome, plate and fork in hand, smiling at her.
“I’d love some,” said Carrie, accepting the plate and immediately forking a piece of rich chocolate cake into her mouth. “Oh, this is delicious,” she said, spitting crumbs.
“Yes, Mary made it. She does a lot of baking.”
“It’s wonderful.” That was so nice of him to bring me some cake, she thought. He must have seen I was left out. The man propped himself on her desk, and her heart lifted.
“How are you getting on on your first day?” he asked.
“Oh, fine.” Carrie paused. She chewed and swallowed. “Well, actually, I tell the customers we’ll do something soon and hang up.”
He laughed. “That’s one way of dealing with complaints, I suppose.”
“I’m trying my best, but what else can I do? I’ve no idea where all those forms are that are mentioned in my file, and I don’t know what most of this stuff means. In fact, I don’t know what any of this stuff means.”
The man waved dismissively. “Don’t worry about it. No one from higher up ever said as much of course, but I think the idea is to frustrate the customers so much they give up complaining. The last person who took the job didn’t last more than an hour. He’s the reason you don’t have your own phone…” He nodded at a dent in the wall.
Carrie’s eyes widened. “He threw it at the wall?”
“Maintenance haven’t got around to supplying a new one. It might take a while.”
“Doesn’t matter. I can use all of yours. It isn’t like I’m on the phone for long.” She shovelled another large piece of cake into her mouth. It was delectable.
“I’m Dave, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you, Carrie.” He stood to leave.
“Hey, Dave, I’m new in town. I don’t suppose, tonight, maybe…?”
“Oh, you’re having a housewarming?”
Carrie closed her eyes as she ate the last mouthful of sweet, moist, crumbly cake. She nodded absently.
“Sure, I’ll come over. About seven?”
“Mmmm…” Carrie sighed in satisfaction and sucked chocolate cream from her teeth. As Dave left, she realised he had agreed to a date. Her first day at her new job was getting better and better.
A few minutes later the gum-chewing woman arrived to take her plate.
“Thanks,” said Carrie. “Wait a minute. Can I ask you something?”
The woman paused, holding the plate in midair.
“That guy, Dave, is he, you know, attached?”
“Don’t know. Don’t think so.”
“Oh good. He’s gorgeous, don’t you think? And he’s got great taste in clothes.”
The woman smirked. She opened her mouth as if to speak, but thought better of it, and walked away laughing.
Find out what Carrie’s workmate finds so funny next Sassy Saturday.
Mission Improbable comes out December 16th. If you would like a free advance reader copy of the novel in exchange for a fair review, sign up to my mailing list.