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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The ultimate meaning of life is to embrace that which compels you to act in spite of fear.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

What sells

One of the most anthropologically interesting jobs I've ever had was the esteemed position of customer service rep in a call centre. Not just any call centre, mind you, but a call centre at the back of a marketing and advertising agency. Woohoo! Right near the action!

I won't try to dissect the ad culture here. Suffice it to say, this bizzare environment was characterized by myriad layers of confusion, fear, and reward -- both real and perceived. Though in advertising the line between these two is often blurred beyond detection.

The passage of time in the call centre also played tricks on the mind. Boredom was the most common experience, particularly when the rate of incoming calls was low. We reps would alleviate this dreariness with snatches of conversation. These exchanges were good time-killers, and oftentimes very revealing. People told me some very personal stuff. (Looking back now, I can see it was a great place to be a writer.)

Occasionally, I even revealed things about myself, though I tried to pick my audiences carefully. I had worked "up front" in the agency, where the air always seemed rank with suspicion and betrayal.

On one particular evening, however, I decided to open up to a pleasant young woman. She seemed nice and harmless enough. Besides, I was single at the time and she was pretty. Let's face it, that's reason enough for most men to do anything.

I told her about my work, about the lonely, anxiety-filled hours spent crafting novels and screenplays, most of which had resulted in nothing more than nibbles, nice comments, and, of course, some rejection letters (some very impressive). I also told her about the option on my first screenplay, which, sadly, never made it to production. There was never enough money here in Canada, I told her.

She nodded sympathetically. She seemed to get it.

Pleased to have shared with a pretty and comprehending woman, I turned back around to face my monitor and await the next caller. Life was okay. I felt good. I'd made a connection.

A moment later, she turned to me, tilted her head, and said, "Well... why don't you just write what people want to read? What sells. Wouldn't that be so much easier on you?"

I stopped sharing my inner self in the call centre.


Blogger Just Wandering said...

She definitely didn't get it :)

4:35 PM  
Blogger oakwriter said...

Indeed. Thank you! :-)

12:49 PM  

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