The Call Center

Short story by Hunter P. Johnson. The clock struck 7:33 AM.

John Patronas sauntered into the call center at 7:31am. Not too bad. His typical goal was to be squatted in front of his chair by that time, but it seemed that fate had it for him to be in the office three minutes later than he had desired. Today was to be eventful. Calls.

John gazed into the glowing doom screen, anxiously awaiting the dreaded "ring jingle" from his technological warden.


It was going to be one of those days where the clock inched along minute by minute, second by second. John didn't know what he thought about General Relativity but he knew for sure the more bored he was, the slower time seemed to pass.

It's a wonderful day, a new customer awaits!

In a bid to combat, "employee dissatisfaction," the company had replaced the standard phone ring tones with a poorly cobbled together jingle song. It just made John more unhappy, like the company was trying to taunt him. You're stuck in this job, there's no way out. That car insurance isn't going to pay for itself is it?

Hear the shine in the customers voice, let them know, we are the only choice!

"Hello sir, can you please hold?"

"Sure, I guess."

There was no reason to put the customer on hold. John simply felt that he needed to subject his callers to the same jingle torture that he had to endure for a minimum of eight hours a day. John looked at his life and only saw ennui spanning eternity. What a pity that human existence could be reduced to such a bland depravity. John sat there imagining what the customer on the other end of the line was thinking about as he was subject to auditory drip torture. Maybe he wasn't thinking at all. Some people just don't have a voice in their head. John contemplated whether this was for better or for worse in the prison society that he inhabited. On one hand, he kept himself mildly entertained from the barrage of boredom through internalized conversations like this one. On the other hand, his heightened self-awareness made his own loneliness more apparent. Maybe it was better to be sitting there with not a thought in the world crossing your mind--simply waiting for time to trickle past as you wait for the next moment to arrive.


John adjusted his headset and mentally prepared himself for the conversation that would beset him.

"Hello sir, thank you for holding, how can I assist you today?"

"Yeah, hi, uh... this is Joe Pinto. My printer is broken. It shows up on my computer that it printed, but... well yeah, it doesn't print."

John waded through his memories in search of the obvious solution to Mr. Pinto's problem.

"Have you tried disconnecting and reconnecting the printer?"

"Uh no, I haven't tried that. Give me a second."

It's going to be one of those cases. John looked at his desk and tried to count the grains in his shoddy, composite desk. The imperfections seemed to glare back at him today more so than they usually did.

"Uh ok... that seemed to do the trick, thanks for your help."

Call ended, please log the call in the system.


John still had seven hours and 54 minutes left to go; man abetting man in his own self-imposed slavery.