MY daughter asked me to join her working in a local call centre on the run up to the busy Festive period.
"You might as well mum," she reasoned. You'll be dropping me off and picking me up anyway."
And, admitting her logic was sound, I found myself agreeing.
My new job entailed arranging customer deliveries from Argos and also taking customer orders.
After two days intensive training, I was now, 'live'.
Nervously, I dialled my first customer who was in Wales.
"Good evening, my name is Janice from Argos and I am calling to arrange delivery of your item. May I speak to Mrs Whiteside?"
"Speaking," replied a heavy Welsh accent.. "Can I help?"
"Hello Mrs Whiteside. I am calling to arrange delivery of your sofa bed. Can you confirm your address is …"
"That's correct," she replied.
"Now Mrs Whiteside, are there any special instructions for the delivery driver?"
"Yes. Could you ask him not to peep his horn as my husband will be just off the night shift?"
"Er. No Mrs Whiteside, that's not what I was meaning. I meant are there any special delivery instructions for the driver in case he has difficulty locating your home?"
Quick as a flash she replies: "Well, you could tell him we're on the same side of the road as the church."
"Which church is that Mrs Whiteside?" I patiently enquire.
"The one down the road from the chip shop," she replied oblivious to the meaning behind my inquiry.
Taking a deep breath I ask: "And which chip shop would that be Mrs Whiteside?"
But she's still none the wiser.
She answers: "The chip shop that sells the battered sausage specials with free onion rings."
No doubt that'll be the one down the road from the church, I thought feeling my blood pressure rising steadily.
"Sorry, Mrs Whiteside, that's not much help."
"Well, I don't know what else to say," replied a narked Mrs Whiteside.
I bite my tongue.
"Don't worry, I'm sure the driver will find it with sat nav."
Wow, that was more difficult than I imagined. Surely it will be easier tomorrow when I switch to taking orders rather than dispatching.
But no …
The next night my screen flashes with an incoming call and adopting my best phone voice I begin my spiel.
"Hello, welcome to Argos. My name is Janice. May I please have your name?"
She mumbled what I now know to be 'Mrs McSweeney' but I just couldn't make it out.
"Sorry. I didn't catch that. Mrs Mc what?"
"Mrs McS …"
Nope, I didn't catch that either
"Could you spell that out for me please?" I pleaded, as her accent, even though it was Scots, was pretty broad and I hadn't a clue what she was saying.
What I was sure of was that she was a nippy sweetie.
"You'd think in your job you'd be able to spell," scolds Mrs McS…
I hold my shush and my fingers are poised over the keyboard as Mrs McS…. begins her personal version of the phonetic alphabet:
"Its M for mother.
"C for cushion. That's a wee 'c' by-the-way."
"A wee cushion?" I asked.
"Naw," replied an exasperated Mrs McS … now trying hard to remember what letter came after C, I mean a wee 'c'," she answered.
"S for Sonny Jim."
Sonny Jim? That's a new one.
"W for Wullie," followed.
My shoulders were involuntarily shoogling up and down with laughter and my colleagues had no idea what' was so funny.
"E for Easter," she continued.
"E for Easter again."
Mrs McSwee… was on a roll now.
"N for knicker elastic."
I clasped my hand over the mouthpiece as tears rolled down my cheeks.
"Em. E is for what I said E was for the last time.
"And Y is for …"
A long pause. A very long pause.
"Eh. Ah cannae think of anything starting with Y."
I tried to compose myself.
"It's OK Mrs McSweeney. Thank you."
INSIDE was thinking I bet Mrs McSweeney wishes her name was something easy like Lee.
"Now Mrs McSweeney. What's the catalogue number of your item please?" I asked.
"It's number 555 272."
I type the number in. "Ah yes, a black coffee table?" I inquire
"That's the one," confirms Mrs McSweeney. "Whit size is it again?"
"It's 90cms wide and 45cms in height," I answer.
"45cms?" asks Mrs McSweeney. "Is that up to my knees?"
"I don't know how long your legs are Mrs McSweeney."
It seriously was the only answer I could think of.
"Well, if it's no up to ma knees. Ah don't want it," she answered.
"Ok. Mrs McSweeney. Why don't you measure up to your knees and call me back?"
"Aw right," she snapped before hanging up.
I turned to my colleague who'd obviously had a similar evening.
"There must an easier way to make a living?" he said.
"Probably, but not many with so much fun."