A/N: And now for something completely different. Well, different from what I normally write, in any case: all human, all fluff. Haven't dropped any of the other things I've got going on; I just needed something a bit lighter to be able to work on. I've got the next few chapters already written, and will be posting them every other day or so. Hope you enjoy!
Today was the first year anniversary of my first day on the job, and what a year it was. I leaned back in my chair at Starbucks and thought about how I had gotten to where I was today.
Before the past year had even started, I'd spent months looking for a job, finally landing a position with the phone company. It was my first phone job. It was a simple customer service gig, but each day had been a special form of hell for me. We had to take an insane number of calls every day; it had been really intimidating at first, but I'd gotten into the swing of things after about two weeks.
At least, as far as the job went. It was roughly half of the customer base that had been a special pain in my ass. I didn't think there was anything all that interesting about my voice, but many of my male callers would have disagreed. Why couldn't I get propositioned that often in real life? It had depressed the hell out of me until my friend Amelia snapped me out of my funk. She'd told me that if I regularly got that much male attention, she'd never be able to pry me out from under my bed. I had to laugh at that; she was right. In person, I could be painfully shy.
I quit my job with the phone company after only a month. I just couldn't take it anymore. The good news was that Amelia, my best friend since kindergarten, and I were roommates. She was my sister from another mister, and what an odd mister that was. Her dad was some big honcho whose job took up all of his time. The man worked anywhere between sixty and seventy hours a week; to make up for his absence in his daughter's life, he threw more money at her than she knew what to do with.
All of that meant that Amelia was more than willing to share her posh pad with me. Bless her heart, she wouldn't even let me look at the bills when I was out of work.
From an outsider's perspective, it would be easy to think of Amelia as the "poor little rich kid," but I knew what a mistake that was. She was brilliant: insightful, witty, and had a very sensitive side. She was also the quirkiest person I knew, which meant we were two peas in a pod.
It was Amelia who'd convinced me to try out for a job (I refused to call it a position) with a phone sex hotline. Once she found the ad in the local rag, she hounded me about the idea for days. I finally relented, agreeing to at least go for an interview. With the economy in shambles, I didn't feel like I could be picky; I also knew that an interview wasn't a guaranteed job.
Oddly enough, they didn't want to do an interview over the phone. This was a relief, actually. After all, not only had I never done anything even remotely resembling phone sex, I still had yet to actually have sex. Aside from my month with the phone company, I was about as inexperienced as a person could get for this kind of place.
There hadn't been any receptionist at the door when I got there. I found a little coffee table with some magazines and an old style counter-bell. I tapped it once and took a seat. A few minutes later, a short blonde woman came out, introduced herself as Pamela Ravenscroft, and forbade me to utter a single word.
She said straight off that the first thing she wanted to hear from me was how my voice came through their own phone system. It was a happy coincidence that she'd rendered me speechless with her brusque ways. As she led me through through the office, I took the opportunity to get a close look at my surroundings.
I'd expected the place to be a bit skeevy, but was pleasantly surprised to find it was even cleaner than the call center at the phone company. Not that that would have been a huge challenge. In fact, I couldn't even tell it was a sex hotline call center by the way it looked. The cubicles were fairly large, and the walls were a bit higher and more thickly padded than usual, which helped make the floor quieter. The cubicles I peeked into were decorated with the usual cubicle accoutrements: pictures, posters, stickers, toys, and the occasional fish tank.
The women smiled and waved at Pam as we walked by, and boy howdy, was that surreal. They were moaning, cussing, or saying all sorts of nasty things – and acting like it was no big deal. One girl was knitting something that looked for all the world like a baby blanket, fluffy and pastel pink.
Pam led me into a very sparse room and told me to have a seat; she said she'd give me five minutes to read over the script on the desk and then she would call. She wouldn't be expecting me to interact with her, just read the stuff on the paper. After she closed the door behind her, I sat and took a look at the pages.
Holy hand baskets, my Gran would have rolled over in her grave to hear me – or anyone, for that matter – say those things.
I was no stranger to scripted phone calls; we'd had to do it in the customer service department. My supervisor had said I was a natural for making it sound like it wasn't reading from a paper.
When the phone rang, Pam had me do two or three read-throughs. Given the harsh tone of her voice whenever she spoke, I figured I was tanking this one, and bad. She even hung up on me!
Barely a minute after hearing the phone slam down on the other end, Pam burst through the door, demanding to know how soon I could start. She looked like she was ready to proposition me.
A few days later, I started my training. The first week, I listened in on the other girls' calls. Part of that was to give me a good idea of how the calls went, but mostly it was to break me in. To get me used to the idea of what exactly I'd be doing. There were some very specific rules, "no emotional involvement" being the second biggest one. That was completely fine by me. There were scripts we could use if we had trouble coming up with things to say. Most of the time, the customers had their own ideas about what they wanted us to say.
Most importantly: we never used our real names. Some of the girls came up with their own, but I was stumped. When Pam found out that I was having trouble coming up with a name, she snorted and without hesitation, she had one for me: Destiny.
As she put it, "With a voice like that, you were destined for this line of work."
While I cringed more than a little at the idea that God's plan for me involved talking guys through a decent wank, I decided it wasn't such a bad name. When I went home that night, I told Amelia about my new pseudonym. She said it had a "classy exotic dancer" ring to it; she'd know, far better than I.
Six months later, I was in the top ten requested operators. Some of the other girls really didn't like that, especially a redhead named Arlene. She'd been there for years, and had long been in the top five. I tried to avoid the competitive aspect of the job. There was something of a revolving door, here. A lot of women just couldn't cut it, and I couldn't blame them. Any sort of phone work was difficult, but this was really out there.
It was fun, in some ways. Occasionally we'd get some really creepy callers, but if anything got out of hand, we were allowed to terminate the calls after giving the customer three warnings. There were special, soundproofed rooms for callers who wanted screamers. We didn't get those often, but taking a screamer call meant we had a guaranteed break afterward; fifteen minutes and a cup of hot lemon tea with honey, and we'd be back on the phones.
Our phones had little LED screens on them. With each call, a code flashed on the screen to let us know if the caller had any special interests or requests: moaning, swearing, naughty, nice... the list went on.
One of the nicer perks of the job was that we were allowed to wear whatever we wanted. Pam wanted us to be comfortable; she maintained that the numbers went through the roof when she experimented with revoking the dress code.
I spent my days crocheting, cross-stitching, or sometimes even reading novels while I took calls. I barely needed to think about what I was saying anymore. It wasn't so much that talking dirty came naturally to me, it was more that I'd gotten used to what I was doing. On days where I was off my game, I could still coast on the sound of my voice alone.
A year later, I was in the top five.
Amelia was amazed that I'd taken the job at all. On a lark, she had me record the greeting for her voice mail. Every now and then, the men she'd given her number to would leave some very amusing messages. Stuttering was the most common response.
The sound of a horn honking outside of the Starbucks pulled me out of my thoughts.
I sighed, looking at my watch. My lunch break was almost over. I took another sip of my chai latte and stretched, not wanting to go back to work. As much as I might like my job, this chair was really quite comfortable.
Pam was lenient about a lot of things, but being late was not one of them. I picked up my drink and started walking back towards the building where I worked. One of the other things I really appreciated about this job was that it was located in a swanky building in downtown Atlanta. The name on the door was simply listed as Ravenscroft Industries, the parent company under which Pam ran the hotline. There were a bunch of different hotline numbers that all came in to our call center, and the names of them varied from the sensual to the ridiculous.
Best of all, none of the suits who stomped the hallways in their high heels and leather shoes had any idea what went on behind our doors. They did tend to look at us a bit oddly, as they were all dressed in business outfits, while we were wearing anything from jeans to pajamas. For the most part, we ignored each other.
I never conversed with any of them. Working at a phone sex hotline had changed the way I spoke; I didn't really notice it, but Amelia frequently commented on how I sounded more and more like a sex kitten every week. If anything, it made me that much more shy in person.
When I got to the elevator, there was only one other person waiting there. He turned to look at me as I approached; I smiled, but he gave me a brief up-and-down glance before looking away. Damn shame he was a snob: he was kind of cute. He was insanely tall, had short blond hair and striking blue eyes. No doubt he was used to getting any woman he wanted; he was one of the most attractive men I'd ever seen.
Not like that was saying much, wallflower that I was.
There was a ding just before the elevator doors opened. A stream of people emerged, and then Mr Snobby Britches and I boarded. Since I was feeling a bit impish, I decided to mess with him. He was standing closer to the button panel than I was.
He didn't even look my way when he spoke. "What floor?"
That was my cue; in a husky voice, I said, "Third floor, if you would be so kind."
I don't know what kind of reaction I'd been expecting, but it wasn't the one I got: his eyes closed, his jaw muscles flexed slightly, and he gulped.
Score. Take that, you smarmy suit.
If there was one thing I'd learned to seriously dislike in my call center days, it was the suits who felt they were so superior to everyone else. All they cared about were the numbers: the ones from our calls and the ones in their bank accounts. Suits and reps – the representatives - didn't mix, not ever. Experience told me that they liked us even less than we liked them.
Pam was different, and the rest of the girls and I loved that about her. She dressed up when she came to work, but rumor had it she dressed up when she was going to the grocery store.
It was all I could do to not laugh at the cute suit as he pressed the button for the third floor. He looked like he was about to have an aneurysm; either the poor guy was having a really bad day, or I'd thrown him for a loop.
I hoped it wasn't the former. I might be mischievous, but I never liked being mean. I watched him take a deep breath and exhale slowly. He raised a hand and smoothed back his hair as if he was nervous; he was probably on his way to some big important meeting.
The elevator dinged again when we reached the third floor. I walked out, stopped just outside the door. Turning back towards him, I spoke again, this time using a slightly less-sexy voice.
"You have a nice day now."
He gaped at me as the double doors slid closed.
With a giggle, I turned on my heel and walked back into the office. I made it back to my cubicle with two minutes to spare.
A/N, part two: I've done a lot of phone work before, but I've never done that particular kind of phone work; if I've hideously mucked anything up, that's totally on me. Wanted to give that disclaimer at the top, but didn't want to give anything away. Hee!
Disclaimer: All of the characters contained in this story are property of Charlaine Harris. I don't own them; I just like to play with them a bit.