I previously worked in a call center for 3.5 years. While I found that environment stifling (also see: trifling) I do remember there being some relief in the occasional sympathetic call. One such call that stocked my spirit was by an eighty year old woman living in New York named, Mrs Stark.
Mrs Stark had been holed up in her high-rise apartment overlooking the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. She wasn’t able to reach nearby relatives for immediate assistance and clogged service lanes meant emergency aid would be delayed. At the point Mrs Stark called the 1-800 number and reached me her supply of arthritis medicine, food, water and patience were running low.
In my professional role I was trained to quickly assist customers in resolving specific financial needs; handling issues beyond money or calls exceeding six minutes were in violation of company standards. However as my conversation with Mrs Stark progressed an unexpected thing happened- our roles completely disappeared. For the better part of two hours I found myself intently listening to, from the wreckage, Mrs Stark delivering me an urgent rescue.
I’d been unhappy with my life for a while. I thought the end to a challenging two year unemployment meant the tide was finally turning. Upon reentry however, dull career prospects and an unstable economy soon dashed my optimism; a vow to not repeat previous failures kept me yolked to this dead-end job for too long. My personal life was similarly dormant. I worked terrible hours which meant little time for family and friends. Even romance seemed far fetched; I didn’t feel attractive or interesting enough to hold any man’s attention. In private, I was uninspired to write or exercise my creativity. I was a total zombie, overweight, depressed, and too numb to feel resentment let alone provocation. I completely checked out.
Over the phone, Mrs Stark was a riot. Considering her extreme circumstance (also that my calls were being recorded) her sense of humor was crass and wonderful. Her stories were both dazzling and self deprecating. She joked with disregard like we’d spent many lucid evenings around her family dinner table. Sometimes she paused to allow moments of regret to pass. Other times she spoke with caress as if my cheek lay right there in her lap. When the conversation turned to men, Mrs Stark scolded me for lacking gusto. Of course she oozed a charm that probably made men incoherent. Her inflection was high, especially when she called me “dear” which reminded me of my grandma back home in Nigeria. There was no misinterpreting Mrs Stark’s native accent though; she was emphatically New York. I laughed a lot because she laughed a lot, and I imagined her face with deep lines etched around her eyes and mouth.
I felt a twinge of disappointment that Mrs Stark and I would never actually meet, though, there was no real world scenario to otherwise facilitate our encounter. I also acknowledge the role of anonymity and brevity in creating the environment our communication needed to flourish; it felt cosmically synced in that way. Now, I wonder if maybe that’s how the universe works to unite us: at intersections where two people in ruins meet at the exact right time.
Immediately after our call I scrambled to record all that I could remember Mrs Stark saying. For three years the fragments of that conversation stayed with me trusting one day they’d coax their way into format. I have no idea whatever happened to Mrs Stark after that call, or even if she is still alive, though I think about her often. If she and I ever do meet again I certainly hope its at the exact same precious moment. Her parting words to me, “I hope we meet again.”
When was a time someone unexpectedly came to your rescue? Please share your story with me in the comments section below.
Now a word from our sponsor, Mrs Stark:
- On NYPD/FD: they’re all good looking Irishmen. If I could be twenty years old again….*giggles*
- On Being: see the world! Talk to people! What are you afraid of?!
- On Mortality: all of the family and friends I love are gone, and I suppose, I’m next.
- On Memories: I hate talking about these things, they just upset me. You know, party’s over.
- On Regret: if I could do it all over again I would. I’d be happily married. And my older sister was right, I should have laughed more.