Sunday, May 20, 2012

How Can I Help You?




Speaking of voices, in her comment, Grannymar triggered a memory of a time I worked a weekend job along with a full time job during the week.

Single parent, broke all the time, what can I say? Many of you out there were in similar straits I am sure.

I was hired for my voice, broguey as I now know it to be. The company ran an answering service for doctors, electricians, locksmiths, plumbers and road side assistance, etc. and - oh noes! - an escort service.

An answering service sounds so quaint now doesn't it in the IT world we all live in?

I worked there for over a year and before I worked my shift I had to make sure that I wouldn't need the bathroom for the entire 8 hours. Yes. Really. I could not let those phones go unanswered for more than 3 rings. No wireless enhancements to phone lines then.

Bonus points were my friends would visit and often bring their dinners and eat with me to relieve the tedium. (I've been so blessed with kind friends!). And I knitted. Boy, did I knit. And read. And study. And write. And never touch a drop of liquid for fear of, you know.

The escort service was the most interesting. I was a little naive in those days. I would never question the ads about escorts and 'dating'. I honestly thought that the clients would take the 'girls' out for dinner and have a nice chat over a cup of tea.

Well, the 'girls' gave me the straight dope on that. The majority were hooked on drugs. They would earn my whole weekend's pay-cheque for an hour's work and actively encouraged me to join them. Between 'dates' they would often regale me with stories of their clients and I admit to learning a lot about the travelling-expense-account men who would frequent these ladies. And what rate went with what. The finer points of A Sheltered Catholic Irish Girl's education. I could write a book or two.

Stretch limousines lost their allure for me when I discovered that often these vehicles were floating brothels. Some of the men did not want sex, which surprised me. They were often willing to pay for someone just to have dinner with them for a couple of hours. A few of the men calling in even asked me to have dinner with them in a public place after my shift was over and promised not to touch me or exert pressure to take it further. They just wanted a warm conversation as they were so far from home. So they said. I never put them to the test.

Looking back what I found the most poignant was the loneliness exhibited both by the men calling in and their desperate 'dates' calling out, looking for quick cash and using their bodies as trade.

23 comments:

  1. sad and i wish we would not look down on people make theses choices, some of them out of desperation.

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  2. OH and 8 hours without using the loo ??, don't think i could do it lol

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  3. Those switchboards remind me of my first job! Yes I was part of the 'Rubber knees' club - for the uninitiated - the 'Number Please' club. WWW, I wonder if our voices ever met over the Irish airways back then?

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  4. "I honestly thought that the clients would take the 'girls' out for dinner and have a nice chat over a cup of tea".You mean there was no tea served?I'm shocked and amazed !!.Love your story WWW.

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  5. Worked a PBX board myself to get through college near Boston...yes the classic pull out the cord, plug her in flip the switch and away you go, handwritten messages put into myriad of wooden slots overhead until one day on the overnight shift I had to train the new girl, just the two of us. After a couple of nights she "loosened up" and showed me her knife and told me how she and her boyfriend had dispatched a "friend" of hers (apparently a disagreement over drugs) and where said friend was buried :O My boss (a sweetheart Pisces) was a bleeding heart for those who couldn't find work elsewhere so no real background checks were done ... needless to say I left soon thereafter!:/ Heard from friends working there this girl died soon after, Karma??

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  6. CC:
    it is never good to look down on anyone, is it?
    I had an excellent bladder in those days and could hold for about 10 hours.
    It would be laughable today. I'd need a Johnny on the Job anchored to my desk. LOL.
    XO
    WWW

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  7. GM:
    This was in Canada, GM so I doubt it. But my voice was projected a lot in Parnell Place Cork where I announced the comings and goings of tour-buses and country buses.
    Oh I loved that one but it was alas temporary when tour guides were sick and I had to go back to totting numbers when they came back. It was a hard place to come down....:)
    XO
    WWW

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  8. GFB:
    Guess I should have gotten on the ball on that one, huh? Insisted on tea and chat?
    XO
    WWW

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  9. Anon:
    Good grief! That was scary and for her to die afterwards? I wouldn't doubt her story for a minute!
    We all should start a book called "Tales from the PBX" shouldn't we?
    XO
    WWW

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  10. I guess it was a fairly safe way to get your innocence blown to pieces. I wouldn't have known what to do with so much information. It would have scattered me. I was naive for a very long time too and would have expected a cup of tea also. I'm glad you never took anyone up on their offer and got taken advantage of. xox

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  11. I've also read that many prostitutes' clients not only can't do it but don't want to do it. They just want to talk or listen or have some company. Very sad that there's nobody else to fill that role. Especially if even their wife or girlfriend isn't company enough.

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  12. Irene:
    Not for a minute did I feel anything but enlightened and riveted on the stories of the fetishes of men. Seriously.
    I'm sure women have fetishes too (I'm more innocent in that regard) but the men's were fascinating.
    XO
    WWW

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  13. Nick:
    Yes, some of the men were impotent and their own women had trouble with it.
    There are 10,000 ways to skin a cat though, right?
    A shame people can't be more imaginative.
    XO
    WWW

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  14. Yes, I agree with an earlier commenter that "the oldest profession" deserves a good deal more respect. :-)

    I worked one of those old switchboards for a few months once, long ago - nowhere near as interesting as your experience though - business calls to a gas turbine factory only. Yawn.....

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  15. Wow! What an experience. I do hope that you will serious thought about writing a book about what you learned there.

    Having been a frequent traveler I can understand the loneliness of those guys. I used to feel that way particularly in Europe where language was a major problem and evenings used to be really boring. Even the TV was of no use because of the language problem. But luckily for me, my books kept me out of mischief!

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  16. T:
    Oh my, your education hasn't been as interesting as mine then. Gas turbines? Holy Hannah!
    XO
    WWW

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  17. R:
    It would be a bestseller, I would say!!
    Yes, books are a soul saviour, they have kept me out of a lot of trouble while taking me to another world.
    XO
    WWW

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  18. Sounds like the switchboard work was worthy of being awarded an educational degree in life. You did get exposed to a wider range and number of "educators" than I did, but I don't think any workplace is immune from providing varying degrees of varied info. A compilation of experiences listed within each work environment for comparison of one with another might be interesting.

    I've heard limo tales, encountered other stories in businesses where I might least have expected it, and coped with my own situations, like most women.

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  19. Joared:
    Yes, we all have some exposure to experiences outside the norm., haven't we?
    I remember one where the sideline was I had to manage the three mistresses of the president and the wife from ever meeting each other.
    Oh boy.
    XO
    WWW

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  20. Ah, the olden days! The photo brings back memories of my first job at Pacific Telephone in San Francisco where I was a long-distance telephone operator. I can remember dialing person-to-person calls, and when the secretary said, "He's in the field today," I pictured a corn field or wheat. Isn't youth a wonderfully naive time?

    Thanks for this poignant piece, my dear.

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  21. Fascinating. That is the sort of experience that makes writers out of people!

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  22. Verna:
    Escort Services in the Fields brings images of lovely picnic baskets, linen table cloths and sophisticated discussions, doesn't it?
    XO
    WWW

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  23. Hattie:
    I did a short story about this but
    think it could be expanded into a full lengther.
    The more varied our life experience the more entertaining our tales....
    XO
    WWW

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