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I actually kind of like my new job


At my new job, I phone people. Don’t you think that’s ironic? I’m phonophobic, yet somehow I ended up with a job that involves phoning taxpayers all over the world and asking them questions in an effort to sort out their residency and world income and so on. I didn’t even find out that that was what I would be doing until I showed up for training.

There’s more to it than that. I phone them and ask them questions, and then I process some of their paperwork. I have a big flowchart in a binder. If A then C. If not A, then go to Chart 14. If A and B, then cross this out and put this number in this little box and skip to Chart 25. That kind of thing. And then, when I’m finished my part, I send it back into the system, and I don’t know how many other people it passes through before it’s done. Each one of those people has their own binder full of flowcharts specific to the little piece they do.

The funny thing is I actually kind of like it. It’s not boring, at least not yet, and I get these glimpses into strangers’ lives. For instance, I’ll process the tax return of a migrant farm worker with eight children who earns $16,000 a year, and I’ll wonder how he does it, and then minutes later I’ll process the tax return of a single, childless guy who earns $322,000 a year and doesn’t make any charitable donations, and I’ll wonder if he ever wonders about the migrant farm worker who picks his fruit and supports eight children on $16,000 a year.

I don’t know what it says about me that I like the methodical, repetitive, regimented nature of the work. I asked XUP what she thought, and she said she could understand someone liking it, especially if they hadn’t worked for awhile or were coming from a chaotic work background, but that after 20 years of it, I’d probably want to slit my wrists. (It’s just a 3-month contract, so I should be okay.)

The job sounds easy, but it still requires a lot of concentration. I can be working on a return and then the phone rings and it’s a taxpayer returning my call and by the time I’m done with them, I’ve completely lost my train of thought about the one I was working on when the phone rang. So I have to start over. I’m still slow, but I’m conscientious.

About the phone. I’m hoping this job will help me overcome my phone phobia. Normally I procrastinate like crazy before making a phone call. But since it’s part of my job and I have to make a lot of calls, there’s no point procrastinating. I just make sure I know what I want to ask, check the time zone charts, take a deep breath, and plunge ahead. (People are quite deferential when you tell them you’re calling from the Canada Revenue Agency. You hear them sitting up straighter and turning off the TV and shushing their kids. You can detect both the apprehension and the eagerness to please in their voices. It’s like they think I’m a cop or something.)

Commuting is complicated. The job is 10km from my home, and requires the catching of three buses. It takes an hour and 15 minutes to get to work if I catch the three buses and everything goes according to schedule. However, if I walk six of those kilometers, it only takes an extra 15 minutes to get to work. If I do that both ways, I get 12km exercise a day, for an investment of just half an hour more per day than taking the bus.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I leave the house at 6:30 in the morning, and I get home at 5:30 in the evening. I don’t have much gas left in my tank by then, though. I can’t imagine coming home to hungry kids with piles of homework.


17 comments to I actually kind of like my new job

  • grace

    Oooooooooo. I’ll be waiting for your call.

  • Eileen

    Zoom: that’s not apprehension in their voices, it’s terror!

  • Louisa

    I have phone-phobia too. I procrastinate calls and I don’t even answer the phone unless I hear a voice message of someone I want to talk to. In this day of ubiquitous cellphones it seems kind of silly but there you are. I’m glad you like your job and are able to overcome your reluctance. I’m sure it helps that you have some serious “authority” behind your calls!

  • It’s as if you are a drone bee in the mighty Borg-like collective we call CRA. Resistance is futile! But… as you make the long walk from work you transition from mere drone to Queen, and the centre of our universe! xoxo

  • Oooh, good on you to be getting in some walking! And in short segments; no sense getting yourself completely wiped out for a bit of air. Unfortunately, my commute takes between 45 – 60 minutes each way–but since I’m driving, I never miss the bus or have to “borrow” a dime to make the fare. It would almost be possible for me to use the buses now, since our little community has an express line into downtown, and there’s an express out to the neighborhood where I work…hmmm, I could be getting in some knitting time…if I wanted to leave the house even earlier & get home even later. Nah, I’ll pass!

  • I have a phone phobia too – absolutely loathe picking it up – either to answer or call out. Funny thing is, I’ve worked as both a receptionist, and a journalist. Neither helped me overcome my phobia, it’s still there, I’m just a little better at sucking it up and dealing with it.
    Where do you think a phone phobia comes from?

  • Em

    I have a major phone phobia, especially at work, where other people can hear my side of the conversation. I imagine it sounds ridiculous & unprofessional. Even personal calls at home bother me, unless it’s with my parents or close friends. I’d probably need a job that forces me to do that before I could get over it.
    Same with public speaking.
    And I hear you on the transit thing – my job/residence location used to be great, but OCTranspo cut the route and split it into a regular route and a rush hour route, which added over an hour to my commute due to a crappy connection. It’s ridiculous. If I had a car, my commute would be about 20 minutes a day.
    Your blog is like therapy. I come to your comment section to unload, clearly.

  • What about riding your bike, at least on nice days?

  • and now i have turned into one of those people who get all prescriptive on other people’s blogs. it’s not that i’m saying you SHOULD ride your bike, I’m just curious why you’re not. :-)

  • You’ll remember I worked on the phones for years? Still phonephobic. I found I could put on a mask of sorts to do the calls, but it didn’t translate to home.

  • Gillian

    Congrats on the walking. I bet your office colleagues are astonished and impressed.

  • I spent three weeks in 1992 on the phone selling subscriptions to the Ottawa Sun… mostly I spent my time trying to convince people the Sun was getting rid of the Sun Girl. Once they accepted that it became much easier to sell them a subscription.

    For the first two weeks I walked from Fisher and Dynes Road to some back alley near Tunney’s Pasture every night (and back… total, about 16km?) because I couldn’t afford bus fare. Then I got paid… unfortunately, once my probation was over they started paying me per subscriber rather than per hour.

    I lasted one more week then stopped showing up. The guy who owned the shack we worked out of got busted for taking semi-nude photos of girls, he was telling them he could get them into the Sun. That was my last night working the phones until I started working as a reporter five years later.

    As a reporter I always had to prepare myself before making the call… a few jaw exercises, talk to another reporter, have a cigarette or two. I always hated phone interviews, I took every opportunity to meet with the person in person.

  • YRX

    Many, many years ago in another life, I had job which required me to phone people all day long. It ws the only job I was qualified for at the time. The company prepared credit reports for banks and finance companies, etc.

    It was a job that terrified me. At the time, I really, really didn’t like talking on the phone. It was made more difficult by the fact that we were not allowed to disclose why we wanted the information we were requesting. We had to say we were just updating our files, and a lot of people didn’t like the sound of that.

    I lasted three months and then I was fired for not producing enough reports.

    I hope they don’t have you on some sort quota system, Zoom. It does sound more interesting than asking people nosy questions about their finances while your supervisor is monitoring your calls. It must be kind of fun looking at all these different life situations and imagining the people behind the paperwork you are processing and then following up with a phone call to collect more info.

  • Hi, why not bike? Exercise + less time.

  • Lisa in Toronto

    I just wanted to say I am so happy the CRA processed my return in less than one week. Wow! Thanks CRA staff.
    I think it would be fun to learn about so many different people’s lives. I am nosy …

  • Lisa in Toronto

    Oops I meant to say “processed my REFUND”!

  • GUESS WHAT???? Darkmirror has his first real job that required his shiny new SIN card – WORKING ON THE PHONE DOING SURVEYS!!!