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.