Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Product Testing

I read a funny post this morning over on Paul’s blog. He wrote about the demise of a wonky calculator. I told him that I’ve “been there.”

What I didn’t tell him is that it reminded me of a very dark time in my life. The Year of the Bitch.

Ten years ago I was going through a divorce, living temporarily in the basement of my brother’s home, and working long stressful hours at a hellish job. I was in mourning for the loss of my married life, my dream home in the country, my cats, and gardens.

Displaced Anger

Displaced Anger

The object of my fury was… well, you see, that was the problem. There was no single target. Neither my ex-husband nor the unwelcome situation in which I found myself was the target. Instead, I directed, or as the textbooks say, “displaced” my anger inappropriately to other people, mostly my co-worker. Ironically, when the situation at work reached the breaking point, she was my champion. Go figure. Thanks again, Betty.

It’s a Nokia cell phone that took a hard blow to the transistors one day. (Note to my fact checker: do cell phones have transistors?) Were it not for the fact that the door had wire-mesh reinforced glass, “windowcide” might be on my conscience, too.

Back story time. At the time, I was a dispatcher for a utility locate company. I worked in a satellite office. Springtime is the busiest season for the “call before you dig” people. Arborists plant trees in new subdivisions, construction companies and road-works crews are champing at the bit to dig and pave, and homeowners are anxious to get the new hot tub or flower bed installed.

This was the first season our company had the contract. Unfortunately, we were very slow off the mark. Everyone was on a steep learning curve and the volume of work surpassed estimations. That meant we were all overworked and a large percentage of the tickets were “lates.” Clients were impatient. The original workload doubled for those of us in dispatch who had to respond to customer queries.

The Nokia in question was not my own. In order for every locator to have direct lines to dispatch, we were assigned cell phones. It was a bad idea. I had two telephone lines, email, a fax, AND a cell phone to juggle. Plus the unreasonable expectation that I would handle them. Sure, no problem. [Eye-roll]

When I find myself in a challenging situation like this, I can do one of two things. I can walk away. Clearly that was not an option. So, Plan B then. Which meant

  • that I rise to the occasion
  • surpass all expectations
  • make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
  • and mountains out of mole hills.

In that order.

In other words, I try to be a superhero and save the day. If I’m thwarted, I pout, I simmer, I stew, the rage grows and… boom.

Here’s the kicker. From head office we were commanded “thou shouldst have no lates.” I believe the intent behind this directive was meant to set the bar high, so that even if we missed it, at least we are aiming for excellence with our focus on the bull’s-eye. However, my supervisor interpreted it literally and expected that we, the company must do what it takes to make sure that there would be no lates, EVER!

The burden of that swell responsibility fell to me, the dispatcher. Kinda like handing me 5 corks to stopper up 7 holes in a sinking ship, and I was responsible for the success or failure of the voyage. Sure, no problem. [Twitch]sinking-ship

Meanwhile, back on the phone lines…

There were two ways to meet deadlines.

  1. One, hire enough staff to handle the load. Yeah, right.
  2. Contact the customer to renegotiate the dates. That means I must get on the phone and contact the contractors and homeowners. If time permits. If the requester agrees. If the customer is not that particular contractor who is famous for dumping hundreds of requests into the system at one go and then doing a little tap-dance of rage on the VP’s head when he doesn’t get his locates on time. Sure, no problem. [Unclench jaw and relax shoulders]

With the added phone work assigned to me,  I started to lose control of the workload. I would have still considered this a “doable” challenge if only I had access to the support I needed from my co-workers and supervisors.

This is where things fall apart. On the rare occasion that I was able to connect with the “higher-ups”, my requests for help were met with scorn, ridicule and dismissal. I was told that I was panicking or over-reacting.

(They had problems of their own and did not want to hear from me. I get that. Now, I get that. At the time, I took it personally.)

When I told  my supervisor that I could not get “that particular contractor who is famous for dumping hundreds of requests into the system at one go” to agree to new due dates, she said,

“Well, if you called me the day before my tickets were due, I’d say no, too.” Then she had the gall to tell me that my counterpart in head office did not have any problem with getting dates changed. “Sorry”, she said, “I can’t help you. Figure something out.”

Sure, no problem. [Deer caught in headlights].

OK, I know this is long. But I’m getting there.

Apparently, that conversation had some good come from it. My supervisor reviewed the status reports and finally admits, hey, whaddya know, Maggie’s office has more requests than any of the other regions. And look! They are behind AND understaffed!

[Bite tongue]

She advises that she will re-assign two guys to help out. My job is to coordinate with my counterpart and build a workload. 

It instantly becomes apparent that my counterpart has been hiding stuff from the supervisor. Her guys’ work is not updated in the database. There are [shudder] LATES! I call my supervisor, and explain the situation. The two guys have lates of their own, and can’t come down to help me.

Her voice was cold and stern. “Why are there lates on the books to begin with, Maggie?” [Bite tongue, oh god BITE TONGUE]

And here, like Paul, I black out. There is a gap in my memory, as far as the rest of the conversation goes, that is. I do recall slamming down the phone and reaching for something to pitch across the room.


Stacy Parker

It bounces off the window, and fragments of Nokia are scattered about.


I was enraged. I was embarrassed. And I was so very, very ashamed of myself, and then I began to panic! How the hell was I going to explain the broken cell phone? I blubbered and wailed (thank GOD I was on my own that day!) and my hands trembled as I reassembled the cell phone.

Sonuvabitch. It still worked!

The rest, as they say, is history. Some days later, my supervisor came down and “suggested” that I take some time off work. I did. She “suggested” that perhaps this job wasn’t a good fit. It wasn’t. At least it was not a good fit for me in at the fragile time of my life.

The next year the company purchased a computerized dispatch system and my job was made redundant. I was offered a position at head office, so at least I knew I was considered an asset. I declined. I had a new boyfriend, lined up a new job, and bought a new house.

On to the next teaching moment. More or less a happy ending.

(Note to fact checker: do they still make Nokia cell phones? I think I’ll check ’em out for my next upgrade.)


Inspired by  DPchallenge


Photo Credits

Categories: Personal Growth, Work, work, work


31 replies

  1. Great energy, humour and determination in your post. I enjoyed reading this.


  2. I too have been through ‘The Divorce’ and the ‘Job From Hell’, so I completely felt your pain. What a great post!


  3. You have my empathy. My fits of rage. Though seldom, were usually due to similar stresses but my violence was simply my mouth relieved of its filter for five seconds in which I got off my chest everything I truly felt about my lazy coworkers, our shoddy medical building and my being fed up. Fortunately I’d been there ling enough as a senior tech that I was simply given a voluntary “temporary insanity” look by my peers. They walked a wide birth around me for a day or so and life continued on. I’m glad soon things were looking up for you.


    • Hi there! Thanks for reading and commenting. I *TRULY* appreciate that you share your story. I like your phrase, ” “temporary insanity” look.” Yup, happy ending all around, but it was a bit of a climb. The learning continues.


  4. Commerce at its best. Bosses without a clue. Glad you’ve on. In all areas. Hope all’s working out.
    You say your post is long but it’s very upbeat, quick and easy reading. Goes down a treat. 🙂 x


  5. Oh, my dear BBFF… “Year of the Bitch.” {sigh} Try a good ten years for me. Fits of rage suitable for the Queen of Hearts screaming “Off with their heads!” witnessed by the masses no less. Those were the years I threw keys and plastic knives at Prince Charming, screamed at my children (punching walls at least instead of them!), and in general struggled for my anger to be heard in an appropriate way. (Loonng before anger management was de rigueur. [See I know how to use it, too!])

    Once while on a scavenger hunt, newly moved to the area, we were in a minor fender bender in a gas station. I had been riding in the back of a pick up truck with the dear Prince. Visualize an excited conversation amongst a half-dozen 20-somethings (such a bunch of know-it-alls we all are at that age!), finger pointing and general commotion. I kept trying to say that we could just exchange info and move along (back to the race!), but no one was listening. Finally, in total frustration I screamed it at the top of my lungs, “The cops are NOT going to take a report on this!!!!!”

    Shock and awe silenced the group at once. So much for making new friends. :}


    • Oh, and yes, Nokia still makes cell phones! ;>

      Liked by 1 person

    • Good morning, dear. Thanks for sharing your stuff. What a great description of the commotion in the pick-up truck. The episodes are almost like “out-of-body” – they give me insight to the “insanity plea”. It’s gotta come out, doesn’t it? One way or another, the energy must be released. When I was growing up, I used to hit. Mostly my brothers, and most often play fighting, but every now and again, out-and-out attack, unprovoked. I didn’t outgrow that until well into my 20’s. People started to protest. Well, d’uh. Funny, usually I’m a touchy-feely person – when I’m talking to someone, I will touch their hand or shoulder. When I’m talking, I’m soft-spoken. But Mrs. Hyde lurks somewhere in there.


      • Yep, so out of body; when I look back on those episodes I’m definitely viewing it from above, not from within.

        Oh gosh, I didn’t even mention the time I hit one of my brothers; slapped him right across the face AND LEFT A HAND PRINT on his cheek that lasted a few days. Oy! He was probably only five or six which would have made me ten or eleven. (Yes, he still remembers, too!)

        Oh, I’m so very touchy-feely too… at least these days it’s all hugs and kisses; no more hitting!



        • Ouch. Not the brother, for you. Well, yeah, for the brother, of course, but if you are like me, the recollection of that is mortifying. Like the time we three kids were walking along, I was trailing behind and everyone was more or less well behaved. But for some reason, I felt compelled to run up behind my baby brother (he would have been seven, eight?) and punch him. He was more upset than I expected, probably from the shock of the assault as well as from the pain. I was the big sister. He did not fight back. I remember feeling puzzled, confused by my actions, as well as feeling self-righteous and making excuses. Ick.

          I have stories that I do not imagine ever sharing with anyone. I suppose if I examine why not, it will reveal that I have not forgiven myself.

          It sounds trite to say, “thanks for sharing” but… thanks.



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