Thursday, 29 May 2008

Come hither Friday...

I upset someone at work by breathing today. No, not an unusual occurrence for me. I have the power to upset people within seconds, even at a great distance. But you get that. This current upset was over an envelope that I opened by accident. What’s that? Did I unleash the 12 deadly plagues of Egypt that were contained in the envelope? No. Did I learn where the lost treasure of Atlantis was, therefore destroying another’s chance to find it, when I opened it? No. Did I read a scandalous love letter when I removed the contents? A confession? No and no again. I just opened an envelope by mistake. Remember making those? Anyway, I did offer the individual, who was frothing at the mouth over the ‘envelope incident’, the choice of cutting off one of my fingers as retribution for such a heinous act or a roll of Velcro so she could get a grip. She chose to stomp off. Probably wise. Blood is so hard to clean up and stomping off burns up calories.

I had to ring a company yesterday and got their call centre. No one, as per most call centers knew anything because firstly – they don’t get trained properly and secondly – they don’t give a rat’s arse as they are just there to get paid and to go home. I completely understand that. After explaining that I wanted to speak to a grown up they transferred me to their complaints section. The consultant gave her name and I wrote it down as I do and I asked her location. Why? Because I like to have a trail of who I have spoken to when it comes to stuff so I cannot be fobbed off later. And yes, she could have given me a dodgy location. It happens in call centres. We never gave out our location at Promptel as customers often felt the need to come and take things one step further – kicking in glass front doors and smacking staff members in the head – ah…memories. Anyway the operator told me she was in the Philippines. Uh huh. Yes, I am in Australia. This is an Australian company. I have never agreed with jobs going off-shore. It’s just wrong. Jobs should stay in the country of origin regardless whether it is cheaper to pay someone in another country a pittance for what another operator would do in Australia. But that’s happening all over the world. No surprise there. I often get Bollywood consultants who try and sound Australian to fit in with their market and it just doesn’t work and you spend most of your time hooked in listening to their fake accent rather than what they are saying. No one can really successfully fake another nationality can they? You always know. Only an Aussie can make Gidday mate sound real.

Anyway, this lady turned out to be the most competent customer service operatives I have come across in a long time. She listened, she re-stated my words back to me to let me know she understood and fixed the problem – and she was pleasant to deal with. And you know why I reckon that is? Because the job actually means something to her. It’s important. I think some cultures value the importance of having a job and doing the job to the best of their ability as opposed to ‘there’s plenty of jobs out there I’ll leave this one when it sucks too badly’. I am very good at doing that. Now, I’m not saying all call centres offshore have staff with the same attitude as the lady in the Philippines. They don’t. But it had me re-thinking the whole off-shore jobs thing. I still ideologically don’t fully agree with it but as a consumer I can see the potential. And yes, I asked to speak to her team leader and congratulated him on his staff member as I believe good service deserves recognition.

War Trail by the talented writing team of Terri Beckett and Chris Power is out today at Cerridwen Press. I am in awe of the amount of research these authors put into each and every one of their books and they are bloody good reads. As always, it’s a click on the cover and buy moment.

The excerpt....

“Mother, Kherin wishes to become D’Shael, to seek his name in the Eye of the Sun. But first he must be born to us.”
“Does he, now.” Chiera’s voice was harsh and cold and her pale eyes flashed with anger. Then became hooded, introspective. Slowly an icy amused smile twisted her mouth. “So. The Sword Vow isn’t enough for him and he seeks to bond himself ever closer to us. I wonder why? Not just to ask for Emer Nianresdaughter, I’ll wager.” Her smile became a dreadful grimace. “So be it. Tied so close, he’ll share our fate.”

Myra found Kherin grooming Llynivar in the stall behind the hearthhouse, working on the summer-glossy coat with a hay-twist while the horse drooped his head and closed his eyes in bliss. She found a seat in the piled hay, inhaling the sweetness of the herbs and flowers in the mix and waited without impatience for him to finish. Finally he patted the sleek neck, letting the horse lip at his open palm and then turned to Myra, making the hand to brow salute that was her due as priestess.
“The Old One has consented,” he said. It wasn’t a question.
“She could find no reason to refuse.”
“Of course not. This is in the pattern, Mother and we are all part of it. Tell me what I must do.”
Little of the ceremony surrounding the rebirth was known to anyone other than the priestesses. Kherin listened in silence, accepting all she told him without demur, which didn’t surprise her.
“In all ways and in all things, let her will be done,” he said calmly. “As you are her priestess, Myra, so I am in your hands for this thing.”
“The Hooded One is also her priestess,” she reminded him and he smiled wryly.
“On Midsummer, at the Grove, she took a lock of my hair. If she wished to do me ill, then she could have worked with it. But I think the Lady has shown her the unwisdom of that.”
“Where she’s concerned, Kherin, I’m no longer certain of how she will act. She wishes you no good, that I do know. But she’ll aid in the ritual as is required. Come now. We have little time and you must be cleansed for the rite.”

Kherin followed the Second Priestess through the Hold to the opening of the caverns and from there, by torchlight, down to the lower levels of the cave complex where the Third waited. He registered only the dark reaches of the cavern, given an illusion of warmth by the torchlight before Chiera stepped before the altar on its island and greeted him with a brusque “When did you eat last?”
He blinked. “During the Council, when Rythian had bread and ale brought. You were there, Old Mother.”
“Don’t be impertinent with me, boy,” she snapped. “You will fast now, eating and drinking only what we give you, until such time as the Lord has shown you your name—or not, as he chooses. Strip him, Daughter—he will come from the Mother naked, as do we all.”
He gave his kilt and sleeveless shirt into Myra’s hands, standing clad only in torchlight and the bracelet of the Sword Sworn. That he would not remove and both priestesses tactfully ignored it. Myra took his hands and began to lead him around the pool that surrounded the altar and joined her voice to Chiera’s.
“We call on the powers of the air that gives breath, of fire that warms us, of the earth beneath us and the water that is life. Air, fire, earth and water, witness this death and this rebirth.”
Welcome, child of mine.
He felt himself smile, felt the familiar presence enfold him, his feet becoming light, his body weightless in the Lady’s embrace. Myra drew him to where a spur of rock jutted into the water.
“Do you offer yourself to the Lady freely and of your own will?” she demanded. “She who knows the secrets of all hearts knows your mind.”
“I am hers,” Kherin said firmly. “As I have ever been, her servant and her sacrifice.” From her expression, he realized that last was not in the ritual.
“So be it,” she murmured and made a sign on his brow with her thumb. “Go to her now and may you be reborn from her.”
Chiera gestured him forward. As he stepped into the chill of the water, it seemed that a breath of air moved over the surface. I am the wind that moves on the water, I am the fire of creation, I am the fertile earth… He moved forward and the floor shelved steeply beneath him. Kherin let the water take him, closing over his head.
My child, my lover, Beloved, my self…
There was solid rock under his feet. As he broke water, Myra cried out, the wail of a woman in travail as the infant leaves her womb and Chiera’s bony hand reached out to bring him before the altar. Three candles burned there and a cup and platter lay between them.
“Child of Anu, eat of her body, the food brought forth to sustain life, drink of her blood, of the milk of her breast.”
Bannock sweetened with honey, milk mixed with barley-spirit. Wrapped in the ecstasy that was the presence of his Lady, he took a mouthful of the food and wet his lips with the drink, needing nothing more.
“You are D’Shael, now,” Chiera said. “Blood and bone, body and soul.” He heard the venom of her thought,
Much good may it do you…
It did not signify. Still uplifted, he followed Myra from the cavern, up into the world again.

It was full dark when Kherin emerged. The moon was fully risen, the stars pricking the night sky. Below, in the space between Sun Hall and Elder Hall, was a mass of torchlight where the people waited. Where Rythian would be waiting. He drew a deep breath.
“Come, my son. For my son you are now, given to me by the Lady.” Myra took his hand. “Let us go down. Your hearth awaits you.”
Go ahead: Live with abandon. Be outrageous at any age. What are you saving your best self for?


barbara huffert said...

So what was in the envelope? Anything interesting?

Anny Cook said...

I, too, and an excellent service consultant for my computer from the Philippines. When we spoke on the phone it was the middle of the night for him, but he was courteous, answered my questions, and made sure my computer worked before the call was finished. I think you're correct about the casual attitudes on home soil. People in USA don't value that job enough.

JacquƩline_Roth said...

My auto loan folks have a phone center in India. It drives me crazy. I recently had an issue with them over insurance. They said I had none, I was holding the paid bill in my hands. But Erik Johnson who sounded as if he learned English last week, along with John Anderson and Bob Smith, were barely understandable as they attempted to help with my issue. And if one more of them had asked to speak to my husband about a loan in MY name I was going to get on a plane and show them a little feminism.

Sandra Cox said...

Great excerpt. Wishing you many sales, ladies.

Amarinda, outsourcing is one of my pet peeves too. Kudos to you for letting the consultant's manager know what a good job she'd done for you.

Ashley Ladd said...

Glad you found a good customer service rep.

I've been getting harassing calls about someone else's car loan. I explained I'm not Daniel Varduu nor have I ever heard of him and that my van's been paid off for a year and that my hubby bought his vehicle in cash up front. The reps kept promising to remove my # and not call me back. Every day a new one called back. I finally had to tell them I'd let my attorney speak to them if they called again and so far today, no calls from them.

Regina Carlysle said...

I've had a pissy day so this stuff about the customer service thing fits my mood. Right in the middle of my crappy day, I get call after call from telemarketers who mangle the English language and that drives me nuts. Outsourcing is an awful thing but then it gets worse when these people randomly call and you can't understand a freakin word they're saying. Okay...nuff bitchin'.

Terri and Chris...I looooove your incredible cover and the book sounds GREAT. Happy sales and may they be MANY.

And Amarinda? Happy Release Day to you, honey, come TOMORROW. My credit card is ready to burn.