I was connected to a fellow who gave his name as "Chris," who I got the sense lived and worked in another country. He was a nice enough fellow, with a gentle, quiet voice, and tried hard. At first he gave me some information that I didn't think was correct, but we kept at it and finally resolved the problem. But it was in the middle of all this that the service call got a bit bizarre, in a funny-ish way.
As we we were waiting for the modem to reboot, my good pal "Chris," filled in the silence by being chummy.
“And how is your day, sir?”, he asked. It was, I knew, the standard, almost perfunctory customer service question, but I decided to be in as chipper as possible, given that I was actually dealing with a tech problem that wasn't getting resolved.
"Just fine. Well... at least, I was up to this point." And then added to be polite, "And how is your day?"
That's when things started to get a bit different.
“Oh, it’s not good, sir.”
I did a slight double-take, not sure if I'd heard him correctly, or if perhaps he hadn't understood me correctly, after all he sounded reasonably chipper, it wasn't the greatest connection, and I didn't think English was his first language. "Really??" I asked. "It's not good?"
"Oh, no, sir. I don't feel good."
"Have you told anyone?"
"Oh, no. I haven't?"
"You haven't told a supervisor or anyone??"
"No. Maybe I will later."
I have to admit, at this point I was beginning to think there was something unique about being on a service call for a tech problem, and the technician was having a worse day than I was. "Do you think it would be best if you went home and had a chance to rest and feel better."
"Oh, I wish."
"Well, what's the problem?" I asked, feeling terrible for the poor guy.
“My head is spinning, and I’m very dizzy.”
"Well, that's not good."
"No, sir. It started after lunch. I'm not feeling well."
He didn't actually sound too bad, but I certainly took him at his word., "I'm really sorry to hear that."
"Thank you, sir. I'm working through it."
I really was sorry for him. And felt bad he had to keep working on the problem. I got the sense that he felt he'd be reprimanded (or perhaps even fired, for all I know) if he went home. I wished there was something I could do, but obviously there wasn't. I thought of asking him to pass me on to someone else -- in part for his sake so he could gather himself and recuperate a bit, but admittedly in part because I preferred a tech support guy whose head wasn't spinning. But he seemed determined to deal with it, was doing an okay job, and even if he gave me to someone else, he wouldn't have gone home, but just taken the next call. The best I could offer was, "If it was me, I think I'd definitely tell my supervisor. Let other people know. It's not good for your head to be spinning."
"I may do that. But I will be okay. I'm just not feeling good."
"You now, once I was at a conference, and felt very dizzy, and then the next day I realized I had a cold. Might you have a cold?"
"I think I do. It's been raining all day when I left home. It's not pouring, but has been very steady."
"Well, that may be it. I'm really sorry about this. But I hope you tell someone."
"Thank you, sir.
By the way, later in the conversation, after we'd gotten past the point of discussing his health and were back on technical matters,, the conversation took another unexpected turn. He asked a question that came out of the blue: "I'm curious, sir, are you a professor?"
"Er, no. I'm not. Why do you ask?"
"You speak so well. It helps a great deal."
"Oh, well, no, I'm not a professor."
"You just speak such perfect English. You express yourself so well."
The truth is, when making a convoluted tech service call to what is probably another country, I long ago realized that, rather then exacerbate a communication issue and be annoyed at the person for what isn't his or her corporate decision to outsource, it's so much better to speak slowly and clearly and explain the problems as detailed as possible. I also added, "I do write about technology, though."
"Oh, that could explain it."
At the end of the conversation, after the problem had finally been resolved, after a few suggestions that were a bit off-base, things did resolved. Before hanging up, though, I wanted to reiterate one thing to my pal "Chris."
"Thanks again, and I hope you're feeling better now. But I really hope you tell your supervisor, because I think he'd want to know, so that you can provide good service. If you're not feeling well, it doesn't do them any good. But just know that you did a terrific job here, and I appreciate it."
"Thank you, sir, that means a great deal to me."
I was almost sorry things got resolved and that we had to end our chat.