Good Americans, or The Perks of Working Customer Service

My first full-time job after obtaining a perhaps ill-advised Bachelor’s in Creative Writing during the worst economic downturn my country has experienced in recent memory (it seems “I have successfully written a sestina” is a less marketable skill than Photoshop or programming) was an administrative assistant role at a small local college. It was not a job I particularly cared for as I was still laboring under the delusion that I was destined for literary greatness (as you can see here, I am basically Tolstoy) and answering phones fielding questions from disgruntled college students did not exactly provide me with the artistic stimulation I had become accustomed to in school. For the most part, I very much enjoyed my relationships with the students whom I would see on a daily basis, and answering their questions over the phone allowed me to exercise my compulsive, totally healthy need to please people, although having to explain to someone at great length for the third time that yes, they still had to pay for classes they failed was draining and a bit irksome. I’m sorry, Miss, but messing something up doesn’t mean it’s free. This isn’t Burger King University.

One afternoon, I received a call from a woman who had just driven by our college.

“Hello, this is Katie, how can I help you?” I intoned.

“Do you hate America?” she demanded.

Puzzled, I responded, “Well, no, of course not.”

“But your college does.”

“No, ma’am, we love America.”

“Well, I was just driving by your campus, and the deplorable state of the American flag flying on your lawn tells me that you don’t.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, ma’am, it must have escaped our attention. We’ll attend to it right away.”

This was apparently the wrong thing to say. “ESCAPED YOUR ATTENTION?! You dare fly the emblem of our proud country and it ESCAPED YOUR ATTENTION to make sure it was in perfect condition?! Are you terrorists?!”

“No, we are not terrorists.”

“I think you’re terrorists!”

“I promise, we’re not terrorists.”

I continued to apologize and told her we would order a new flag immediately and replace it.

“I’m going to drive by here every day and make sure you do!” she exclaimed.

And so she did. We put in an immediate order for the flag, but it would take a week to ship. And twice a day, every day that week, she called to complain about it in increasingly vitriolic tirades. (I thought corruption and bigotry were what’s wrong with this country, but apparently it’s my attitude. And the fact that I’m “such a bitch.”) Finally, the flag arrived, and two coworkers and myself set off to change the flag in the appropriately respectful manner. (We googled the rules to make sure we were doing it right.) We carried the new, pristine flag to the flagpole, but as we approached, a resounding noise caught our attention.

Bees. Dozens and dozens of bees swarming around the flagpole like a stormcloud of hell and fury. We looked at each other and frowned, and then my coworker ran back inside. He emerged moments later with a three ring binder and handed it to me. And I knew what to do.

We stepped trepidatiously into the swarm of bees like gladiators entering the arena. This angered the bees. They began to buzz menacingly and circle around us. One coworker quickly brought down the torn flag while the other prepared the new flag for flying and I swung the binder around my head, smacking bees into the air like furious little missiles, yelping and shouting as they charged and zipped past me. The bees spun dizzy circles around us, buzzing harder than freshmen at a frat party, and I kept smacking them out of the air like some terrible Mario Party minigame. My coworkers changed the flag in record time, one of them throwing the old flag at the other in a panic, screaming, “DON’T LET IT HIT THE GROUND!!!” and then we sprinted back into the building, sweating profusely. We slammed the door behind us and bees crashed into the glass like your drunk uncle at a barbecue. I had to throw the binder out due to bee guts. Miraculously, none of us were stung.

The woman never called back [I like to believe she witnessed the fiasco and assumed (hoped) we’d died] and I quit before the flag needed to be replaced again, partly because I found a better job and partly because getting My Girl-ed on the job wasn’t my preferred method of dying. I always thought I’d go in a more dignified way, like an Avada Kedavra from Voldemort or taking a bullet for Beyonce. Or a cheese avalanche. That would be delicious.

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