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I Worked for a Telephone Company

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I've worked various random jobs here and there over the decades. Mostly, this is due to my own poor work ethic. I'll freely admit that right off the bat. When I'm job hunting, I do so begrudgingly and only out of necessity. I don't want to work anywhere, with anyone, under any circumstances.

I do great when I'm putting time into my own projects... work around the house, personal creative works, and so on. However, the second I'm required to actually do something for pay, it becomes torture. I tried my hand at sculpting, loved it, and tried to make it a career. The first commission I got? Never finished it. The hobby turned into work and I hated it.

This is the reason I worked in a state park, at a fast food chain, in a movie theater, at a comic shop, and in a call center within the span of one year. The call center was the most... interesting, I guess. I feel like that's the wrong word, but I don't want to get ahead of myself.

Basically, we sold actual phone service and provided technical support, etc. Everyone had their own section, and it functioned much like you'd picture in your head. Tons of sweaty, smelly human flesh stuffed into uncomfortable business casual and aching for the moment the work day would end.

The only break in tension, caused mostly by sales goals and angry customers, was when one of our managers would patch a call into the PA system. I have no idea how it worked, and whether or not it was entirely legal, but it happened from time to time.

This was a very specific manager, by the way. Cliff. Utter slimeball. Looked liked Steve Buscemi and Nicolas Cage had a baby neither of them were particularly proud of. He made up for it with nasty-neat dress and strict, near-obsessive attention to manscaping. If you looked hard enough, you could see the make-up covering even the slightest spot that would pop up on his face... but yeah... you had to look REALLY hard.

He flirted with everyone. Mostly the women, but occasionally the guys. It was the sort of thing played off as harmless, "ironic" harassment. If he went just a step too far with his cringe-inducing comments, it would seem like it HAD to be a joke. Right?

So whenever Cliff was the only manager in the building, he would tap into our calls and try to find the most embarrassing or outlandish audio to patch through to the entire building. At that point, our sales people would be forced to hang up on potential customers, and tech support had to put everyone on hold. There was no telling what was about to echo through the halls, and it was usually something not fit for people on the other end of our lines.

The first time it happened during my employment, I had no idea what to think. A female voice bounced from the walls and shook me out of a repetitive stupor. Some older lady who was trying to complain about outages. Cliff talked her around in a circle, playing stupid and asking the same questions multiple times until she finally cursed him out and ended the call.

"And that's how you ditch a nuisance caller." He chuckled through the metallic box dangling from the ceiling.

It only got more distasteful from there. There was a self-proclaimed Purple Heart Veteran who sounded like he was on the verge of an aneurysm by the time Cliff was done interrupting him every few seconds. There was also more than one occasion where his antics bordered on racially offensive of antisemitic. Not that anyone had the balls to point it out.

For the most part it was, for lack of a better term, harmless. People got pissed, they tossed out some profanity, and Cliff would blame it all on them for losing their cool if they dared call back. Nobody really ended up getting hurt, and folks were probably better off leaving us, to be honest.

Then, for whatever shithead reason, Cliff decided to broadcast the "Snow Angels".


A soft, timid female voice barely registered in my mind before I hung up on someone whose dinner I'd just interrupted. It was followed by Cliff's agonizingly familiar drone, though he always gave a fake name...

"Hi, my name's John and I'm a managing supervisor. Can you tell me your issue?"

"We're lost."

"I see, alright, well, I can talk you though setting up almost anything. Do you have the device in front of you?"

"No, I mean, we're lost. In the snow. The blizzard was too much, and - shit, I don't know where the van is anymore. It's getting in my eyes and I can't fucking see..."

"I'm going to ask you to refrain from using profanity, Ma'am. Are you calling about our service or an unrelated issue?"

There was the clear sound of someone falling, crushing snow, followed by a yelp. Cliff laughed out loud, though I assume he was holding the mute button.

"Can't dial anyone. No service. You guys promised good coverage. You promised."

"Well you sound crystal clear to me. Perhaps you'd like to hang up and try again?"

"Gimme the phone, Becca." A second, nearly identical female voice... hard to hear in the growing howl of wind. "I can straighten this out."

"I'm sorry, who am I speaking to?" Cliff droned on again. "I'm only authorized to speak with the registered account holder, as I'm sure the previous associate mentioned."

"We're fucking freezing!" the second girl shrieked into the phone. In my mind's eye, she was holding it at arm's length, screaming at it like she held Cliff himself in her hand.

"To whom am I speaking?" Cliff actually sounded a little angry... for the first time since I'd met him.

"This is Lisa fucking Phillips, fucker. Get off your ass and send someone to help us! Track our phone or some shit! Now!!"

Cliff reverted back to his old tricks... specifically, the run-around.

"I'm going to ask you to refrain from using profanity, Ma'am. Are you calling about our service or an unrelated issue?"

There was a bitter laugh from one of the girls. Presumably Lisa.

"You don't care, do you?" she asked.

All at once, the howling of the wind stopped.

Everything was silent. We were silent. None of us probably noticed, but we'd been quiet as mice since the call began. It would've been easy to assume Cliff had simply cut off the PA system entirely due to the silence... that he'd finally picked up a call he couldn't handle.

Then, the two of them... both women... spoke together.

"It's cold here."

Dial tone.

Over the low buzz of the dead connection, Cliff cried out in fear... or pain... I couldn't rightly tell which.

I quit the company after that incident. As you likely guessed, I wanted out anyway. This was just a convenient reason to get out of there. Nobody seemed to know what the call had been about, and it wasn't until years later that a workable theory came to me.

I ran into one of my ex-coworkers from the phone bank. Just some random chance meeting in the supermarket. We didn't even talk about that day until the very end of the conversation, when we were about to part ways.

"Oh, by the way," he said as I turned to leave, "Remember that really weird call? The blizzard?"

I didn't mention the fact I'd been thinking about it every night since, and simply nodded.

"Ever heard of the Snow Angels?" he continued.

I hadn't. Not until that point, anyway. Apparently, a pair of twin sisters had gotten lost on their way to a family Christmas party. Their parents had moved recently, and the twins weren't familiar with the area. You get the idea. Their GPS slapped them with a wrong turn, and they ended up somewhere at the edge of the mountains. It wasn't long before their van was buried in snow.

"Rebecca and Lisa Phillips. That was their names."

The girls were found weeks later... clutching each other in a sad, desperate embrace beneath a dead tree.

"Well," I coughed awkwardly, "That explains that, I guess."

I stuttered and stumbled a bit, explained I'd never really been around anyone as they were dying, and hearing their final moments was probably going to scar my brain for life. Then he dropped the other bomb.

"They died way before that. Like, years. Back when Cliff was working the phones like us. I think he sold them the fucking package. It only makes sense."

That was a bit much for me to handle. My immediate response was to brush it off. No way. I wasn't given to supernatural fancy, and the very idea of it rolled off me like water from a duck's back. However... there WAS one detail that I just couldn't shake.

How else could anyone explain the sudden case of frostbite that took Cliff's phone hand?

Credited to Slimebeast
Content is available under CC BY-NC

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