The End of Many Things

by Evil Roda

Originally posted on Neocities on January 1, 2019

The end of 2018 is upon us. With it comes the end of many other things as well, things I thought would never end.

In 2016, I started working for a telemarketing firm. I can only hope it was the worst job I'll ever work. The abuse from the people we called was bad enough, but it was more than that. I never really believed in the cause we were calling for, and I came to despise it and the company in my time working there. I can remember my first day on the phones...

"Obama is illegally dictating law from the Oval Office-"

"No, he isn't, you lying bastards." Click.

A response like that was typical. It was also deserved. Telemarketing is an awful, awful business. Doing it for a nonprofit doesn't make it any better. For the record, this was not a volunteer position, and I did not want to work there. I worked there because it was a steady pay check, and I got access to insurance benefits. Not to mention, they didn't usually fuck with my hours. Another reason people liked working there was because most of the time, people could come and go as they pleased as long as they made up their hours. This wasn't always the case, of course, sometimes they required you to work your schedule, but it didn't matter to me. I usually just worked my normal schedule, and that's all I really wanted.

"Stop talking. Listen to me. You people are leeching off the NRA, and it pisses me off. Why they hire you fuckers, I'll never fucking know."

It was right at 5:00 on my first day on the phones, quitting time. It's obvious this asshole wasn't going to reup his membership, so I went straight to the disclosure. Yet, as soon as I started talking...

"Fuck you, I'm not going to let you speak, and I'm going to keep you on the phone as long as I can." At this point, I called over my trainer and informed her of the situation.

"Sir, I'm legally obligated to read this disclosure," I said, naively. Of course, that was true, but, as my trainer would inform me afterwards, it's not like we want people knowing about that. I just wanted to read it, end the call, and go home.

"Legally obligated? Who gives a fuck?"

At that point, I just spewed the disclosure at him, while he just said, "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you..." I told him to have a nice day, and ended the call.

He was wrong, of course. We weren't leeching off the NRA, the NRA was leeching off him and people like him. Let it here be known that the NRA is a worthless organization, and if you really want to go support gun rights and all that, well, I've heard good things about Gun Orgs of America. I say this without stating a position on said issues; I'm just saying, even if you think you agree with the NRA, there are better places to throw your support.

At my old job, I had to follow a script. The script changed, usually without warning, and there was usually an A and a B script. Each one was preced by an opening disclosure stating what company we worked for, along with informing them we were working on behalf of the NRA. This was followed by a wall of text explaining what the URGENT ISSUE OF THE WEEK was (all our calls were urgent), then the first, second, and third requests, followed by a closing disclosure statement, depending on state law. These scripts were invariably awful. If they weren't long-winded bullshit that made people hang up early, they were still politicized bullshit which, half the time, made us say things had nothing to do with gun issues. This, despite being told constantly that NRA is a single issue organization. This, despite telling people on the phones that NRA is a single issue organization.

One day, I was calling a woman, and I got past the opening disclosure. I was about to start the script proper, when she said, "Hmm, I wonder why the NRA is calling me today. What brings you to make this serendipitous call?"

"I'm sorry...?"

"Oh, serendipitous? It's a big word, you can Google it."

She made me angry. Imagine the bitchiest, smuggest voice you can. That's the voice she was using. Even if telemarketing is a horrible profession, I only did it to keep from being homeless. I was angry, anxious, and shaking, but then a smile crept across my face, and I pulled out something I had been keeping in my back pocket...

"Well, ma'am, did you know that sudo privileges aren't configured by default in Debian?"

"Aren't configured in who?!"

At that moment, I knew I had her. "Well ma'am, thanks for taking the time to talk with me, and thanks for that little boost to my ego, and you have a great day!"

"Wait, wha-" The call ended right there. To this day, I don't know how I didn't get in trouble for that one, but I still get so happy when I think back on it. I know that woman will probably die without ever knowing what the Hell I was talking about, and that fact brings me joy. By the by, that statement isn't entirely accurate. If, at install, you don't specify a root password, sudo privileges are automatically configured for the first user.

In addition to the outbound program where you begged for donations and memberships, we also did an inbound member services program called NRA J. Basically, when you call in to NRA Member Services, that's where you go first. Note that this is only for Member Services, and certain membership lines. If you call the ILA, you will reach someone with the ILA, as far as I know. However, the only way to reach NRA Headquarters by phone is to be transferred from Member Services (or another branch; I think the ILA could do it, too, for example). When I worked there, we had a database program called Advantage, often affectionately known as Disadvantage, which was made by another company in Florida. This company and my old company didn't like each other because they used to do member services for the NRA as well as the mail stuff. They still do the mail stuff for the NRA, in fact. This is why I always laughed at people who said they would just donate directly to the NRA. There is no way to do it. My old company did phone solicitations and donations you called in to do, this other company processed their mail... The only other way is online, and while I can't say for sure, I doubt the NRA's sites were made in-house. The worst part about the J program was that it wasn't a customer service line, it was a sales file like everything else. Those aren't my words, those are my former manager's words, which she said one day during morning announcements because some of us were trying to get straight to the issue instead of asking people to do a lifetime membership.

The program itself was terrible. A proprietary piece of shit. Now, we had two programs. Advantage, which only certain people who were trained (such as myself) would use, and Coordinator, which was also a proprietary piece of shit, but the one everybody would use, because that's the software that handled our calls. My old company did phone stuff for a lot of organizations and businesses, and Coordinator was company wide as well, whereas the NRA folks were the only ones who had Advantage. There were also J communicators who didn't have access to Advantage, who could only do a few things. If you called Member Services for something like marking a deceased member or setting up automatic payments for your EPL (Easy Pay Life, the payment plan to become a life member) and you got shuffled around, that's why. Sometimes, people just kept getting transferred to people without Advantage. It's actually better now. They stopped using Advantage shortly before I left, in favor of a new program that I've never used, but have seen, and everybody who does inbound uses it. It's called Members Plus, and it's a lot simpler, too. Using Advantage was like piloting a nuclear submarine. An old, decrepit nuclear submarine that you often had to smack a few times to keep working. The way you brought it up was horrible and clunky, too. First, you logged into a Windows Server session, where you brought up Coordinator and did other work related things. Then, you logged into another Windows Server session and brought up Coordinator there. Then, they replaced our aging Linux thin clients with Windows 7 PCs and added the extra step of (VERY SLOWLY) logging into your workstation PC before logging into the aformentioned servers.

There was this crazy fool who would call the J line all the time, but especially after something happened, like a shooting, or a political event. Honestly, I thought he was funny. He was often called the gunslut guy, because he would call the women he talked to gunsluts. I also heard one of the supes call him Mr. Longbottom, but I have no idea where that name came from.

"Thank you for calling the National Rifle Association, my name is Evil Roda, can I have your last name and ZIP code please?"

"You've got a lot of shit on your balls, faggot."

I laughed. I couldn't help it. This was so over the top, it was hilarious! I coded the call appropriately, still laughing, and went on with my day, until...

"Thank you for calling the National Rifle Association, my name is-"

"Hey, fucker, your organization is blocking my university's gun research. Who the fuck do you faggots think-"

I laughed at him again, and ended the call the same way. This happened sometimes, where you'd get the same person if they called multiple times. This actually happened a couple more times that day, where he'd say something over the top and I'd laugh at him before ending the call, until...

"Thank you for calling the National Rifle Association, my name is Evil Roda, can I have your last name and ZIP code, please?"


He was trying to counter me. I silently ended the call. He didn't call anymore that day. If you're out there, gunslut guy, you might have been a fucking moron (calling NRA Member Services to protest WILL NOT DO SHIT; most of us didn't even want to work there), but your calls always brightened my day a little.

Speaking of protests, it sucked being at the mercy of current events. When a major shooting happens, the NRA pulls work, and people get sent home because there's not enough calls to go around. I was lucky I was never sent home because of that, partly because I was on the J program. The worst of this was the Stoneman Douglas shooting. When that happened, not only was outbound work scarce, the inbound work included a lot of protest calls. I say again, calling Member Services doesn't do shit. You want to protest, call the ILA. The folks at Member Services are just trying to survive. Even more disturbing was the massive amount of donations that came flooding in. More disturbing than that is seeing the protest calls dying down after a month, and the donation calls still coming in after that. It's like they just forgot about it. I heard from some coworkers who were there at the time that Sandy Hook was even worse. Barely any protest calls, and they got absolutely flooded with people donating and getting lifetimes and all this shit. School shootings are good for NRA's cash flow.

You know what else is good for NRA's cash flow? Democrats. Oh, sure, the NRA hates antigunners, but they love them being in office. The worse it is, the better it is for us, as they say. When Trump won the 2016 election, everybody above me seemed so shocked and lost. Our staff immediately started to shrink. I remember the call center being so stuffed full leading up to that. By the time I left, you could easily end up sitting alone in a section. It feels so good to not have to deal with that anymore. I'm no longer at the mercy of an election, or a school shooting, or any other massacre. I'm free.

Of course, freedom doesn't guarantee happiness. My situation is much better, but I suppose it's like when Levi and Farlan and Isabel were sitting atop that castle, looking up at the stars. Levi says, "We're still trapped behind the walls," but Isabel says, "No, it's different. There's no ceiling. We can see the sky." I may still be behind the walls, but I'm not in the underground anymore, and I say now, with conviction, they can't break me. I'm free. Free.

Something else happened this year, at the end of November. My father went into the hospital with kidney failure. He was moved from the initial hospital to one in Columbus, where he was operated on. As his next of kin, I gave permission to put him on life support. After that, I heard nothing from the hospital. Then, finally, I got a call.

I was sitting around a table, playing Jenga with my friends when I got a call from my father's ex mother in law. "Roda," she said, "they're taking your dad off life support. They got the tube out of his throat and everything, and he's having trouble speaking, but you should be able to talk to him tomorrow." I ended the call, thinking everything would be fine. It wasn't.

The next morning, I went downstairs, and my mother told me my father had died. They weren't taking him off life support because he was getting better. My grandmother, who doesn't believe in surgery, and who has earned the nicname Angel of Death in my family, told them to take him off life support. She said there was nothing the doctors could do for him, but I can't trust her. I'll never know the truth.

I later learned that my grandmother had essentially killed my great grandmother by convincing her to stop taking pain pills; the withdrawal killed her. Then, when my grandfather had cancer and was close to death, he wanted to call an ambulance, and she said no. This has earned her the nickname Angel of Death.

I'm done with her. I'm done with her religious ideology. I've decided, I'm not going to be angry, because it's not worth being angry at her individually. But I've also decided I'm not going to be in her life anymore. The only thing I can do is try to attack her ideology. I know it's not much, but you'll probably see more criticism of religious ideology, particularly refusal of medical treatment, in my writing in 2019 and beyond. However, in the unlikely event that I ever get into a position where I can do more about it in any way, I will take the opportunity to do so, whether that be speaking to a wider audience, or influencing legislation, or helping people get out of cults like that. Please note that I haven't suddenly become antireligious. It's a miracle that I'm not, having been in a family like that. However, I'm also not going to be so accepting of the worst aspects of it anymore.

In 2019, I hope to stop being a shitty writer. By that, I mean a writer who doesn't write. It doesn't matter what sort of mastery you hold over the written word, if you don't use it, you're a shitty writer. If I can overcome that one hurdle, I might be able to make great things. I also definitely want to finish Akkochan and the Cummunist Party. It was something I wrote on the bus on the way to work, and I no longer ride the bus to work. The real reason there's such a hiatus, though, is because working my old job really did take a massive toll on me. You can also expect to see it archived on my Neocities whenever I get around to it; I was nervous about posting it more places, because it could've gotten me fired. Luckily, they can't do shit to me anymore. At the same time, please remember that I was just some guy working the phones for them, so I don't have a lot of info about the inner workings of the NRA (or my old company) beyond what I've already shared. I do have plenty more stories, particularly about other programs we worked there. While our main client in my center was the NRA, we also took overflow calls for TBN, K-LOVE during their big donation drives, the Jimmy Fund, Guthy Renker products, and Saint Jude Dream Home Giveaway, to name a few off the top of my head. Maybe someday, I'll share more stories.

I'll leave you with one final anecdote. I went through training for Jimmy Fund calls towards the end of my employment, and one of the things they told us to do was to not let on that we weren't volunteers. Apparently, this was in the conract, so their rule, not ours. I'll also take this moment to point out that most of the things we did were because it was in our client's contract, and it was often pointed out that the NRA wanted us to operate like we did. Trust me, the NRA knew and approved of everything we did, as did our other clients. I'm just saying this so they can't absolve themselves. I mean, my old company's definitely not innocent, and a lot of the shitty things we did were probably in the marketing we gave these clients, but they did approve of it. So if you're annoyed at how much the NRA calls you, they're just as culpable in this.

Okay, okay, one more anecdote. We were doing this training for another program when work was thin (not sure if this was because of Stoneman Douglas or not), and our supe who was training us on the program said that he was in much the same situation as this: NRA work was thin, so they had them doing work for Catholic Relief.

"I called up this guy who didn't want to give, but I went through the script. Finally, he said, 'Okay, I'll give, but the only people that call me more than you guys are the NRA!'"

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