When the call ends, and I pull the headset off my head as though trying to pull all the bile and vitriol away from me, I take a few deep breaths and try to reset myself to go again. In these brief moments some curse like sailors, pull out their hair or slowly strangle an imaginary neck. Most will turn to their colleagues and guffaw in disbelief at the casual cruelty of fellow human beings. At one time or another I’ve done these things.
Lately though, when the line finally goes dead and the tiny bubbles of relief start flooding into my chest, strange thoughts sometimes jump into my consciousness like pop-up ads on my monitor.
I picture the greatest of human accomplishments: The Pyramids of Giza. Angkor Wat. The Great Wall. The Magna Carta. Newton’s laws. The theory of evolution. The theory of relativity. The printing press. The combustion engine. The discovery of penicillin. Michaelangelo’s David. Joyce’s Ulysses. Picasso’s Guernica. Man on the moon. The international space station. The World Wide Web. The Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs Boson.
I see these things flash across my eyes and I wonder how we’ve come so far as a civilisation when people still don’t seem able to observe, to research, to read, to listen, or be civil when talking to a fellow human being at the end of a telephone line.