Monday, March 13, 2017

The Grapes of Wrath for the Blind

Maybe I’m just too cynical. Maybe I ought to lighten up a little.

But I can’t help it. I call the 800 number for the Illinois Tollway so I can add funds to that little box on my van dashboard that lets me zip through toll stops without going to a human in a booth. I’m on hold and a recording says calls are handled by people working for the Lighthouse for the Blind.

I know hearing that is supposed to make me feel good. And I’m sure that’s the effect it has on 99.999999999999999 percent of callers. Who wouldn’t think hiring the handicapped is a mighty fine thing to do? But I hear that stuff about the Lighthouse and I say to myself, “So what’s the catch?”

And then I say to myself, “Why not India?” Because if an outfit employing cripples landed this customer service contract, they must have underbid India for it. So this smells like one of those deals where cripples get paid pennies an hour.

Now it’s true that this is a government contract and the government has a hard time justifying shipping jobs to India. But hell, governments love to bust unions, too. So while I’m sitting there enduring the on-hold music, I picture a scene with several rows of galley slaves working the oars, while a stern foreman with a whip patrols the aisle. Except instead of slaves working oars I see several rows of cubicles occupied by chattering blind people wearing headsets. A blind man falls to the ground in exhaustion and the sadistic foreman pounces and whips him until he climbs back up in his chair and gets back to work.

And if a blind person can’t hold up under the rigors of customer service, there are plenty more blind people waiting in line to take his/her place. I picture scores of migrant blind customer service workers, looking dirty and ragged like Okies, all headed across the Great Plains to Illinois in their covered wagons. Back at the migrant camp, after a grueling day of listening to customers bitch and moan, the blind workers huddle around the warm campfire wrapped in stiff and scratchy horse blankets. Each forlorn blind person takes a sip from a soup ladle before passing it on. One of the blind people plays sad music on a harmonica.

What the hell’s the matter with me? Why can’t I just relax and let myself feel all warm and fuzzy while waiting to be served, instead of conjuring up a disturbing fantasy of brutal exploitation? But there is one good thing about it. At least it takes my mind off the on-hold music.

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