I almost touched a story today.
I was discussing a utility bill with one of the providers. The guy at customer service has a nice voice. I always notice voices. While we are in the middle of our conversation (he is trying to sell me plans, I am politely refusing), I mention that I am transitioning from full-time worker to full-time student. He is curious (aren’t all sellers?) so I tell him about my phd in media and communication. He forgets all about the utility plans and starts raving about how much he’d like to study, how envious he is, how exciting it is when he reads one of his books about solar energy and architecture, he tells me that he only did a bachelor, he cannot imagine what it’d be like doing a phd. I know that our conversation is recorded for quality insurance and coaching purposes, so I shouldn’t be dragging him into a private conversation, but I cannot resist. I tell him that I feel like he should be doing something else, besides working there.
Well, he says, I’m not working, I am volunteering here. I’ve just come out of prison.
We talk for another ten minutes, I recommend him to look into meetups, just to be with people who have similar interests. When at the end he presents me with the standard question on whether there is anything else that he can do for me today, I say yes, please, promise me that you’ll do something with yourself. He laughs and says that he’ll look into it.
I check my handset: we have talked for 37 minutes. It sounds creepy, I know, but I’ve been thinking about that guy all day, wondering what did he do to go to jail, how long was he in jail for, what’s his story, whether there is someone looking after him, whether he’ll go back to study, whether he has a family, a circle of friends who care about him.
The most unsettling thing is knowing that I came so close to touching a story and that I let it go.