It was 7:30 am and the first snow of the season was in full swing. A fresh white blanket of snow had covered the city of Simpson, NY, only the trails of the public buses breaking the purity of fresh fallen cover. The snow continued to fall as the front door of a small, two story apartment building opened and Tim Burkhalter stepped outside. Wearing a black overcoat over a suit of the same color, he held his attache case in his left gloved hand as his right brought an insulated coffee cup to his lips.
“Fuck!” He said audibly as the cold air whipped past him, seeming to cut through the fabric of his pant legs like a thousand needles stinging his skin. Another sip before he walked on down the street. He walked past the various storefronts, most of which had yet to open for business before approaching the entrance to the subway. As he descended the steps, he found his mind wandering back to the weekend which had ended only hours prior. He didn’t do much. He wasn’t a skier, so the snow kept him indoors. But he was able to catch up on some much needed sleep and some reading that he had postponed nearly a month earlier. He was snapped back to the reality of this Monday morning as the train came screeching to a halt in the Van Nostrand Boulevard station just as he passed through the turnstile. A quick jog brought him into the climate controlled passenger area of the train. He sat and waited as the doors closed and the train resumed its service. He looked around at the advertisements, smiling slightly as he pondered one for an Endocrinologist. After all, who picks an endocrinologist based on a subway advertisement? For that matter, what is the appropriate means of finding an endocrinologist? The amusing train of thought was interrupted as the bell chimed, indicating that the train was preparing to stop at the Chenango Street station, his destination. He rose from his seat and exited the train as it stopped, walking up the wet stairs to the street and almost immediately ducking into a skyscraper known as the Millennium Building. Here, in this part of town, the streets were already abuzz and the noise of horns and cars polluted the air. Tim took just a moment to ponder the unusually swift growth pattern of Simpson from a sleepy city of 25,000 citizens to a metropolis dropped in the middle of, what had been previously, rural Upstate New York.
Tim ascended the floors of the building in an elevator crammed with other people, all of whom were unknown to him. He stepped out and was immediately presented before a security desk. Large gold lettering indicated that this floor was the leased space of a company known as “Adams Wealth Management.” Tim smiled and nodded to the guard, whose name he knew to be Scott, reaching into his overcoat, he withdrew a work identification badge depicting the same corporate logo. Scott glanced briefly at the ID before a dismissive gesture indicated that it was OK to pass through the door to the left of the security desk.
Adams Wealth Management handled retirement accounts originally. It was this business that both allowed, and necessitated their expansion out of New York City and throughout the Northeast. However, as time went on and two generations of the company had passed, Adams had moved into debt collections, information storage and even management of municipal assets. This office dealt with the latter. In particular, it served as a customer service call center to honor a management contract Adams had secured nearly two decades prior to administer municipal services on behalf of a large portion of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio counties. It worked like this, in previous years, counties had to maintain departments such as Dog Catcher, Welfare (or Human Services), and code enforcement. Companies like Adams first got their foot in the door by handling the town or county’s investment portfolio. As time went on, they began to offer more services to their client. Today, those counties outsourced entire departments to Adams which they transitioned as seamlessly as possible. Dog catchers still wore the same uniforms, and human service employees worked in the same buildings. The difference was that there were far fewer of them in any given county and that they were all employees of Adams Government Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Adams Wealth Management. Because of the decreased manpower and various state guidelines that prohibited 911 dispatches to private sector service providers like Adams, the company was forced to setup call centers such as the one in the Millenium Building. Private government providers had their own exchange, 112, which was forwarded to these centers. As a result, Adams was able to provide cheaper and more efficient dispatch service than the unionized 911 employees could ever hope to offer.
Tim walked through the vast call center and set his belongings down in his cubicle. Connected to the cubicle was a long line of cubicles (known within the company as a “spine.”) Tim’s cubicle rose only 36 inches from the ground, whereas the others stood around 5 feet tall. He was a supervisor, though that title had long been changed to “coordinator” he still performed the same duties, with a few special exceptions. The 35 year old Tim had been working at Adams, first as a supervisor and then as a coordinator, for 12 years, having started as a management trainee. Though he lacked the privacy that his subordinates had in their cubicles, he took the time to start up his computer and offer a friendly “across the aisle” wave to the supervisors seated at the heads of the “spines” on either side of his own.
Outer coat was removed and placed on a hook and suit coat was placed on the back of his chair. The first program to come up on his computer screen was an overview of the cubicles in his spine. There were 12 available cubicles, and only 10 were in use. The two vacant were blacked out. He was delighted to see that all 10 were colored green. This meant that the representatives were in place, clocked in, and already taking calls.
The counties had made dispatch jobs a source of choice employment. Paying a living wage, good benefits and with a pension plan, people often fought over dispatch jobs. Adams was able to offer cheaper services, in part, to severe cuts in this area, paying little more than minimum wage for these representatives. They also expanded the employment opportunity outside of normal channels of recruitment. No longer was there an emphasis placed on college education or specialized skills (such as EMT Certification). Adams was of the philosophy that anyone with above an 8th grade education could dispatch government services (emergency or otherwise) with only a three week computer training program and a two day first aid certification. This method met with resistance from both the 911 Operators unions as well as concerned citizens within the community. Ultimately the bottom line won out.
Tim placed the wireless receiver on his ear and touched the touchscreen control pad for his desk phone to activate it. Just after doing so, however, one of the cubicles turned “red” on his little computerized chart. Tim responded only by rising from his seat and walking to the end cubicle. Stepping into the cubicle entrance he watched as Marcy concluded her call. Standing under 5 feet tall, Marcy was plump, but not fat, and had a short feathered haircut. Black plastic framed glasses sat on the bridge of her nose. Prior to coming to Adams, Marcy was a dispatcher at one of the last dispatch centers to shut down prior to turning over service to Adams. She was, in fact, the only former dispatcher to take a position with Adams. In addition to the low pay, Adams was notorious in the poor treatment of its workers. Marcy sat in an office chair that resembled a recliner more than a typical office chair. After finishing her call she turned to see Tim and smiled with a blush.
“Hey, morning, thanks for coming over.” She said with a nervous chuckle that was her trademark.
“No problem” Tim said as he depressed a button on her chair, causing it to lower to a lying position. Tim reached over to the box of gloves that had been fixed to the wall, placing two rubber gloves on his hands before he lifted Marcy’s skirt. In doing so he exposed an adult diaper which indicated that it was wet.
Tim set about untaping the diaper immediately, then used some wipes from her desk to clean her private areas as he balled up the diaper and placed it into a red trashcan under the desk. A new diaper was taken from a stack and unfolded as he slid it under her, pulling the front two wings up between her legs and taping it into place. He worked with a hurried pace as the company standard for changes was less than 3 minutes to limit phone interruption. He smiled as he pressed the button to raise her back to a seated position after tossing his gloves in the red bin.
“There you go, Marcy. Oh and before I forget, I got your request for vacation time next month, shouldn’t be a problem, I’ll have your schedule adjusted before I go home today.” Tim said nonchalantly.
“Thanks, guess I better get back to the grind.” She said with a hint of blush in her cheeks.
Tim stepped out of the cubicle and lifted a chart from a holder in the wall, marking down the urination on a chart designed for this purpose. He then returned to his cubicle to resume the other aspects of his work such as time card validation and answering requests to speak with a supervisor.
The practice of diapering employees was, to say the least, controversial. At least it had been when first implemented. Started in overseas call centers with little government oversight over employee treatment, it made its way back to the U.S. after companies took the offensive against employee rights. Employees were being punished for bathroom breaks, and companies tried to implement these overseas systems to reduce wasted work time. Unfortunately, the courts sided largely with the companies, stating that the company had the right to protect its assets, and work time was undeniably an asset. They ruled that if someone other than the employee was to change a diaper, however, that individual needed to be a medical professional.
Another round of lawsuits arose after companies simply had their supervisors trained as Certified Nursing Aides. After years in court, it was found that this practice was OK as long as a nurse was on staff to ensure employee health was not unnecessarily compromised. All of this had occurred as Tim took to the floor as a supervisor. Companies like Adams had two managers, Administrative and Health. The Health Manager was a nurse and checked employee charts to look for trends and ensure no one was developing infections while the Administrative Manager worked to ensure the call center ran smoothly.
This was not the norm everywhere, mind you. Call centers which did require specialized skills managed to avoid this sort of treatment due to the skilled employee base simply refusing to comply. Despite all of the judicial advances, the only companies that found it practical to implement systems like this were ones that employed low skill workers where there was always more demand than supply for new jobs.
Originally, Tim had been assigned an all male staff. However, two things changed this. One was that male employees tended not to be willing to submit to diapering, thus many found other employment as a matter of pride. The other was yet another court challenge, this one affecting Adams directly. About five years prior, Adams had same sex teams. So, a male coordinator changed male employees and a female coordinator changed female employees. It seemed the easiest way to avoid sexual harassment charges. However, one female employee stated that she felt uncomfortable with a female changing her as her supervisor was known to be a lesbian. Adams simply transferred her to another team, prompting a lawsuit from the lesbian coordinator. In the end, it was established that employees had to indicate in writing at the time of hire, the preferred gender of their coordinator or no preference at all. This was a Godsend. Without it, coordinators like Tim would be out of work with only 10 males throughout a site of nearly 85.
Tim was just settling in after drinking the last of his coffee from home. A quick glance at the screen, however, indicated one cubicle was now red. To this, he audibly sighed as he stood up and walked to the cubicle. A smell permeated the entry way causing him to cough just slightly as he stepped back and waited for the representative to finish her call.