Believe it or not, I’m writing this at 8:30 a.m., with my phone on speaker listening to, “Thank you for continuing to hold. You call is important to us. A customer service representative will be with you as soon as possible.” No, I’m not waiting for a pharmacist to pick up. I’m on hold, waiting for someone in Premier Doug Ford’s office to pick up, so I can chat with them. My heart is beating a little faster than normal, because I get energized or some sort of rush, whenever I call the Premier’s office, which is a lot these days.
Calling Doug Ford’s office, I think I can safely say, is now my hobby. I haven’t remembered a phone number since probably 2010, yet I have memorized Doug Ford’s office number, which is 416-325-1941. A hobby is “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.” I can honestly say that calling his office has indeed become an activity I’ve done regularly in my “leisure time,” and I do get pleasure out of it. Mostly, and hear me out, I always feel better after I speak to someone at his office and have made my concerns or point clear, in a very calm and friendly manner.
My new hobby has nothing to do with politics or even Doug Ford, since the people who answer his phone don’t technically work for him and are civil servants. I’ve never had a bad experience speaking to whomever takes my calls at the Premier’s office, usually female voices who are always kind, and have never once has rushed me off the phone. I quite enjoy making these calls, even if I am put on hold for half an hour.
In fact, this morning when I made my call, I learned a lot about the friendly woman who answered the phone, because we got a little off topic, about the actually reason I was calling in the first place. She was just so warm and friendly — at 8:33 a.m. no less — so I started asking her, about her life, as if I had called a friend for a friendly catch up.
“I’m so curious,” I asked her. “How many people in Doug Ford’s office answer the phones all day long?”
I said that I was curious because, well, I was. She told me there were five people. FIVE! To which I then I told this kind woman that perhaps The Premier should hire more people to answer phones, because there are more than 14 million people in Ontario and that includes me and my three good friends who also call their offices at least once or twice a week, spending way more than five or ten minutes on the phone.
I also told my new faceless friend that her voice must be so sore at the end of the day, after speaking to people all day long. She responded that she gets by with drinking a lot of water, juices and lozenges. I actually know more about this woman than I do some of my colleagues I’ve known for years.
In any case, we got quite chatty, and my new faceless friend also told me that, “Some days are better than others,” when I asked how she deals with irate callers. “And somedays you wouldn’t believe the calls.” She was just so…genuine I couldn’t help but like her.
So not only did I feel like I had a new friend by 8:57 a.m. today, one who wished me a great day, as I did to her, when we hung up. Whenever I call Doug Ford’s office, I am super sweet and crack jokes, because I can’t get angry at someone who is just answering calls, even if I’m venting. The way you speak to someone does correlate, in my experience, to how people respond to you.
There is always a good reason for my calls. I think. Who knows? It’s my new lockdown hobby, like I said. So maybe I even sometimes look for reasons to call.
I believe these women who answer my calls are listening to what I have to say. Honestly? Calling Doug Ford’s office is almost as satisfying as a good therapy session — And it’s free! — which I think is also why so many of my friends are also calling Doug Ford’s office regularly,and has also become their therapy and/or hobby. Instead of going to a yoga class, we need to somehow feel grounded. We are all in moods. We need to get something off our chest. We need to get it out, and better to talk to a random stranger at Doug Ford’s office to vent our frustrations — kindly, I hope — than it is to take it out on our loved ones, children, spouses, or the Uber Eats driver who stole part of your meal.
My call to Doug Ford’s office this morning was to advocate, on a personal level, for my hairdresser, Kozeta, who owns Kozeta Spa and Salon in Toronto. She’s an immigrant success story if I’ve ever heard one. She immigrated to Canada from Albania in 2000, young and afraid, didn’t speak a word of English, had exactly $70 in her pocket, lived in a shelter with her one-year old son and husband, while also coming from a culture where women were not always viewed as strong or capable.
Over twenty years, Kozeta has continually worked 12 to 14 hour days, with the same immigrant mentality that you can build a comfortable life if you work hard, have grit and determination, which she has with abundance, you can succeed. And she did it! But, long story short? After all her hard work, over so many years, she’s basically back to where she started twenty years ago, an immigrant with no savings and children to support with a business that can’t open. It breaks my heart. I had to let Doug Ford’s office know. I wanted to, too, because like I said, it keeps my mood stable.
I was happy to make the call, on her behalf, and made my new faceless friend at Doug Ford’s office promise me that she’ll write down Kozeta’s Salon’s name —TWICE. My faceless and chatty new best friend also told me that the people who answer the phones take a synopsis of all incoming calls, some are passed on to Doug Ford, others to cabinet ministers. She also shared that the people who answer the phone “can’t have opinions” about what callers tell them, but when I told her Kozeta’s story, I swear she said, “That’s really heartbreaking.”
After I got off the phone, I actually felt better and lighter and happier. I had advocated for my hairdresser, who doesn’t work in the media and didn’t even know she could call his office. I was already well versed in calling Doug Ford’s office for other reasons. This hobby has really made me quite happy.
Calling his office is really like therapy. A few weeks ago, when I called, I started to sob on the phone with another very friendly faceless female voice. We talked, or rather I did most of the talking and sobbing, for more than an hour, over my disappointment that an MPP was speaking at a university about pro-life in collaboration with an organization that compared the Holocaust to abortions. I sobbed, “You’re a woman. Why are we even still having a debate about a woman’s choice to do whatever we want with their bodies?” I know, now, that she technically wasn’t “allowed” to have, or share, an opinion to a random caller, but this woman did say, “I know. I hear you.”
I also called last week just to tell another friendly voice “the temperature” outside these days, in real life. In that call, I told another kind and patient woman that I had seen two very vicious arguments, on a walking path near my house. “You need to tell him that people are getting so angry and that it’s only going to get worse. I mean, it’s a nature trail and people were screaming at each other about wearing masks outdoors. If he thought road rage was bad, he needs to be aware of all the walking rage,” I said. In all my calls, these faceless voices listened to me.
I honestly do call because I’m now obsessed with my hobby, talking to people I do not know, getting my frustrations out, so I don’t lose my own shit. I swear, one day, I may even call if my kids aren’t behaving, just to hear a friendly voice. Since it has become somewhat of a pleasurable hobby. I’m willing to call for you. Just let me know! But if you want to try this new hobby/free therapy session, again the number to Doug Ford’s office is 416-325-1941.
Just be kind though. I mean, the women who picked up the phone this morning was so kind, that I consider her a friend, even if she has no fucking idea who I am.