Roadside Customer Service by katerauner

127 13 4


Roadside Customer Service

by katerauner


Jason paused in the doorway of the Regional Dispatch lounge, stopped by the view of a half dozen response technicians eating donuts and drinking coffee. He was nervous on his first day.

He'd never met his new team lead but spotted her immediately. She wore the same blue uniform Jason did. Well, almost. His coveralls were crisp and bright while hers were faded and worn.

"Good morning, Ellen," he said, hand extended. "I'm Jason."

"Grab your coffee and follow me, kid."

"My name is Jason."

"First lesson - don't waste time," she headed to the door. "Grab a shop ticket if there's no call waiting. We get extra efficiency points that way."

In the shop, they were troubleshooting a control module that stumped the robo-tech when the first call came in.

Regional Dispatch to Blue Team. Take tug three.

Ellen pointed to his pad. "Read out the needed supplies to me." She shoved tools and parts from shelves into a duffle as they walked through the warehouse towards the helipad, then tossed the bag to Jason and hefted a tire.

Outside, the pilot waved as he climbed into the skycrane that was perched on top of a shop tug with a large number three painted across its side.

Ellen napped on the half hour flight while Jason reviewed procedures.

The skycrane hovered over a highway median and lowered the tug on grapplers. The tug, self-driving like all vehicles, deftly crossed the lanes to pull up behind a car tilted at a slight angle on the shoulder.

"Damn," Ellen said. "Why isn't a replacement car here yet? Now we have to talk to the customer."

A red-faced man in a business suit waved his Customer Possessions bag at them.

"Talk to him," Ellen said "I'll roll the tire out."

"Where's my ride?" the man demanded.

"On its way, sir." Jason handed him a chip card. "Please accept this discount on your next ride with us as compensation for the inconvenience. I hope you won't be late."

"Of course I'm late." The man focused an angry glare on him and pointed at the car. "Since when do tires blow out?"

Jason began reciting his memorized statistics. "Our mean-time-to-failure rate is the best..."

"Give me that car." The man pointed to the shop-tug.

"I'm sorry, sir. We can't."

"I've never seen such incompetence. I'm posting a very negative review on you..." The man leaned forward to read the name on Jason's crisp new coveralls. "Jason." He continued to complain until the replacement car rolled up and opened its door.

Ellen had finished changing the flat by the time Jason joined her. She rapped the car on its hood and told it to go to the nearest shop for inspection. "Here's a little tip. Don't dip into a customer's problems. People are a pain, kid."

"Jason. My name is Jason."

Regional Dispatch to Blue Team. You guys done yet? I'm sending the skycrane back to you. There's an accident with injuries."

Ellen mumbled something rude.

A ten minute flight along a side road dropped them in a travel lane blocked by Medical Responders.

Ellen led the way around one medic who was maneuvering a woman on a hover gurney, the Auto-Drive Customer Possessions bag between her feet. A second carried a sobbing little girl. Jason stared at a deer crumpled on the car hood, dead.

"Focus on the car," Ellen said. "We need to recommend improvements to prevent future accidents. What would you suggest?"

Jason looked up road cut. The deer must have jumped down onto the road.

"Motion sensors up there."

Ellen shook her head. "Infrared. Motion sensors pick up the wind rustling trees and grass too often."

Jason began tossing broken sensors into the car, prepping it for a retrieval team. He found a toy inside, a stuffed bunny with one twisted ear and its knap worn smooth.

He called after the rescue team but their vehicle pulled away.

"Leave it, kid."

"But it'll get tossed into lost and found. I could look up the customer's address."

"Dipping into customers' lives will break your heart. And slow productivity."

Back at Dispatch, they spent the rest of the day working shop tickets and Jason was glad there were no more calls. The morning had rattled him. Maybe this wasn't his dream job after all.

The rest of the week went better. They serviced a couple cars a day with various annoying failures but met no more customers.

Regional Dispatch to Blue Team.

Jason read the details out to Ellen. "It's a commercial carrier. A fire." He

anxiously pulled up the fire response procedure.

The fire was out when they arrived. Firefighters had a fan at the trailer's open back doors, pulling smoke out.

Ellen sounded triumphant as they decoupled the tractor. "Brakes blew up on the trailer. Auto-Drive only supplied the tractor, so it's not our fault. I'll run the roadside diagnostic."

Jason wandered to the back of the trailer. There were sodden boxes and charred furniture. It was a moving van.

"Total loss," a firefighter said as he hauled the fan to his Response Vehicle.

Jason spotted a box, wet but intact, in the corner against the door hinges. "What about this?"

"Don't worry about it. Insurance will total the load," the firefighter said.

Jason lugged the smelly box to the tractor and shoved it inside. He called up the trailer's manifest and pulled a Customer Possessions tag from his pocket.

"I don't care about the delay today, kid," Ellen said. "I get a bonus for babysitting a newbie. But no one will want to be your permanent partner if you keep fretting about customers. That's not our job and customers never say thanks."

Jason filled out the tag and slid it into the box anyway.


***


Ellen rolled her eyes as the Shift Supervisor walked straight to their workbench. "Uh oh."

"Customer feedback on one of your calls, Ellen."

"I don't do customers. The kid here is your guy."

"Then the bonus points belong to him. We received a five star rating from the owners of some box of family mementos that was caught in a fire and returned to them by our company." He beamed "Even though it wasn't our responsibility. That's what I call customer service. Glad you're on board - Jason."

Ellen snorted.

Jason smiled back at her. "I knew you were wrong about people." He reached under the bench and pulled out the stuffed rabbit. "I'm gonna look up this customer's contact information."

Maybe this was his dream job after all.

Nano Bytes - A Collection of Short SciFi StoriesRead this story for FREE!