During the time I spent training telephone customer service personnel, I was fortunate to meet all sorts of people. There were a few along the way that didn't warm up to me, or I to them, but I generally had a good time. It can be really challenging at times to keep a group of people motivated and learning. On one notable occasion, I had a group of only three people, plus a new trainer who was observing the class. (And yes, she was one of my former trainees!) Our training rooms were being remodeled and we were in a large, too-warm room. Within minutes after returning from lunch, I was in front of four people who were having trouble keeping their eyes open. Which is why I ended up doing approximately ninety minutes of training in a Mrs. Doubtfire voice.
I hadn't planned on training the entire session in a fake British accent. It started off as a humorous way to give the class the account number that we needed to look up. "The account number is one-zero, not o, because o is not a number, it is a letter of the alphabet. You Americans don't seem to know the difference...the number, again, is one-zero, or zed..." The little group thought I was hysterical. One of the trainees said, "I dare you to train the whole session in that voice!" The gauntlet had been hurled, so I had to pick it up. Before the session was over, my fellow trainer was sitting in the back row, trying very hard to glare and grimace at me. Not because she thought I was being unprofessional, mind you. She was simply trying not to laugh because her cheeks and jaw were really starting to hurt!
I remember another occasion when a group of trainees got away with something, and inspired a prank by their trainers. Early in their training, all new hires had to go through some Human Resources training. You know what I'm referring to. Someone from HR comes and spends some time with the new hires to make sure that they understand things like payroll, and not indulging in or allowing harassment of themselves or others. On this particular occasion, I ran into the HR representative in the hall, and we got our signals crossed. I thought she meant she would be done shortly, when she was, in fact, already done with her session. I sat at my desk and waited for her to tell me she was done. And waited, and waited some more.
Finally, I stepped out into the hall to listen to what was going on in the training room. To my surprise, I just heard very quiet conversation about movies and actors. I peeked in and saw the whole class, sitting quietly in their seats, enjoying a break of sorts from the work of learning. They had been quietly chatting for some forty-five minutes, enjoying the downtime. I sent them off to lunch and went back to the training office to tell my co-trainer, Jeff, what had happened. We got a good laugh at it, but still made a plan for revenge. When the trainees began to return from their lunch break, we were in the training room, wearing our most serious faces. We waited in the hall until the last person arrived, and shut both of the classroom doors. And then I launched my evil plan.
Jeff stood in the back of the room looking upset while I informed the class of the bad news. I told them that one of the high-level managers in the department had walked past the back door of the training room on the way to a meeting and seen them in the room, not working. Not only that, I explained, but she saw them in the same state when she came back forty minutes later. She had decided that this behavior was dishonest and unacceptable, so the class was going to have to make up the time that was wasted. They could choose the day, but they were going to have to extend one of their training days by forty-five minutes. And they all fell for it! There were many upset faces, and protestations of it's-not-my-fault-I-just-did-what-everybody-else-did. As well as comments about how it wasn't their fault, but ours, meaning the trainers. One trainee gave a brief, impassioned comment that started with, "I think...' After she finished, I answered calmly, "Well, do you want to know what I think? I think paybacks are a beast!" We all got a laugh out of it eventually, and my co-trainer told me I was Academy Award worthy in my performance; he was ready to be punished, and he knew the evil plan in advance!
Shortly after I began training, though, I had one of the funniest, most-memorable moments of my training career. A few young women, who sat in the same row of the training room, pulled a fast one on me. They told me that they had seen my bus outside of the building when they left the day before. My mind was racing. I had stayed and worked at least an hour after class was released; why were they still around to see me get on my bus? Was this turning into a stalker-ish kind of story? I asked what they meant, and they managed to tell me, with a straight face, that when they left work the previous day, there was a cute school bus parked outside the building. They just knew that my ride was waiting for me! To make things even funnier, a couple of weeks later I was given the gift of a little school bus from a Happy Meal. It sat on my desk for years as a reminder of a day when "school" was really fun.
Hey, my ride, my life, is here...I'm really going to try to make it a fun one!