60 and still a call girl – discrimination in the workplace 133



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Turning 60 was a huge upset for me. Here I was, over half my life behind me and still a call girl! I worked with over 50 other call girls in one large room, with the odd male dotted here and there. The majority of these people were closer to my age than not. Over half were left to fend for themselves, by those poor excuses for partners. Some had been wives and mothers for 30 years and suddenly found themselves in a foreign, somewhat hostile environment and expected to get on with it. Before you get sick visions of wrinkly skinned women in see-through negligees and shrivelled up men in budgie smugglers all milling around in a smoky, liquor-filled room, picture this: desks joined together with partitions and phones ringing off the hook. I can hear the pennies dropping! Yes I worked in a call centre.

Now, call centre work isn’t for everybody. For those who have never even been inside one, it reminds me of a swarm of bees, buzzing relentlessly. To do this job, you need, above all, patience and a general understanding of human nature. Also, as a 60-something woman, you need to be thick skinned and have a sense of humour. You also need to know the meaning of some of those cussing words I was talking about, because you will be called some of those words several times on a daily basis. Phrases like stupid dumb b*tch, useless mole and the F and C words are used constantly by someone you have never seen, met or heard of, someone who by the way, has called you for help. Not to mention some of these words are used by some of your colleagues to describe you and others to whoever will listen.

Working in a call centre at any age, let alone 60-something, especially a large call centre, is no picnic. There are so many rules and regulations that you would think you were working for the secret service. And that’s only for the kitchen! Don’t leave your chair out, don’t open the fridge unnecessarily, don’t swear or you may offend someone, don’t say ANYTHING that may offend someone, don’t talk about work, don’t talk about each other and don’t talk about the powers that be. After all they are just down the stairs and may hear you. Of course, they probably have an informant, or should we say “suck-up” sitting right next to you. Then there’s the dishes rule: PLEASE WASH YOUR OWN DISHES! Is that hard to understand?  I think bloody not. Of all the kitchen rules, this is the one that gets broken the most. Coffee is made and spilled on the bench, sandwiches are cut on the bench, the griller is full of cheese that has oozed from your toastie and my personal favourite – the hardest it seems, the spoons have been used to stir and either have been tossed in the grotty sink or are missing. How hard can it be to clean up after yourself and do your dishes? Apparently, a mammoth task.

Then we have the fridge. What could they do to a fridge you ask? The rule is don’t put your groceries in the fridge all day and take up room – not hard, and to take outdated food out of said fridge. Listen up people. Not bloody hard at all. So why then does the refrigerator not only have limited space for lunches and drinks, but does it smell like someone left two dead cats, a rotting carcass and a burnt body in it? It is sometimes so disgusting it makes you puke. Dirty, disgusting people! Hate to see what their own homes are like.

In a call centre, it is like “one big happy family” they say. Well this Sixty Someone could not find ‘family’ or ‘happy’ in this call centre after 10 years.  Maybe at 60-something you become less tolerant or more stupid – I don’t know. But being a mature woman, along with a few self opinionated men and a great many menopausal women, you would rather be bitten by a deadly snake than go to work most days. The men talked about cricket and hot babes all in one conversation, the menopausal women couldn’t stop complaining about the room temperature and us 60-somethings – well, we were perfect. Perfect at complaining about them complaining that is. What has this work culture done to relatively “normal” people?

Then you had the customers. Ordinary people, in an ordinary day, turning into extraordinary arseholes. Of course I am now 60-something, so it is probably my fault that I can’t find what they want, because I am old. “How old are you anyway you stupid cow? Should you even be working still?” It doesn’t matter that the gentleman – and I use the term loosely, can’t spell his relative’s name or has no idea where Mr Smith lives in the country of Australia. After all, how many Mr Smiths could there be? You can’t hang up on them, you must be polite and you must give them fair warning that you will terminate the call if they continue to be abusive. By this time all those words that my friend Kandy would like to use on them have been used on me.

Kandy would say that “we don’t have to put up with this sh*t,” but in reality we do. Why? Because we are 60-something and no-one else wants to hire us. You see we are classed as old at when we’re over 60. We are not only old, but apparently with age has come stupidity and gives half the country the right to abuse us. Of course it is different if you have a young sexy voice, or in some cases are a man, as some people will only speak to the male of the species. Apparently we older women are less intelligent than our male counterparts.

Now, according to some of you, I have a bad attitude. Maybe, but I have never been deliberately rude to anyone, regardless of their age. I have never gone into someone’s place of work and cussed at them, just because I could. I am guilty of thinking some people are incredibly stupid, but they are my personal thoughts and at my age, surely I am allowed one or two of those? I have always prided myself on my positive attitude, but when you reach the age of “nearly dead” or 60 as we with brains know it, people are very quick to judge. All these things I tell you, have happened to me, are still happening in one way or the other and I am just telling you like it is – perhaps with a little humour thrown in. But if the government continues to call us “learners”, and we continue to put up with that, perhaps at 60-something we deserve to be treated like idiots. Especially 60-something women, as we, through the ages, have allowed ourselves to be treated in various degrees of a caveman style existence, and I am going to put pen to paper to every time it happens to me or around me, because at my age, I deserve more! So watch out for the next chapter, or don’t. Like it or don’t, but judge the writing, not the writer.

Do you agree with Fran? Are over 60s discriminated against in the workplace and world? What has been your experience?

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Fran Spears

Born in 1953. Came to Hobart from the north west coast of Tassie to be closer to my son as I have mild chronic bronchitis. Mild and chronic in same sentence – even that makes me laugh. Have just completed and passed my diploma in Public Relations. Love to write and have lead a reasonably interesting life. My motto: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

  1. Be grateful they still hire her , age does matter in the work force . They say it doesn’t but it does !

    4 REPLY
  2. I love it Fran. Can understand completely. I’ve worked in three call centres in the past and you’ve got the culture down pat. Being timed to go to the toilet, and receiving verbal death threats finished me off. Call centres and hospitality work, my worst jobs ever

  3. I feel your pain. I worked in a similar place but they “got rid” or made life hard for anyone over 50. I didn’t always tell people where I worked as I could see their face change. Everyone had a horror story to tell.

  4. Fran,I did telemarketing when I was much younger I lasted one week, the abuse is horrific, I would not have lasted that long but I wanted to work!! Many will not understand unless they have ever done it. I am glad you got a job, I know it was a big worry for you. Grit your teeth and in the meantime look for another job. Yes we are discriminated against as far as our age goes and your right calling us leaners was never a good idea..good luck

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    • I did leave Libbi. Mine wasn’t telemarketing but working on a major phone company contract. After ten years it only needed one more incident. It happened, I handed in my notice that day. Problem is, I moved to Hobart and have found no work yet…. mmmm

  5. I feel your pain. Call centres are horrible places, and although everyone is treated like rubbish, yes the older workers are often targeted.

  6. I am 70 and still working – not in a call centre. I have a small, very small business so I find working for myself so much more inspiring and by doing that, I have found myself being asked to work in a retail outlet in a very casual basis.
    It is horrid that you are made to feel old at 60 because you aren’t. Change your job Fran – please!
    I am treated with do much respect at 70 for working in my own business and by a wonderful lady boss, younger than myself, in my casual retail job.
    Change jobs please.

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  7. It is a shame the people who run these places do not make a better work place for people. Bad things usually flow down from the top if allowed. Keep your humour or you are a goner.

  8. People who are rude to customer service operators are probably very pathetic petty little individuals who use their anonymity to take out their frustration. But not nice to have to put up with it all day in what should be the golden years.

  9. when I saw that headline, I thought you was one of Tony Abott’s old sex workers Fran ( you know the one he winked at) sounds like a shocker of a job you have there., I hope you can find a better one. And we are not leaners, that was a spiteful thing to say, we are very proudly older Australians

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