Deirdre Dolan: What's your name, how old are you, and where do you work?
Invisibyl Ninja: My name is Invisybl Ninja. I'm nineteen. I work in tech support for Earthlink.
Deirdre: Are you the youngest tech guy who works there?
Ninja: On my team, yes. On the floor, no. There's a sixteen-year-old.
Deirdre: How many people in a team?
Ninja: Our team is thirteen people.
Deirdre: How much space does each team take up?
Ninja: We have a small section of cubicles, around the size of a one-room apartment. Actually, more like a studio.
Deirdre: What do you do all day?
Ninja: If Earthlink customers are having trouble connecting to the Internet, they call customer support, and if they get transferred to me then I fix the problem as best I can.
Deirdre: What are people like on the phone?
Ninja: Most people are all right, but some people completely tear you down or act like they know everything. It's just not cool. You don't see people yelling at a fireman when you're trying to pull them out of a burning building.
Deirdre: If someone starts to swear at you are you allowed to hang up?
Ninja: You can't hang up. If they're swearing you try to do your best to calm them down.
Ninja: You say, "Sir, if you continue to swear at me I can't work." They tell us to let them vent for a little bit. You just put them on mute.
Deirdre: What if they don't stop?
Ninja: You say, "Sir, I would like to help you." Eventually you have to go to a supervisor and ask for their assistance. There are times when a person is completely yelling at you and there's no way you're going to get a word in edgewise. I've heard of people hanging up then.
Deirdre: Does it bother you when you're being yelled at?
Ninja: No. I think it's funny,
Deirdre: You never get mad back?
Ninja: I generally don't get upset on the phone. I have patience but at the same time I don't have patience. It's kind of an oxymoron-type thing. The thing that gets to me is when they go, "I'm so stupid, I don't get anything." I don't want to hear them say that, because they're opening themselves up to some kind of attack.
Deirdre: From who?
Ninja: Some techs might say, Yeah, you are stupid. And then they could treat them like a kid. But in a way, sometimes you do have to treat them like a five-year-old kid. Some people don't even know what the Apple menu is, or how to click on their mouse. I had a woman call who was having some problems and I said, "Okay, ma'am. I want you to double-click on this." And it wasn't working. It turns out she was tapping the mouse against her screen.
Deirdre: That's pretty funny.
Ninja: Yeah, that's pretty funny. There was one at Intel, I think it was on the news. This guy calls up for help and says, "Well, my computer's not turning on." The tech says, "Is everything plugged in?" And the guy looks and says, "Yeah, everything is plugged in." And the tech goes, "I'm going to ask you to look behind your computer," but everything was plugged in. So finally he says, "Sir, has there been a power shortage?" The guy says, yeah, the power was out, and the tech says, "You, sir, are too fucking stupid for your computer," and he got fired because he was being recorded.
Deirdre: Do they tell tech guys to preface sentences with phrases like "I'm going to ask you to..." and "Go ahead and..." at the beginning of sentences?
Ninja: No. But most techs do say "Go ahead and click here" and "Go ahead and open this." I think it's something where they're trying to be polite. But I usually say "I want you to do this." I believe in treating a person like they're a person and not some royalty.
Deirdre: How many calls do you get a day?
Ninja: The average is thirty. The most I ever got was thirty-six, and the day flew by. I loved it.
Deirdre: What's the average length of a call?
Ninja: You're only supposed to be on for thirteen minutes. Then, technically, you're supposed to pass it on to a senior technician. They get as much time as they want.
Deirdre: How long do you have to stay at your level before you can become a senior technician?
Ninja: Six months. Then you take a test and if you pass it and there's a slot available you can move up.
Deirdre: How much more would you get paid?
Ninja: A couple of extra dollars.
Deirdre: What do you think you'll be doing a year from now?
Ninja: I don't think I'll be at the same job, because when you learn to do something and apply yourself for seven months, you become an item. People want your ability.
Deirdre: So where would you go work?
Ninja: Maybe Intel. I think it would be very hard there, but you can make twenty dollars an hour and after a year another company will be willing to offer you twenty-five dollars an hour or more.
Deirdre: How much do you make now?
Ninja: Ten dollars an hour, which is pretty damn good, I would say. Close to twenty thousand a year, and I'm only nineteen.
Deirdre: Do you live with your parents?
Ninja: Yeah, but I could afford an apartment if I wanted. I'm trying to save up for a better car.
Deirdre: What do you drive?
Ninja: An '83 Toyota Camry.
Deirdre: What do you want?
Ninja: A '96 Subaru Legacy.
Deirdre: How much?
Deirdre: What's the average age of the people working in tech support?
Ninja: Fifteen to thirty. There are a couple of guys who are forty and there's a guy who's seventy, but I think he's just doing it for fun.
Deirdre: Do they have anything in common?
Ninja: The one thing they have in common is I can tell these people would not be able to function in a normal retail-type job where they had to deal with people face to face.
Deirdre: Why not?
Ninja: They're more of the introvert type of personality. They're more or less stereotypical nerds.
Ninja: Thirty, a little overweight, maybe glasses. I wear glasses, but I'm nowhere near a nerd. After your average guy's done working here he goes home and sits on the Internet, maybe does a little programming.
Deirdre: What do you do after work?
Ninja: I go home, play video games, and go to bed. But if it's a Friday night, I try to do something. Even if I get off at 10:30, I try to find friends who are out. I tend to go back to my old job.
Deirdre: What was that?
Ninja: A laser-tag place.
Ninja: People always say it's cool, but I didn't think it was. It's cool if you're not working there.
Deirdre: What else do you do?
Ninja: I go dancing.
Ninja: A club or a rave or somewhere where I can have freedom. I'm not the best dancer, but I get a lot of compliments. I'm not white. I mean, I am, skin-wise, but I don't believe how they say white guys can't dance. Music is my life. I want to produce and DJ, and do this Internet thing on the side.
Deirdre: What do you play?
Ninja: I have no musical ability as far as playing, but I do plan to take some classes. Have you ever had the experience where you can't sleep at night because you have so much music and voices in your head? I'm constantly thinking of stuff that's cool. Especially if I think it's funny, I'll write it down or I'll draw it if I have to.
Deirdre: What was your last cool thought?
Ninja: I get this magazine called "Toy Fair." Besides the pricing of the toys they have a fairly funny magazine. They take pictures of toys and put quotes above them. Yesterday I was sitting around and I had my old Star Wars toys out, and I actually started to play with all my toys and it brought back so many memories and I was thinking about an idea. I thought it would be funny to take pictures and submit them. So that was my last cool idea.
Deirdre: What are your other ideas like?
Ninja: Mostly lyrics for songs or raps. Mentally I don't store them, that's why I write them down, because I've got to keep my mind open for other things. I did write a poem recently. I met one girl who was kind of messed up in the head, and the first thing that caught my eye was her red hair. Are you a redhead?
Deirdre: Sort of reddish.
Ninja: I started talking to her for a little bit, and my friend gave me props for talking to her, even though everyone was there for the same reason, which isn't a very good reason to go to a club.
Deirdre: What's that?
Ninja: Sex. But I was just there to have fun. Then when I went home I was thinking she reminds me of a rose. It seems like it's becoming harder and harder these days to become romantic. But a woman is like a rose, sometimes deadly, sometimes elegant. So this phrase came to me, the only phrase to describe her, "Striking resemblance to a rose." So I wrote a poem. It's been a while since I've been able to write poetry. In high school it was all I ever used to do. Hold on, there's a millipede and I want to pick it up. I live out in the woods.
Deirdre: Where do you live?
Ninja: Sacramento. Oh, no, it's a caterpillar. It's one of those ones that if you squeeze it green stuff comes out.
Deirdre: How big is your building?
Ninja: Six stories. We take up four.
Deirdre: Where is it?
Ninja: It's in a business park. There's a bank building near it. It's a normal business-district-type place. There are restaurants everywhere around it. It's not bad, but it's definitely a residential area. It's close to downtown Sacramento.
Deirdre: Are you going to go to college?
Ninja: Not yet. I took a year off after high school, but I generally don't like school. In fact I hate school. I have a very big authority complex and I can't stand the structure of school. I'm pretty chaotic.
Deirdre: What do you mean, "chaotic"?
Ninja: There's times when I like structure and there's times when I'd rather be given a toothpick and glue and be told to make a bomb. I'd rather have that challenge than not have it. Not to get it throws me off and makes me less of a person, 'cause I live for living. I'm very much an individual.
Deirdre: Do you have a girlfriend?
Ninja: Not currently.
Deirdre: Have you ever been in love?
Ninja: Very much so, with my old girlfriend.
Deirdre: How did it end?
Ninja: She went to college in San Francisco. After she left, she came to see me every weekend, but things weren't the same. We could never get the same intimacy again. When I visited we could never really be alone, and all I missed was just holding her and just being with her. The fact is that when December came around I broke up with her.
Deirdre: Do you think you'll ever leave Sacramento?
Ninja: I plan to go to New York.
Deirdre: What's there?
Ninja: My life.