LPO - LIFE PROCESS OUTSOURCING
( a fiction short story )
On the morning of New Year’s Eve, while I am loafing on Main Street, in Pune, I meet an old friend of mine.
“Hi!” I say.
“Hi,” he says, “where to?”
“Aimless loitering,” I say, “And you?”
“I’m going to work.”
“Work? This early? I thought your shift starts in the evening, or late at night. You work at a call center don’t you?”
“Not now. I quit. I’m on my own now.”
“On your own? What do you do?”
“LPO? What’s that?”
“Life Process Outsourcing.”
“Life Process Outsourcing? Never heard of it!”
“You’ve heard of Business Process Outsourcing haven’t you?”
“BPO? Outsourcing non-core business activities and functions?”
“Precisely. LPO is similar to BPO. There it’s Business Processes that are outsourced, here it’s Life Processes.”
“Life Processes? Outsourced?”
“Why don’t you come along with me? I’ll show you.”
Soon we are in his office. It looks like a mini call center.
A young attractive girl welcomes us. “Meet Rita, my Manager,” my friend says, and introduces us.
Rita looks distraught, and says to my friend, “I’m not feeling well. Must be viral fever.”
“No problem. My friend here will stand in.”
“What? I don’t have a clue about all this LPO thing!” I protest.
“There’s nothing like learning on the job! Rita will show you.”
“It’s simple,” Rita says, in a hurry. “See the console. You just press the appropriate switch and route the call to the appropriate person or agency.” And with these words she disappears. It’s the shortest training I have ever had in my life.
And so I plunge into the world of Life Process Outsourcing; or LPO as they call it.
It’s all very simple. Working people don’t seem to have time these days, but they have lots of money; especially those double income couples, IT nerds, MBA hot shots, finance wizards; just about everybody in the modern rat race. ‘Non-core Life Activities’, for which they neither have the inclination or the time – outsource them; so you can maximize your work-time to rake in the money and make a fast climb up the ladder of success.
“My daughter’s puked in her school. They want someone to pick her up and take her home. I’m busy in a shoot and just can’t leave,” a creative ad agency type says.
“Why don’t you tell your husband?” I say.
“Are you crazy or something? I’m a single mother.”
“Sorry ma’am. I didn’t know. My sympathies and condolences.”
“Condolences? Who’s this? Is this LPO?”
“Yes ma’am,” I say, press the button marked ‘children’ and transfer the call, hoping I have made the right choice. Maybe I should have pressed ‘doctor’.
Nothing happens for the next few moments. I breathe a sigh of relief.
A yuppie wants his grandmother to be taken to a movie. I press the ‘movies’ button. ‘Movies’ transfers the call back, “Hey, this is for movie tickets; try ‘escort services’. He wants the old hag escorted to the movies.”
‘Escort Services’ are in high demand. These guys and girls, slogging in their offices minting money, want escort services for their kith and kin for various non-core family processes like shopping, movies, eating out, sight seeing, marriages, funerals, all types of functions; even going to art galleries, book fairs, exhibitions, zoos, museums or even a walk in the nearby garden.
A father wants someone to read bedtime stories to his small son while he works late. A busy couple wants proxy stand-in ‘parents’ at the school PTA meeting. An investment banker rings up from Singapore; he wants his mother to be taken to pray in a temple at a certain time on a specific day.
Someone wants his kids to be taken for a swim, brunch, a play and browsing books and music.
An IT project manager wants someone to motivate and pep-talk her husband, who’s been recently sacked, and is cribbing away at home demoralized. He desperately needs someone to talk to, unburden himself, but the wife is busy – she neither has the time nor the inclination to take a few days off to boost the morale of her depressed husband when there are deadlines to be met at work and so much is at stake.
The things they want outsourced range from the mundane to the bizarre; life processes that one earlier enjoyed and took pride in doing or did as one’s sacred duty are considered ‘non-core life activities’ now-a-days by these highfalutin people.
At the end of the day I feel illuminated on this novel concept of Life Process Outsourcing, and I am about to leave, when suddenly a call comes in.
“LPO?” a man asks softly.
“Yes, this is LPO. May I help you?” I say.
“I’m speaking from Frankfurt Airport. I really don’t know if I can ask this?” he says nervously.
“Please go ahead and feel free to ask anything you desire, Sir. We do everything.”
“Yes, Sir. Anything and everything!” I say.
“I don’t know how to say this. This is the first time I’m asking. You see, I am working 24/7 on an important project for the last few months. I’m globetrotting abroad and can’t make it there. Can you please arrange for someone suitable to take my wife out to the New Year’s Eve Dance?”
I am taken aback but quickly recover, “Yes, Sir.”
“Please send someone really good, an excellent dancer, and make sure she enjoys and has a good time. She loves dancing and I just haven’t had the time.”
“Of course, Sir.”
“And I told you – I’ve been away abroad for quite some time now and I’ve got to stay out here till I complete the project.”
“I know. Work takes top priority.”
“My wife. She’s been lonely. She desperately needs some love. Do you have someone with a loving and caring nature who can give her some love? I just don’t have the time. You understand what I’m saying, don’t you?”
I let the words sink in. This is one call I am not going to transfer. “Please give me the details, Sir,” I say softly into the mike.
As I walk towards my destination with a spring in my step, I feel truly enlightened.
Till this moment, I never knew that ‘love’ was a non-core life process worthy of outsourcing.
Long Live Life Process Outsourcing!
Life Process Outsourcing (LPO)
(a fiction short story)