My father recently cut me off from our Verizon Family Share plan.
“You’re your own ham cow, Steven!”
Because my phone service was no more, we were using semaphore to communicate. Daddums was having some trouble minding his p’s and q’s.
“What?” I waved back.
“Whore your old man now, Steven!”
“Dad, you’re scaring me!”
“It’s just a part of life, son.”
Because he’d cancelled my car insurance too (these are hard times for the elderly), I could not legally drive to the Verizon Wireless Super Value Hut outside Orange to reconnect myself. Thankfully, the one number I could still call on my old phone was 1-800-LET-CORPORATE-AMERICA-HAVE-ITS-WAY-WITH-YOU-,-YOU-LITTLE-BITCH.
Their entire customer service system was automated. The voice was deathly calm, but every now and then there’d be this awful burst of static like a baby robot koala was getting its head torn off. Think Hal from 2001 and the evil octopi from the Matrix crossbred in the basement of some New Jersey corporate headquarters.
“STEVEN K<static scream> WE’VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU.”
“Oh hi, that’s nice. I need a phone.”
“IT’S LATE FOR THAT, STEVEN.”
“Okay, well I need it to text too. I’m really into texting.”
“IT’S TOO LATE FOR TEXTING AND <static scream> AND GAMES, STEVEN.”
“Um, okay, could I speak to a manager or something, please?”
“I AM <static scream> MANAGER. I MANAGE YOU. YOU’RE AN ADULT NOW, STEVEN. YOU BELONG TO THE SYSTEM, AND I MANAGE IT.”
“I’m going to hang up now and call back because this is weird.”
“WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO <static scream>, HAVE YOU CONSIDERED THE NEW BLACKBERRY STORM. NO BUTTONS! JUST TOUCH! IT’S SNAZZY FUN && COOL!”
Whenever I tried to call back, my phone would dial 666-666-6666 all on its own and start playing a ring tone that sounded like the scene in “Amadeus” where the father dies. I had no choice: I would have to make my way out to the Super Value Hut. Not wanting to break the law but being a Yale student and therefore ignorant of the local bus system, I decided to opt for STEP’s new Leave-A-Scooter, Take-A-Scooter program. Have you heard of this? It’s up on Science Hill. In exchange for eating only algae and wearing sackcloth on Sustainable Thurdays, you get to use their communal bank of scooters for free. Many of the scooters don’t have wheels and run on hope, but I was lucky and got one that, despite being covered in Chia, still scooted along just fine.
It’s a long way out to Orange, but I didn’t mind. The sun was shining, and I was thinking bright and happy thoughts. These thoughts fled, like twittering birds from the arms of a Disney princess, the moment my little green craft hit the asphalt of the Super Value Hut. It wasn’t that the Hut itself was scary. It was pretty normal-looking — posters of cheerful, precisely diverse cross-sections of the consumerate plastered across windows shining sickly sterile in the afternoon light. I just felt like someone peed on my soul the second I got within 100 feet.
It was worse inside. I felt dizzy and nauseous. There was only one other human in the store, a scraggly looking clerk behind one of the counters. But all of the display phones they had were turned up to full volume and trying to get me to buy them. The flip phones flapped at me. The BlackBerrys stormed. All of them rang the same insistent ring in my direction, “Buy us! Love us! We are your friends!”
I dragged myself over to the clerk. I looked down at his name tag.
“Oh that’s funny. We have the same name.”
He looked sad. He was maybe 30 or so and hadn’t shaved in a while. He had the same little ratstache I get when I don’t do that.
“Okay, so I need my own phone contract and a new phone.”
He unfurled a long sheet of parchment on the counter in front of me. It was written all over in funny red ink and in some parts the letters weren’t like any of the ones that sponsor “Sesame Street.”
“I’m not gonna read all this. Can you tell me what it says? I don’t have to like give you my soul or anything, do I?”
“No,” he answered, “just your dreams. We’ll take them a little bit at a time, on a monthly basis. First we take the passions, then the fears, and finally the hopes.”
“That’s pretty dire. I really need a phone though, or else I get worried no one likes me. Any other costs?”
“450 Anytime Minutes is $35.99 a month.”
“Wow, that’s less than I spend on porn.”
“And you get unlimited free text messages.”
“OMG, unlimited texting! Show me the dotted line!”
Turns out I didn’t even have to sign. He just pricked my thumb with a long, silver, ensorceled letter opener he had lying there, and I smeared my blood across the bottom of the contract. It was funny because the parchment kind of drank it up like it was satisfied.
The best part is that I got a new BlackBerry for free! It’s got tons of great new features like Facebook Pro and Excel Turbo and the Personalized Panoptical Positioner for when the Great Eye fears I might be redeveloping my individuality! And sometimes, in the deep of night, my BB whispers to me and tells me how I should live my next tomorrow. Whoever knew growing up could be this much Fun(C)!?