Another Today in a String of Thousands

Another Today in a String of Thousands

by Mark Driver

It was about 10:00 am, wakey wakey time for Mr. Markey, and the telephone rang. Shuffling across the hardwood floor in my dirty bare feet, kicking empty plastic bags, a big wooden fork, and animals of varying sizes along the way, I scooped the phone from its cradle and powered it up.

10:00 calls aren’t so strange for me. 5:30 am calls aren’t strange from me. I’ve got a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, and when Get-Ahead-Suzie calls me nice-n-early from New Yuck Shitty with a paying gig, I’ve got the “Mmm. It’s 5:30 in the morning here. Email me at blah blah blah” speech which is great because they usually (but not always) feel bad for calling so early, and I start with a bit of an upper hand. I have found, however, that saying “Jesus Christ! It’s only 10:00 am out here!” failed to garner the same sympathy, so I started getting up at 10:00, which is a nice time to get up, as long as you can manage to fall asleep by 4 am, which I can usually manage.

The voice was an enthusiastically recorded computer voice:

“This is not a solicitation! Please hold the line for a very important call!”

I held the line for a very important call.

I love talking to telemarketers. They come into your house, and you can be the biggest fuck in the universe. If I’m bored when they call, I ask them a lot of personal questions – if they like their job, if it was hard cold calling people, if maybe there wasn’t something they’d like to be doing more, something artistic or something. They usually hang up on me. That’s a good feeling, when they hang up on you. The quickest way to clear any line, if it’s a female caller, is:

“My cock is out and I have clothespins on my balls.”

“Thank you sir, have a nice day.”

Click.

If it’s a man:

“What sort of things would you put up your ass? How about my cock?”

“Thank you sir, have a nice day.”

Click.

And suddenly, all those conversations you had with the manager to be removed from the calling list are enacted, and that particular company stops bothering you, lest they loose all their employees to ear rot and self-destructive homoerotic fantasies. I suppose in the United States of Litigation, it could end up in some salty lawsuit, but I’d expect the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to have been interrupted at home by “exciting opportunities” enough times that somehow every member of that calling company would get the gas chamber.

I held the line for a very important call.

“Mr. Driver, before I can talk to you, I must confirm your identity. Please give me the last five numbers of your credit card.”

“Who is this?”

“I cannot tell you until I can confirm your identity.”

“Oh, OK, some guy calls me on the phone and asks me to give my credit card number and I’m just supposed to tell you? Who the hell is this?”

“It is a violation of Federal Law for me to tell you who this is unless I can confirm your identity.”

“Which Federal Law?”

Hesitation.

“Federal Law.”

“Give me a number and I’ll call you back.”

“I can’t do that.”

“What is the nature of your call, and how did you get my credit card number in the first place?”

“I’m calling from WNI Financial.”

“Oh, oh. You just broke a Federal Law.”

“Sir, I just need to confirm – ”

“No. I’m not telling you shit. Send it by certified mail. If it’s important, FedEx Overnight it to me. Come by the apartment yourself. I’d love to meet you. We can have high tea and crumpets.”

Silence. He didn’t have much to say about the exiting offer at this point.

“Sir, I just need to know – ”

“No. I’m not going to tell you. This is some sort of scam, isn’t it?.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Well, I’m not going to give you this info over the phone.”

He hung up.

Let me tell you how this scam works.

A bunch of guys come across a bunch of credit card numbers, either by hacking databases, digging through trash at the dump, paying off someone at a store, etc. These numbers only have a number, a name, and sometimes a zip code on them. The crooks need to match them with billing addresses to use them in most places. So what they think “OK, here we have Mark Driver. Not a whole lot of those in this zip code.” And they call up every Mark Driver in the phone book and try to match him with the credit card number. They put a few little touches on it to create the illusion of being legit, and count on people to be suckers.

And most people are so fucking stupid, they think “Whoa. This sounds official.” They want to be nice. They want to be pleasant. They want to win something. They’re scared they’re going to get in trouble. They respect the worlds of business and officialdom, and that’s used against them. And they end up fucked, talking to some other bastion of officialdom to fix the situation, pathetically pleading their case for the green rubberstamp across the forehead. “I was just trying to follow the rules.”

And then I go to get the mail. It’s from the day before, because I’m the worst at remembering to get the mail, and there’s an official looking letter from ATT Cellular marked ‘Your New Cell Phone Has Shipped!’ I said, out loud:

“Raaaaarrr! Those fucking idiots! I didn’t order a cell phone from them!”

I called the number to stop the shipment, and, surprise surprise, there is no cell phone headed my way. This is apparently a new promotional tool. ATT makes someone think that there’s been a mistake, and then tries to sell them when they try to correct it.

“Can I tell you about our One Rate -”

“So there isn’t a cell phone on the way?”

“No but there can be with -”

“You people disgust me.”

Click.

I hung up first this time.

And then, someone from my bank, the nice, local, independent bank that I keep my money in because they’re cool and nice and actually recognize me and don’t automatically think that a guy in a Mayhem T-shirt with a check larger than $50 is a criminal, calls me and tries to sell me life insurance.

“Are you sure you’re from my bank?”

“Yes, this is Carol.”

“What does this have to do with my checking account?”

“Nothing. We are just offering this great benefit to our customers.”

“Oh, no thanks, Carol.”

“But what if you died tomorrow?”

“Excuse me?”

“If you died tomorrow, would your family be provided for?”

“Are you threatening me?”

“No, of course not.”

“Good.”

I hang up first this time again.

I turn on the radio while making lunch and listen to the news. ABC reports to me that:

“Deafening Boos were heard in the audience during a Bruce Springsteen’s concert when he performed “American Skin”, a song that criticizes the police handling of New York City’s Diallo case”.

For the under-rock dwellers, the Diallo case is one where an unarmed immigrant man was shot at 41 times while trying to pull out his wallet for officers, reminding us all of the cop truth that ‘white guy goes for his belt, it’s a wallet, black guy goes for his belt, it’s a gun’. Say what you will about a cop working a tough job, Diallo had a bullet go through the bottom of his foot. You figure that one out.

Now why, of all things, was that story reported? Surely some chemical plant is causing tumors in Arkansas or something. Is it because an influential rocker that has sway with Joe Shitworker is coming out against state-sponsored violence? Were there really lots of boos? I read some reports online that seemed to state most of the boos came from police officers attending the concert who are in the process of organizing a boycott against Springsteen. Hmm. The radio report went on to say that Bruce had also penned “Born in the U.S.A.”, and made it sound strange that someone so patriotic would write a song critical of the “justice system”. They failed to mention that “Born in the U.S.A.” isn’t exactly the most patriotic of tunes and has been completely co-opted into a National Loyalty Remix where American Flags are waved in front of an endless loop of The Boss singing the words “Born in the U.S.A.” with military snare rolls in the background while ABC shoots footage of the little blonde kid eating ice cream, crookedly waving a little miniature flag. According to ABC, “Born in the U.S.A” is good, many people disagree with Bruce Springsteen, and anything done to you by police officers or any other “official” is not to be questioned.

I ate lunch and then, exhausted, took a nap. I woke up with my cat punching me in the nose because I had the audacity to fall asleep on top of her favorite pipe cleaner, which she had ignored for 4 days prior to me sleeping on it. I scratched my head and came over here to write.

Scratch. Sigh.

Talk about the decline of society has been popular ever since God crawled out of a swamp and started having babies with the dinosaurs. When someone from above talks of societal decline they usually revolve around things people do to enjoy themselves, having sex, taking drugs, and watching violent movies, as if hairy Mr. Homo Erectus wasn’t out there eating a pile of fermented berries getting his rod wrapped by the missus, or the Romans were really into chastity and temperance. By the time most people are in a place where they actually care whether or not society is going in the toilet, they’re not getting laid, they’re not getting high, and they’re not watching Dumb and Dumber on TBS at 2 am because they have to get up in the morning and start complaining.

If you’ve got something to lose, you cease to become objective.

Apparently, they hearken back to an era where propriety had it’s place, where poor people killed each other in competition for jobs they would eventually die at, a time where kids lost fingers in linen mills, where it was OK to lynch black people for having the gall to claim to be a part of humanity, where people attended church out of terror for their souls, where political and economic dissent was squelched with police massacres, American Legion led mob violence, and officers of the Pinkerton Detective Agency machine gunned down stiking mine workers. Where a massively constricting class conformity demanded smiles, home baked brownies, and Leave-It-To-Beaver haircuts from everyone.

But you’ll notice that it’s always something that you’re doing that’s bringing everyone down. It couldn’t be, say corporations who treat employees like interchangeable parts less valuable than the machines they work on, a military burning farm boys and ghetto kids across the ocean to propagate the economic interests of a few select Americans, healthcare systems that pay doctors to cheap out on your health, schools that leave you economically useful but clueless about living, media that distorts and censors to ensure its own profitability, politicians that smoke dope and snort blow keeping the rest of us in jail for doing the same, the glamorization of the rich regardless of the ethicality of their rise to fortune, the millionaire status of homicidal athletes who elude prison because they can catch a ball, companies like Levis plastering their ads with American flags while closing down American factories and moving them overseas where 8 year old children don’t mind working 18 hour days, news reports that sensationalize violence making everyone who can afford it cocoon themselves in a cultureless suburban compound, a President who bald face lies to the people like a punch drunk guilty boyfriend ….

Nah, it’s my fault. I live with my girlfriend and drink a lot of beer. Heh.

ATT, a stalwart corporation of America, backbone of technological development in the 20th Century, is pulling the same cons on me that the creep digging through the dumpster behind my apartment is pulling. My bank is emulating the guy who pounded on my door and tried to sell me half a frozen, rotten cow last week. ABC, a company with the enormous responsibility of supposedly providing the truth, must think it has a “higher purpose” of social control beyond distributing the truth and letting the public decide. We have a “higher purpose” to thank for Jonestown, fundamentalist terrorism, and the Third Reich.

And I’m supposed to give one shit whether this society falls apart or not?

People emulate the actions of institutions. The greed of the looters emulates the greed of Wall Street. The thoughtlessness of the rude lady in front of you emulates the thoughtlessness of the factory that sent her job to a Myanmar labor camp. The glib, disconnected way people float through their days emulates the glib, disconnected way television entertains them. The government lies and so do I. It doesn’t excuse people for their actions, it explains their actions. Capitalism is selling itself right down the toilet, and getting an excellent price for it I might add.

Especially today. It’s not even 2 yet. The sun’s shining outside. The lakes need some swimming and somewhere there’s a keg of beer swelling with excess. Clean pair of shorts, tall cup of coffee, piles of amazing books that need reading. I haven’t called in to work yet.

I don’t think I will.