Madness In The Time Of The Pandemic

The cable was the first to go. She got tired of looking at the distorted, overly pixelated faces. Tired of waiting for the actors’ actions to catch up their dialogue. The cable TV person said “there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it x10” and so she canceled it.

I’ll read a book. Or be the artist I always wanted to be. Write that bestselling novel. But she still had streaming video through her Blu-ray player. Her art supplies lay untouched after she dug them out of the box. Books were stacked around her house, unread. But she did write. She had articles and stories accepted, and she was hard at work on a full-length manuscript (x10). She had a typewriter, and paper and pen to keep her away from the distractions of the internet.

But the internet didn’t like being neglected. And she needed it to be a writer: platform x10, you know. And so she sat and waited for webpages to load. Stared at the little circle going around and around. For four hours. For four years. It was just like the good old days of dial-up and Netscape. But she couldn’t stand it anymore. Because, of course, “there was nothing wrong with it x10” according to the big-name internet provider. And so she cancelled it.

And she was able to get online at another location, where the internet only took an hour to load. A vast improvement to watching the hourglass turn itself over for four hours. But she lost followers. And what few friends she had. “Why didn’t you respond to my social media posting? x10” until they disappeared into the internet void.

But she still had her cell phone. The phone continued to ring. And she continued to answer it.

“Hello?” she asked.

“Hel—” and the phone crackled and went dead.

She called back in case it was a potential employer from a state that had internet and cell phone service and cable.

It was an employer. Or the employer’s voice mail, anyway. She left a pleasant, professional message that hid the fact that she was down on her knees, sobbing and begging “Please hire me x10” in her head. She waited eagerly to check her email. But there was only the “Unfortunately-you-were-not-selected-the-company-has-moved-on-in-its-hiring-process” email notification (x10), probably because the twenty-five minute “customer service” screening test she’d already taken x10 times now took an hour. If she was lucky.

The phone rang again. Maybe it was the employer calling back. But it was a telemarketer. Who could hear her perfectly clearly, and wanted to offer her a free cruise ship vacation. Where, at least, she would have internet access. But she hung up all the same.

Then the pandemic came. The governor of New Mexico said “stay at home,” (and, work remotely from home) even though most of the population of New Mexico couldn’t get internet service and cell phone service and cable service. And nobody wanted to talk to her unless it was through Zoom. Unless it lecture her about how she needed to get online and check her email x10.

Then the pandemic was lifted. She packed up her cell phone, her computer, and her Blu-ray player* into her car. And she drove and drove and drove into town. Drove into the big-name internet, cable, and cell-phone provider. As usual, when she arrived, all the staff was running outside to take cigarette and lunch breaks. Except for one staff person, who was pretending to be invisible behind the counter. She stepped out of her car. Broken glass from the plate glass window she’d driven through crunched under her feet. She looked down at the staff person, hunkering down behind the counter and sobbing and begging.

“Can you hear me now,” she yelled, loud enough so they would listen.

*At the time of the submission, the Blu-ray player, which wasn’t even more than six months old,
died. And not because I hurled it through a storefront window. It just died an unnatural death due
to planned-obsolescence causes.

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