Oh dear, well, this is daunting. I started making a list and checking it twice, trying to determine who is naughty and who is nice. On the entire planet, people. Decided it was high time to prioritize, given my age, my thoughts on the quality of all the ways technology has failed. Be right back, phone is ringing...it's only the 400th time a recording has called to warn us to check our credit rating, on a Saturday no less, right before the nights before Christmas.

I'm not exaggerating, just rounding up to the nearest even number, from 350. Yesterday, some robot claiming to be from the FBI called about a home security system. I need to pay for this? I've got four cats and three men, plus killer-like reflexes since I'm a mother and grandmother. You know what they say about taking a grenade for someone, standing in front of a train for someone. (That's a separate list.) My son walks in and asks what I'm doing. Currently, I am trying The Teenager Version of Do Unto Others. "Nothing", I say. He comments on my t-shirt, which was one of his brother's, your basic black but with three human skulls, connected by interwoven barbed wire through the eye sockets. I sip my coffee, in my Grandma mug, with flowers on it. "Goes with the whole Grandma look", he says, eyeing my camouflage sweat pants.

So back to the quality of life list, please press three. Three gets me a recording saying all representatives are busy, then holiday music, loud holiday music. So loud, I could hold the phone in one hand and make an omelette with the other while waiting. Meanwhile,..." the moon on the breast of the new fallen snow gives a lustre of mid-day to objects below "...and a representative answers the call in the tiniest voice ever, asks twenty questions whose answers can only be numbers. (I think briefly of the credit card call and the fake FBI robot, but figure if someone wants to steal my identity or remove things from my house, it might not be such a bad thing.)

She tells me she can barely hear me so I apologize for having a sore throat and laryngitic voice. She says she used up all of her sick days and still has the flu, her kids are home on medicine, and the babysitter refused to come. Husband bailed before the third child was born, diagnosed with spina bifida, the only son. Family somewhere far away. I'm thinking perhaps technology is something this woman clings to, " to the top of porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all! As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky..."

She thanks me for being a customer and if she has resolved the situation I called about. This is rote, they all are required to say it, but before saying yes, I wanted to encourage her to keep holding on, to her children, technology, dry leaves meeting obstacles mounting to the sky, whatever it is that will make her tiny voice stronger.

«Wait, what?»

Of course, the phone didn’t answer her. She went quickly through surprise, shock/embarrassment and relief: no one heard her dumb question.

But the question remained, just not in a form that she could perceive. Humans perceive questions as language and mostly process them as part of a whole, needing an answer. Humans perceive questions as letters, syllables, or fluctuations in air pressure, or something else that ultimately ends up in the brain.

There’s a particular kind of being that comes into being by virtue of a vacuum that needs to be filled. A question is often a good enough vacuum, small enough to go unnoticed by larger, avid beings like local gods. A little some-thing popped into existence with the same certainty and memories as if it had always existed.

After all, why wouldn’t it? It’s obvious that this «Wait, what?» had a different meaning than the one uttered an ocean away, on the subject of a badly translated kitchen order. Even though the words were simple, they hid a whole building of facts, assumptions and previous knowledge. The foundation for that question had been laid years and years before, it was merely an accident that she was the first one to listen to the IVR recording.

But someone had put the recording in place. Someone who wanted to raise the point that:

  • Technology whatever it may mean,
  • can affect the quality of life of an abstract person or group,
  • was meant to improve such quality of life again, semantics,
  • and has failed to do so.

«Thank you! Your question has been recorded. You are being forwarded to an agent. Please hold, your call is very important to us…»

DemonCrawl ⇐ Part of Brevity Quest 2020 (283 words) ⇒ If You Have to Ask

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