Here’s how I expected the conversation to go:
PHIL: Hey, my name’s Phil. I’m one of your customers. I’m here to reclaim some sort of agency in this world that seems to be completely agnostic as to my existence.
PHONE STORE EMPLOYEE: Greetings, Phil. I am now scanning you to try to identify the best way to exploit you.
The phone store guy registered a brief look of disappointment. “You’re not a new customer.”
I explained to him that I was, in fact, an “old” customer.
The phone store guy made a few keystrokes. I imagined he was pulling up my silly face on his computer screen. I imagined his algorithms digging into my social records – Facebook, Twitter (obviously), LinkedIn, Google, Tumblr. It was probably all coming together to say, “This guy is kind of a mess. He can’t find a job he likes. He can’t properly connect with the people he loves. What’s he got going for him, anyway?”
The best way to exploit me?
Tell me there’s a way I could go back. Then I’m your customer for life.
I started imagining how this confrontation was about to go down.
“Well, how is it that I can help you?” he would ask.
“I want the 6 gigabytes for $60 a month,” I would say. “Plus the $20 monthly service charge.” As opposed to the same level of service that I was paying roughly $120 a month for.
And here’s what I expected him to say: “No can do, babydoll. That plan is for new customers. People we’re trying to lure into our web. You signed something when you were 17 years old saying you would abide by any arbitrary rules we throw at you. You’ll pay the $120 a month for the same level of service. Period.”
And this is where I would have my beserk button ready. “I’ll walk out,” I planned to say. “You think I haven’t figured out a few tricks to get by without a data plan? I’ll be a WiFi only guy. Who uses the phone anymore? And I mean, who’s really texting me? My friends, I guess, but my real friends – my real friends will find a wa-”
“Oh, you mean the way you kept all your friends when you shut down your Facebook after college?” Phone Guy would give me a pointed look. He’d point to his computer monitor with a smirk.
“No one goes fishing into obscurity just to find ol’ Phil, my friend,” Phone Guy would say.
And he’d be right.
I don’t remember much about Tuesday. I went to work. I felt some heartache. I didn’t tweet. It passed.
When I woke up the next night, there would be yet another mass shooting.
I had a late deadline, but had some time to meet with one of the Big Bosses.
Big Boss told me he remembered the holiday party nearly a year ago. “I was pleasantly surprised to see you teach the entire office how to salsa dance.”
This is a memory I don’t have.
Now, I remember trying to teach one girl in particular how to salsa dance. But at no time did I break out my 2011 Instructor Phil voice and charisma, which I needed to channel to show a group of people the basic. That guy was, mostly, dead.
But there wasn’t really time to ruminate on the past versions of myself who may never come to full fulfillment. Because Big Boss was telling me that I could use these alleged interpersonal skills to finally, finally, finally…
…Escape the night shift.
Earlier this week, I clicked on Worst Cooks in America on a whim. I burned through, like, 16 episodes in three days. I’m really starting to appreciate the function of reality TV in a well-balanced TV-consumerism diet. I think what I ended up liking best was seeing the progress. I’m, at best, one step above the worst cooks on their first episode. But then I see them change and grow and do things that people respect – It’s a more important narrative that I seem to be missing from all these dark and gloomy shows Netflix is trying to push on me.
I just tried not to think myself into a pit.
There’s nothing I can do. There are no “what ifs.”
I watched all three Star Wars prequels in a row at my high school friend’s housewarming party. Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones are even worse than I remember. One of the more unsettling feelings is that, mainly through criticism of the prequels, I’m so familiar with that awful backstory that I can’t actually imagine ignoring them as canon. It’s like….United States history. Once you find out the facts, it disgusts you, but you’re compelled to function within that context.
Revenge of the Sith held up okay, comparatively.
REWIND: MONDAY, WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
I was ready to give ’em hell. The Phone Guy would try to lay into my deepest insecurities. He’d try to make me feel guilty so that I’d keep shelling over my blood money and hang on to this tenuous connection to society – my smartphone.
It was going to be an epic battle. And really, these days, I needed a good fight.
“I want the 6 gigabytes for $60 a month plus the $20 monthly service charge.” I said. I looked him straight in the eye.
He looked back at me.
“We can definitely do that for ya!” He tapped a few keystrokes. And it was done.
…”Th…thank you.” I nodded at him and walked out into the sunlight. It was my last day of Thanksgiving vacation and it was bright and sunny out.
That night, I’d go back into darkness. For who knows how long.