That night, as I lay in the bushes trying to sleep, I had a dream. I flew back to the world, this cruel world I had just left. What impact did my departure have on this? I decided to find out.
I flew to the hospital. It was still dark, so I thought Sam might be working. She wasn’t. She was promoted to hardware technician, my job. But what about the night shift? There is no more night shift. As I walked into the computer room, I saw that the dayend was running, but with no human operators in sight. It was all automated. I saw mechanical, robotic arms switch the tapes to prepare for the backups to come. I learned that the reports were distributed via e-mail now. Candace did it. Had I stayed, she might have granted my one wish to have weekends and holidays free. But I left too soon to find out.
My next stop was my apartment. It was still my place in spite of my eviction. I was in for a shocker. My apartment was gone. It was transformed into the landlord’s residence. Now the landlord can live and work in one spot. She could just open a door from what used to be my room and walk straight to her office. And the office got expanded to allow more room to walk. Best of all, she quit smoking. As I continued the exploration of my old residence, I learned that the residents who chased me out of my apartment were all evicted, too. The people who moved in were a nicer bunch. One neighbor was in the same class with me in high school. My next door neighbor was to play a role in helping me land the perfect job. And where would I have been moved to? I left too soon to find out.
Then I thought of my family. I flew to Tequesta to my parents’ house. The old house was still there. Except a playground stood in the backyard. Near the swings was a pond, which had some goldfish swimming in it. I went inside the house to find a completely different family living there. My parents were gone. They sold the house and moved. But to where? I left too soon to find out.
What if everyone acted the same way you do?
I had difficulty getting to work because of Northlake being full of reckless drivers. That was only the start of my day. As I left my driveway of my apartment complex, an approaching car made like it was going to ram into my car, but it steered clear in time. As the car passed, its driver stuck his middle finger up at me. I did nothing. This was my punishment, to be in a world full of people like me.
As I drove on Northlake, I saw that there were drivers standing outside their cars at the traffic lights, screaming, “Can I go now? Huh? HUH? CAN I GO NOW?” When the light turned green, all the drivers stuck up their middle fingers at the traffic light, got back in their cars and drove on.
The driving was horrible. All the other cars were speeding and making like they were going to hit each other. Amazingly, there were no accidents.
When I arrived at the hospital to clock in, I was unprepared for what was to see. As soon as I walked into the business office, I saw a moron being chased by Blanca, who was throwing batches of charges the moron had dropped off. “You ugly moron!” she screamed. “If you can’t count these charges right, go back to the zoo where you belong!” She paused. “Next to the MONKEYS!”
In my sketchbook is a section entitled “Political Cartoons From The Future” featuring President Alvin K. Smith, a very unpopular president from the year 3007. I imagined how his policies caused the country and the world to fall apart. I then sketched a series of political cartoons as a means of telling the story and not as a platform for my opinions. These cartoons were drawn about 7 years ago.
This first cartoon seems to foretell an actual news headline, but in President Smith’s case, he blocked immigration from all countries.
Then things get worse. President Smith would later sign a trade embargo against England, France and Germany.
Having severed its ties with the rest of the world, the U.S. would fall into a crippling economic depression.
Despite all the problems, President Smith was still optimistic about the economy.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, President Smith would later trip and fall in the Oval Office and “accidentally” press The Button to start World War 5:
And a weakened country with a poor economy, no troops and no weapons, is left completely defenseless.
Let’s just hope no more of these cartoons come true.
I was arrested
And charged with a Count To Five.
“One, two, three, four, five,”
The officer said
And then left.
Late last year I received a letter from the Department of Justice concerning First Choice Technical Support, which happens to be one of my former employers. This letter informed me that First Choice was under investigation for fraud and invited me to come forward as a witness. I did not respond to the letter as I was with First Choice for only three days and therefore had no information about the alleged fraud. In fact, this was the first time I heard about it.
I first found about First Choice from Craigslist, where I saw their ad for a tech support agent. I sent my resume in and got the interview that resulted in me getting hired on the spot. I was informed that my work schedule would be Tuesday through Saturday from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. I had mixed feelings about working those hours but I was desperate enough for a job to accept the offer anyway.
My employment began with some on-the-job training that took place during the day, where I was paired with a fellow agent to watch him work. He was connected remotely to the customer’s computer and ran various tools to clear it of junk files and unwanted programs. I would later notice that all the tools the agents used are freely available on the Web, which I listed in a later post.
In order to allow the agents to connect to the customer’s computer, the customer had to go to the First Choice web site to download some software that allowed the agents to connect remotely to that computer. This became known as a session, and there were multiple agents working on multiple sessions during their shifts. When all the work was done, the agent would call the customer back for a recap of the services performed as well as a summary of the bill.
By all accounts, it seemed like a legitimate company to work for. During one of my breaks, I met one of the assistant managers who was clearly excited about the way First Choice was growing and saw a very bright future ahead. He even assured me that I picked a good company to work for.
When I finished my third day of training, the hiring manager called me into his office and told me I was being let go. He didn’t think I was catching on fast enough, which was a bit of a surprise considering I was already working some of the sessions on my own. But that’s as far as I got. One more day and I too would have become one of the fraudsters, a thought that fills me with guilt and shame even to this day. It also would have left an indelible stain on my career.
But none of that matters now. First Choice was later found to be a tech support scam and forced out of business. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I were still working there.
Here’s one of my earliest short stories.
I have a ten year old brother named Alex. He wasn’t shy, but he always knew when to
act like someone who means business. My father is the mayor of the town of Juno Beach. We were expecting Valerie Yeager that night for dinner. She was hated by all, but she was a tax collector. Fat, ugly, and mean, she was a bad woman. She hated to talk about national issues. But Alex knew what to do. Before the lady came over, he blew up a whoopee cushion and stuck it in the guest chair. Then, Yeager came in. She was in a bad mood. When she came in, she yelled, “What’s for dinner?” without greeting anyone.
“I say!” said Pop. “Have you considered retiring?”
“No!” she screamed, and sat down. She was so heavy the whoopee cushion exploded. She jumped up and screamed, “I’ve resigned! I’ve resigned!”
“Good job, Alex.” said Pop.
Alex could only smile.
I asked my son
“Do you read?”
“Shame. If you don’t read, you will be lost
In a huge world of today.
If you don’t read, you will be poor
And be dumb.
You can’t survive!
You never can!”
The next day
I found him gone,
And found him,
buried in books,
At the library.
The kids ran
And found a place
They were having fun
And they were fleeing
As one by one kid
Tried to find a good
Place to hide
Then, as each kid
Tucked away in his place,
“Here I come! Ready or not!”
Then, the school bus
Zipped right past them.