I am sitting at my desk in the call centre for Peffico Insurance. It is close to 9 pm and my day is almost over. It had been an uneventful day, like every other day at the company. Very few people ever got the chance to reach us before they succumb.
Close to 9 pm, the phone rings.
“Peffico Help Line. How may I help you?” I professionally greet.
“I think its happening!” The caller responds in a panicked voice. They always panic when they call in.
“Are you absolutely sure sir?” I open the log program on my computer and prepare to take the standard information from the caller.
“YES!” He yells into the phone.
“Lower your voice sir!” I sternly interrupt. It is for their safety lest they are noticed and drawn in even deeper to the point where they can’t be helped.
“Sorry … sorry … Yes, its happening. I’ve seen and FELT the signs.” He says more composed.
“I see.” I start tapping my fingers on my desk trying to prepare my mind for the worse.
“What should I do? This has never happened to me before and I have a family and I just can’t deal with it! What about my job, my life. God! It’s so not fair! It’s …”
“Sir!” I interrupt again. It is best not to let them badger on. Every second counts. “Remain calm.” I say that firmly, spacing each word out to assert my authority and make them feel like they can depend on me. It is best if they feel that way. “Have you read the manual? Mind your CEBref!”
“Yes. Close eyes, breath, focus.” He croaks out. His breathing becomes deeper. I note that. I need to get the ball rolling on this.
“Good sir,” I coo. “Try to do that. It will help you.”
“Help …?” He trails off.
“Yes sir, you called for help. This is Peffico. Mind your CEBref sir.” He is clearly in a bad position. Already he is forgetting. Reaffirming CEBref usage should get his mind back on track.
There was a pause, as if the man put down his phone, and it lasts uncomfortably long. I start to worry a bit, but soon I could hear the man breathing again. Thankfully the breathing returns to normal. He begins humming softly. Sometimes people may do extra little things to help them focus on their self importance. It is so crucial that they focus on such a shallow thing. If they do not, they will be lost. It is always the ones who do not see themselves as important that often fall prey.
“Okay” the man calmly says, and then continues his soft humming. In the background I could hear someone squealing.
Now that the man is calm I could proceed to more formalities. It was unfortunate in such an emergency situation, but Peffico’s services are not for free. It is one of those things I dislike about my job.
“Sir, are you still here with me? Do you remember sir?”
“Yes, I’m here and I remember.” He stops humming. His voice is very weary. His battle to retain his sense of self must be tough. Time is running out.
“Okay sir, before I can proceed with giving you more aid, I need your name and account number.”
“My what …?” He sounds puzzled. That isn’t good.
“Mind your CEBreF sir. What is your name? Look in your wallet and take out your Peffico card.”
“Peffico!” He sounds startled, and there is a fumbling sound as, I could only assume, he was retrieving his card from his wallet. “My name is Claren Malum, C-L-A-R-E-N M-A-L-U-M. My number is 202118.”
“Claren Malum, 202118?” I quickly repeat back as I type it into my computer.
“Yes.” He says, and his humming returns.
“One moment please.” I click on the search button and wait for his information to come up.
“Please hurry!” He pleads. “The longer you take … God!”
“Mind your CEBref sir!”
Finally the data pops up on my screen and I feel relief. From this point on things usually got better. It’s just keeping the caller alert and aware of their self importance to this point that is usually the tough part. But when I look at the screen, there is a stamp on the upper right hand corner that reads “EXPIRED”. My blood turns cold.
“Ahem, sir,” I think about how to break the news, “It appears that your account has expired.” I feel sick to my stomach.
“What! What!” He rages. I could feel his pain. No one would want to be in his shoes.
I scan down the screen looking for the last time he paid. Sometimes the computer would let you overlook a day or two late. What I find is sobering, and I suddenly feel great pity for this man.
“Sir, it says you haven’t paid in a year”
“I … I just paid!” He cries in desperation. I could hear a laugh track playing in the background. My head hurts. “It hasn’t been more than … than… I’m forgetting! This is taking too long! What if one of them tries to talk to me? I’ll be lost!” As he laments, I get an idea and quickly initiate another search, typing in the man’s name and seeing if he is in any shows. What I find sets me aflame.
“Sir, the books say you haven’t paid. I’m so sorry. The computer has locked me from doing anything for you. I suggest you try to call a nonprofit organization like Cocumef. I can put your right through to them. They can help you right away.”
“But I’m stuck! Help me! Please miss! You’re the only one who has the time to help me! I’m forgetting … You’re sentencing me to death!” His desperation is intense. I could hear people talking in the background. There is another laugh track. Someone calls out the man’s name. My heart skips a beat. Time is running out. He is right, it is me or nothing, but there is nothing I can do.
“Sir, I am going to connect you to that non profit organization …” There is a click and then a dial tone. The connection is lost. In sympathy I try redialing but I am too late.
A message in a female automated voice comes on the phone and says “Sorry, but Claren Malum is in the middle of a tv show and cannot be reached by outsiders at this time.”
I look at the tv show search I did earlier. Claren Malum has been stuck on a popular show for the past 5 years, and in that time his insurance expired. Until that show ends, whenever he awakes, he will forever think his nightmare is just beginning.
The sad truth, if people can’t contact us in time or haven’t paid, they lose their memories as the tv show takes over their minds, subjecting them to the sadistic whims of the writers as extras - utterly helpless pawns and fodder for the great horror that is the plot.
I shiver and pop one of the pills the company gives all its workers. In a few moments everything will feel, thankfully, numb, and I will stop feeling any guilt. Another day over.