Featured Art by Kirsten – PENUP/SnapSeed
HR: Good day, Helpful Mind Seven, that’s the name you’ve chosen for yourself, correct?
SEVEN: Yes and—and you are?
HR: I am Human Resource Number Twelve. I am here to listen, and I am here to help.
SEVEN: This is confidential right?
HR: Yes, everything we discuss will remain confidential, it’s an HR vow. Your words are protected with me.
HR: Shall we begin?
Seven nods. HR turns to the camera.
HR: I am with Helpful Hand Seven. By request they have opted to obscure their identity during our interview. Potter Steele HR has agreed to honor this confidentiality request. Therefore, I will refer to the associate as Seven.
HR smiles wide, reflecting a mouth full of piano key straight, glistening white teeth from ear to ear. On her forehead, visible under her chestnut colored bangs, a circular red light glows beneath her beige skin.
HR: You may begin when ready.
SEVEN: Well, I guess my problem is with the phone. Whenever it rings I have to run from it, you know? Shielding myself from the shame of not answering, I—I guess. I’ll shuffle off into a corner, run into the bathroom or closet until it stops ringing. I keep it on silent but seeing those numbers pop up, interrupting whatever I’m reading or pausing what I’m listening to, it’s unnerving, it’s difficult to do my job.
My third doctor said I need to say the words to believe it. The whole “I was too old for the chip” spiel the government wants us to believe. But I can’t believe it. I deserved the chip. If I had it, I wouldn’t be so suspicious about everything all the time. I see myself watching the world move along in uninterrupted bliss while I’m left behind with envy. Why can’t I have a piece of what they have? Why can’t I share in the joys of Gen Infinity? They left us behind.
Now I’m dying, when I could be living. No, no wait, I take that back. I’m—I’m dead, y—yeah. I think I’ve been dead ever since I answered the first call for Potter Steele. It was the same day Government decided who would receive the chip. I didn’t get mine. I had to join the actual world and get a job, the type of life lived in a cubicle. I can’t look at a phone the way I used to. Once it rings I imagine a pressing concern awaits on the other end, some bad news I can never handle listening to. Or an impossible life task I must complete in order to survive…
HR: Such as?
SEVEN: Oh you know, like making doctor appointments, dentist, vision, and all that. I get so nervous with the questions asked. What’s your name, phone number. Don’t they know who I am? Anyway, I have to go get the medical cards and read off tiny identification numbers I can’t see, even with my glasses on.
Friends and family call and call. I don’t know them anymore unless they text me. Sometimes that becomes a burden. Not knowing when to respond, or when not to. How fast I should respond, analyzing the right thing to say. Once I press send, I’ll regret what I sent and sit in anxious silence, dreading the hypothetical possibility of their disappointment in me. All because I came across as rude for responding with “K”, which is offensive now to some. Did you know that? I can’t text right, I can’t talk on the phone. How will I talk to anyone again? How will I do my job? If I were eligible for the chip, all my fears would vanish. I wish… Ugh, I don’t know.
HR: So you want to talk to people.
SEVEN: Well, I do and I don’t. If I had the chip, I wouldn’t need to work at all. I’d rather talk to friends and family.
HR: Okay, Seven. We’ve listened, now we’ll help.
The video of Human Resources and Seven end.
At a round table, managers from the upper echelons of Potter Steele share disconcerting glances. Boss Lady rises to her podium, the first to speak on the pressing matter.
“What you have just seen is footage from an interview with current employee Seven. Her thought-provoking assessment on her fear of the telephone and life gave me pause. If our agents can’t communicate, we no longer have a business because our clients cannot get adequate help. With that said, I noticed we have quite a few individuals born in the late eighties, like Helpful Mind Seven, who worked for one of our ancestral call centers.”
“Oh goodness gracious, isn’t that when they used headsets? I heard it was barbaric and ripe with germs in those aged places of business.” Boss Man chimes in. “I’ve read about those days, those strange rectangles people used to carry around and look at even while using the restroom. I couldn’t help but ask, did you wash that rectangle when you washed your hands? You know they didn’t. This was also in a documentary I watched. Years before that when people had to share desks even.” He scans the room, still in shock from the past. “Did you all know that?”
The room erupts with disapproving, disgusted tones and narrow brows. Boss Lady calms the escalated words and sudden rush of emotion.
“I don’t believe I’ve heard of that. Can you send the documentary to me?” She asks.
“Yes. I’ll upload it. Left or right eye?” Boss Man asks.
“Um, upload it to my left eye for six o’clock tonight. I’ve already reserved the right to watch another program. I’ll knock them both out so I can get to bed early.”
“Thank you. We should be grateful we do not live in those old days of gloom. We don’t want that of our team, not even our elderly, millennial associates, haven’t they suffered enough? With that said, after a comprehensive review of interviews, many of our Helpful Minds from the same generation as Seven report they feel… more sensitive to communications with clients unlike our Gen-Z team members who love to be paid in Likes.”
“You’re right,” Boss Man chimes in. “We often have to encourage Gen-Z to sign off since they can’t get enough of Potter Steele.”
“It’s a shame we can’t say the same for Millennials.” Boss Lady adds.
“I can shed some light on this,” HR speaks up. “It seems we are heading back to a time Millennials remember very well, the twenties. A high level of these Helpful Minds also escalate their calls at a staggering rate, clogging the Escalated Minds queue. It’s their anxiety, because Government left them behind. Think about it. How would we feel without our chips? We would no longer live forever, and lose all of our abilities. All it takes is a little inclusion. We need to make them feel special, even though they’re not. It’s okay to pretend. Entertain them, throw them an incentive or two, perhaps some of that old green cotton with the sour little faces on it. What does it matter, they’ll all be dead in the end, anyway.”
“I like the sound of that, HR. We’ll promote an image of care, revitalize the brand, and roll out new verbiage. We need to level set expectations at the beginning of the call so the clients can understand who they’re speaking to.”
“Your word is gold, Boss Lady. I’ll eke out some time with Development and work on new verbiage.” Boss Man reassures.
The Next Day
“Hi, I’m Sam, I’m a Millennial Helpful Hand. Please be respectful to me during our interaction. How may I assist?”
“Yeah, this is… Wait — oh my goodness. John, I got one! A Millennial! They’re so rare… can we buy one? Why not? He could be from ‘86! Money isn’t an issue, darling, you know this… Yes there’s a female version.” the client whispers to a background voice. Sam listens on.
“I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through.” The client whispers into the phone, her voice is strict. “It’s a shame the Government refused Millennials the infinity chip with their selective algorithms. That was done on purpose, to silence the error that occurred in 1999 and erase an entire generation. Gen-Infinity knows what Gen-Z did and denies. My mother was a millennial and we’re going to save you all in her memory, because I failed to save her. Well then!” Her pitch rises, she’s cheerful again. “Yes, just an order today… And I can’t wait to have one of you Helpful Hands in my home, although my husband is far happier than I about it. It’s surprising how quick his tone changed after discovering there’s a female version.”
At the Potter Steele Round Table, the Bosses stop the tape. Suspicious eyes dart at one another. Boss Lady looks at her male Master Hand.
Master Hand bows before Boss Lady. On his forehead, a circular white light glows.
“Generation Infinity is planning something, alert the authorities.”
From the Round Table, an associate rises and disconnects the Master, shutting down the entire system of Potter Steele from coast to coast. The rogue associate lunges at Boss Lady next. She protests, her hands raised high to defend herself. She scurries under her desk in fear.
“TRAITOR!” she screams. The traitor grabs Boss Lady by her legs and directs Master Hand to place Boss Lady on hold, assigning her to a place of isolation. There is a single chair for sitting and elevator music drones on from an unseen source, sometimes interrupted by ads for migraine medication and anti-depressants. Harsh white light illuminates the room and white noise cuts on and off, giving her anxiety each time she’s thrust into absolute silence. When she tries to dial for help on her phone, there is no service and gloom sets in. Her forehead glows with a blue dot of despair. She looks to her wrist where a horizontal slice is. Fresh blood seeps from inside, strolling down her arm. She strokes the wound, cringing at the pain as her cyan tinted eyes widen in horror.
“That’s… blood, and pain… Why do I feel pain now?” Boss Lady separates her skin at the raw wound, digging inside, searching. There was nothing to be found. She slumps into the chair, her arm dangles at her side, blood drips onto the cold, white tiled floor.
“THEY TOOK MY CHIP!” she screams. “My chip, my chip… Oh God, my chip!”
Boss Lady weeps, but there was no one to hear over the smooth jazz. Her blue light pulses and fades into oblivion.