It was a Saturday. It was my day off, yet here I was on the bus to work cursing my bad luck at having yet another weekend interrupted by the insistence that no one else could do the job and that I was the best person for it. Which was bullshit, it was because I was the lowest paid member of the team and thus my time and a half was less than others time and a half. Or double time, as they usually had the balls to demand it. Me? I didn’t, as it was clearly well known that I needed the money and that I would never say no to the prospect of extra cash each month.
So it was another Saturday of cold calling potential clients and trying to sell them our wonderful network software. My position at the bottom of the monthly sales charts absolutely had nothing to do with having to work on Saturdays, oh not at all.
As I entered the doors of NoTech Software Solutions that fateful Saturday morning, I sighed heavily and anticipated a day of having the phone put down on me, variations on the theme of “I’m not interested”, feigned interest and outright rudeness. Same old, same old.
I was greeted by my boss, Simon, a short heavy set man of around fifty. He was sweating already, so I guessed that someone had hidden the remote control to his air-con unit. Again. I wrinkled my nose at the smell of his sweat.
“Ah, Eric” he said, rather too jovially for 9.00am, “Glad you could work today. As a reward, you’ll be the first to test our new phone system. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound like much of a reward but it’s really something quite divine compared to that old system we had.”
In the two years since I had started at NoTech, this was the first major investment that they had undertaken. Unless you count buying a year’s supply of paper in bulk to cut costs, though I suppose that that astute investment was negated by the fact that the company went paper free four months later.
“Well, I’ll need a quick demonstration as to how the system works before I use it,” I said, without much sincerity or expectation that my request would be honoured.
“Oh, no need,” he exclaimed with unnecessary joy, “It’s all automated – you speak the number or name, it dials. Simple as that. And as we don’t end calls here, the system is ready to use again as soon as the other person completes their sale.”
That last part was delivered with such a barbed form of optimism that I knew my days at NoTech were probably numbered in single figures.
I smiled at Simon, “Well, I’ll get to it then” and made my way to my terminal. As the computer buzzed and whirred into action, I looked at the new equipment that I would be imminently using. It was oddly retro looking, and certainly would not have been out of place in an 80s office. Once the computer was on and I was logged in, I decided to give it a quick road-test. I recited my number, and sure enough my home phone rang out and my answer phone kicked in after the standard four rings. I then spent a couple of minutes entering my details into the system and tested it by saying my name. Same result.
I was mildly impressed that NoTech had invested in something that was actually useful for a change. They generally were not too enthusiastic about labour saving devices. Though I was probably the labour that they’d save in a few days time when I was sacked for poor performance.
On with the job for today. I’d stick to businesses and shops for the first hour, as people at home didn’t beat around the bush with their pleasantries on a Saturday morning and I was not in the mood to be the subject of colourful language today.
I looked at my lead list and made the first selection. Not interested. Second selection. Already bought it. Third selection. My boss isn’t in, can you call back next week? Fourth selection. Not interested. And so it went. I had one person who feigned interest for a good 15 minutes before he tried a counter sale on me. I was so bored that in a moment of cranial weakness, I actually signed up to the book club he was promoting after being coerced to buy some weighty hardback science and history books that would look good on a shelf adding a nominal intellectual aura to my humble abode that no one ever visited.
Apart from the counter sale, the call pattern generally repeated for the next hour or so. I was unable to convince anyone to buy the software. At all. Not even close. It was time to try selling the home suite edition to the general public.
After about 15 calls of no sales, I once again wondered who put these leads together. It was the usual mix of lonely people that just wanted to talk to someone, people without computers and people that threatened you with cranial detachment followed by faecal abuse of your corpse if you ever called them again.
And then there was Neville Godfrey, also known as the last person I ever called for NoTech. I uttered his name and waited. The line briefly crackled as I waited for the connection to be made and then the ringing began. After two rings, the phone was answered. Not with a hello, but with two words, “Please hold”. I thought this strange for a residential number, and I mused that perhaps the number had been inputted incorrectly. I held anyway, and braced myself for some hideous Muzak or some coincidentally ironic music. Nothing came. I was all prepared to hang up when, after 15 seconds, the silence was interrupted by an ear shattering piercing noise. I tried to lift my hand to my ear to yank the earpiece out of my ear, but I realised that the noise had paralysed me. I was helpless. Only Simon could save me now and that was highly unlikely given that he had a propensity to disappear to coffee shops for hours on end.
Not only was I paralysed, but I was also beginning to hallucinate. Rather than my dreary office surroundings, all I could see around me now were swirling colourful vistas and strange imagery. As these colours became settled, I was aware of a stimulating energy spreading throughout my body. It felt as if everything inside me was trying to compact itself into a point behind my right eyeball, and just as it felt like my body was going to explode through that eye in a visceral red mess, the noise ceased.
I made to open my eyes, but they seemingly opened without the sensation of feeling like they had opened. What they saw on opening was not my office, it was the swirly colours I had experienced only seconds earlier. I tried to move other parts of my body, but again, all I could feel was the sensation of movement. It appeared that I actually had no physical form to move and that I was merely consciously present in a colourful array of patterns. It was also eerily silent, perhaps the only thing that I was thankful for given the annoying low-level tinnitus that I suffered from in human form.
In human form.
I’d rapidly come to the conclusion that I had transcended into some form of energy. I wondered if it was just me or whether it was the whole human race. If it was the latter, then I certainly could not sense anyone other than myself. And if it was the former, then I truly was in some kind of solipsistic nightmare.