xina had heard bad things about planet e, and especially about the city of satan which was its capital and largest city, but she had nowhere else to go. she was a big girl, she had been out of work for months and her mother would not support her any longer.
her cousin, mary lou, had gotten a job for xina on planet e , and she expressed the hope that xina could do the job and not make her, mary lou, look bad.
xina arrived on planet e and found her way to the office where she was to work. the office had a number on its door, but did not seem to have a name.
a woman named cathy, who looked a little meaner than xina would gave liked, brought xina over to a row of small tables. each table held a small video display and a tiny keypad and a set of small headphones.
about two thirds of the tables were occupied by women with the headphones on, who xina assumed were doing whatever cathy was going to instruct xina to do.
xina sat down at one of the tables and cathy, standing beside her, pressed a button on the side of the display and it lit up.
“this is some pretty simple shit,” said cathy in her nasty voice. “look here.” she pointed to the top half of the screen. it consisted of a list of numbers, which xina recognized as probably being phone numbers, although some were quite long, indicating they were from other cities or planets. the top nunber was highlighted.
“you will be going through these numbers,” cathy said. “just hit the enter key to call the number. and when you finish with one call hit the down arrow for the next one. simple enough. if the number doesn’t answer, and 83 percent of them won’t, they will get an automated message and the highlight will turn pink. so just hit the down arrow and go to the next message. all right. now look at the bottom of the screen. that is the message, if the number does answer, read that message exactly - exactly. got that?”
“o k, read the message to me.”
xina looked puzzled, and cathy laughed and said, “we get some dumdums in here who can’t read, so i just want to make sure you can read.”
“oh.” xina read off the message which was “your health coverage is going to expire at midnight. i repeat, your health coverage is going to expire at midnight. to ensure continuation of your coverage, please press the number 1 to speak to a customer representative, or press 2 if you no longer wish to have health coverage.”
“that’s good,” said cathy, “you got a little sex in your voice. that’s good. this isn’t phone sex, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little sex in your voice.” cathy scowled and looked around at some of the other women at their tables, who presumably did not have a little sex in their voices.
“you can see the numbers 1 and 2 on the bottom of the screen,” cathy continued. “if they press one it lights up, and you move on.”
“and that’s it?” xina asked.
“almost. now, sometimes the person will try to ask questions. just repeat the message. you can leave out the “i repeat, blah blah, but get in the ‘your health coverage is going to expire at midnight’ and the ‘please press 1 to speak to a customer rep.’ don’t try to get creative or be their friend or any shit like that. repeat one time , then rinse and move on. got it?”
xina nodded. “i think so.”
“good. now, once in a while somebody will get really nasty and smart-assy, but just ignore it, repeat one time like i said, and move on. all right, go ahead, let me see you do it.”
xina pressed the enter key. she could hear a phone ringing on the other end, but after two rings the number lit up pink. she hit the down arrow and the enter key for the next number.
the first twelve numbers xina hit turned pink, and cathy said, “fuck, i can’t stand here all day. you’ll be all right,” and she moved off.
xina finally got a hit on the second number after that.
“hel-ooo?” a snarky young male voice answered.
xina read the message. neither number 1 nor number 2 was pressed and there was a pause.
“what happens if i press number 2?” the voice asked. “do i die like a dog in the streets?”
xina was perplexed for a second, but remembered to repeat “ your health coverage is going to expire at midnight - “
“is that right, bitch? is that fucking right? listen up, now, you think i can’t find you? you think i can’t see you right now? they probably told you i can’t see you or know where you are, but they lied, bitch, they lied. i’m going to track down your skinny ass - your skinny fucking ass that no man in twenty galaxies would fuck - and i’m going to cut your lying scamming heart out and your lying scamming cunt out - oh, i forgot, you’re a trannie - and i’m going to put them on a sesame seed bun with a special sauce and serve them to satan - “
could xina hang up? was there something else she was supposed to say? yes, she remembered! “please press 1 to speak to a customer representative - “
“fuck you1 fuck you! fuck you! “ xina thought she heard something in the background of the call but hit the down arrow.
“adam, what are you making all that noise about down there? you’re upsetting grandma again.”
“get up here and help me move the couch. i want to get behind it with the vacuum cleaner.”
xina got through the rest of the day. a couple of the other women invited her to lunch and were nice and that calmed her down a little bit but she was still upset when she got back to mary lou’s apartment, where she got no sympathy.
the next day xina went back to her home planet. her mother was very angry and threatened to beat her with a stick “like in the old days” but did not actually do so.