Freudian Slips: The Evil Empire

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

December 22, 2004

The Evil Empire

With mergers and business acquisitions monopolizing the world, the free enterprise system is slowly vanishing and giving way to conglomerates. The big business of today is the bigger business of tomorrow. The mom and pop corner stores have been replaced by Walmart nation. There is little respect for a voice to be heard when shaking a stick against an evil empire. The consumer becomes lost in a labyrinth of bureaucracy. We become dependent on THEM.
This past Sunday, my wife tried to buy me a cell phone for Christmas from Verizon Wireless. We have a family plan with Verizon Wireless but there must be an embedded surcharge for us to carry different last names somewhere in the diagnostic billing code. Today would prove to be another penalty phase. For any account changes, Verizon Wireless requires my wife and I to both be present in the store with proper identification, our marriage certificate, and the mayor who united us in matrimony. Before entering Verizon, we wave to the rabbi standing in line at the Sprint kiosk. As I stood shopping for my own Christmas present, the mayor milled around the lobby until it was time for us to repeat our Verizon. The Honorable mayor told me he had to witness seventeen other phone purchases today alone so he wanted us to make it snappy.
Up until a few years ago, the Verizon account used to be under my name. Verizon convinced us it would be prudent to switch the primary account to my wife’s name since she cackles on her cell phone like a Walkie Talkie channel for free association. Verizon said since we switched user accounts it rolled over the grace date of when we would be entitled to a free phone despite my phone being not only antiquated but cracked. We could not believe they would allow one of their customers to walk around with defective merchandise but they took it a step further. They would not activate an outside vendor’s phone if purchased and there was substantial penalty for early withdrawal if we took our business somewhere else. I had the "option" of buying a Verizon phone at an inflated retail price - $199.00 for a soon to be discontinued flip phone plus additional surcharges to transfer the equipment's phone directory. Call me illiterate but I thought I read that the $199. 00 had signage next to it advertising:
The small print stipulates that the seduction is for new customers only. The loyal walked out of Verizon, hitting the boulevard with our broken celluloid dreams. I ended up with clothes from Sears for Christmas. Tis the Season. Yesterday, Diane asked me to wrap the very gifts I picked out.
Today, I received an email from a colleague, who informed that Verizon has a discount program for Communications Workers of America union members. I email her back. “Verizon is an evil empire. I doubt they will give you anything but a hard time citing contractual exceptions or this, that, and the other. Don’t believe it.”
I speak from experience because I have been Verizon Wireless or their namesake’s reliable customer dating back to1987. My first mobile phone was a bag phone the size of carry-on luggage. They charged per call if you were lucky enough to find a signal tower. The bag phone weighed as much as a construction worker's bowling bowl. How I do remember yesterday. You could wrap the phone’s umbilical cord around your neck while driving and not get cited a ticket. In 1987, I asked if they offered CWA members discounted phone service. I pointed out the lunacy of a phone being a communication device, us hailing from the same fraternity, and me paying premium prices.
The little emperor was only beginning his reign of terror but this was their 1987 explanation. “Sorry, Mr. Too-Late-You-Already Signed-On-The-Dotted-Line.” He leaned over his right shoulder. “Charlie, lock this five year contract in the vault. Call Headquarters. We bagged another one.” He turned back to me. “Do you need assistance carrying your bag phone to the car?”
Seventeen years and two hundred and four monthly payments later, I arrive home and pull the mail. The mail is the Verizon Wireless phone bill and a Communications Workers of America newsletter stacked on top of one another like two fees in a pod. The irony would be a knee-slapper on Hee-Haw if it were not for Verizon’s astronomical charges, surcharges, roaming fees, stalking fees, you name it. I believe if my wife were a mermaid they slap her with a land lubber charge. The thickness of the blood letter bill in my hand suggested triple digits.
I drop the mail and start dinner. While stuffing the raw chicken cutlets with brochutti and an aged cheese, the Verizon bill begins its pull-on-the-purse-string haunt. I keep staring at it on the island. I stop what I am doing and tear it open. I mutter over the money due. Then I call Verizon Wireless Customer Service to settle this vicious rumor of preferential treatment once and for all.
My fingers press a dozen buttons to narrow the search. I mistakenly press the number five and got a girl in fishnet stockings speaking with a Melanie Griffith for $4.99 a minute. Several minutes later, I exit from that program. I hear some piped music, as if I am on hold for a few seconds. It sounds like the Charlie Daniels Band’s “Devil went down to Georgia.” I punch the keypad some more and finally hear what sounds like a real person on the other line.
“We do have a discount program, sir.” a female voice says. Would you like the Customer Service direct line to help you enroll?”
"I sure do." I barely heard her over the sizzle of the chicken cutlets in virgin olive oil stovetop. I scribble a 1-800 number with a stalk of broccoli headed for the vegetable steamer.
I dial it. Verizon Wireless Employee Discounts is an automated system with only two choices. The choices are press one for “Just the Facts” or press two for “Request Fax.” This is a wireless company and the ONLY way to receive an enrollment application is to provide a fax number! You don’t say.
I was happy the discount existed although I had my doubts I would ever be faxed an application. We were sitting around the dinner table when I decided to let the family know the capitalistic world wasn’t all bad.
I sermoned, “An evil emperor looked down upon the masses with sympathy. The evil emperor has shaken his olive branches. Behold there is good news for the little guy.”
“Which evil empire? Comcast cable or Verizon Wireless?” asks my wife.
“Verizon, can you hear me now?” I answer.
"What about the evil empire in Star Wars?" my stepson Jimmy added. "They had Sith Lords on their side."
As I finish writing this entry for my website, my wife comes home from the mall. Since she had some last minute Christmas shopping to do, I asked her to stop in to The Verizon Wireless store and pick up the same application I tried to secure impersonally over the phone. I was going to beat Verizon at their own game. Diane plops down a scribbled Post-It note with a familiar number.
“Here, Joe. “Verizon says the only way to enroll for the discount is through fax!”
The blood thirsty evil empire had all the bases covered.



Blogger PaxRomano said...

So that woman in the fish-net stockings works at my doctor's office as well as Verizon? Small world.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good one joe, love the cell phone cackling wife.

7:15 PM  

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