I sit in a room and I push buttons. I don’t know what these buttons do. But I’m told to push them, so I push them. There are three buttons. Each one is red. Each one looks like the kind of red button that a foolish cartoon character is told not to push or else something awful and disastrous could happen. But that character always pushes the button. He pushes the button because he is foolish. He’s foolish like me. I am a fool.
Each morning there are vitamins on the nightstand with a small glass of orange juice. At 5:15 I wake up and I take them. There’s always a note that says, “Swallow these…” next to them. So I do. I swallow the vitamins and suck down the juice and feel the life and feel the real and feel the health. I feel the health. The health is good.
An alarm wakes me up. I hit the snooze. The snooze allots me 9 minutes of extra sleep and then it sounds again. It’s tuned to a news radio station. The reporter’s name is Randolph Howard. He tells me about the world. I rarely remember what he says though. Much of Randolph’s reporting goes unnoticed due to the fact that I had just woken up and I’m quite tired. I do notice that Randolph’s voice is deep. It’s a good radio voice. Some morning I’ll pay close attention to what he says. He probably talks about death and disaster and misery and hate and fear and guns and death and misery and pain and hate and death. But I never listen. I never know. Someday I’ll listen. Someday. But for now, he’s only my alarm.
After I wake up I run 3 miles. There’s a park near my home that has a trail with several hills. It takes me roughly 25 minutes to run 3 miles. That’s not a bad pace. Not too slow and not too fast. Running is good because running makes me feel like a human. I feel blood and breath and muscles and legs and I feel like a thing with a thing beating in his chest that’s pushing things into his veins and things into his brain. These things are the things that I need to feel the health make me go.
Coffee is next. Black. Strong. I’m down to two cups a day. It used to be six. Now it’s just two. Two for me. Two to make me feel good. Six was too much. My hands were shaking and I was irritable. I would snap at my co-workers and snap at myself and snap at my life. It must’ve been the coffee that was making me irritable. It had to be the caffeine. It had to be.
Work. Numbing. Pointless. I don’t even know what I do. I push buttons. Three buttons. Three buttons and something happens. I’m told I’m in media. I’m told I’m in Internet. I’m told I’m in importance. I don’t know. I push buttons and something happens far away from me. For all I know the buttons kill babies. For all I know the buttons feed babies. For all I know the buttons are just buttons.
I get a break every day. Fifteen minutes. They give me coffee. Coffee number two. Black. Weak. I also get a donut. I love donuts. Those fifteen minutes are always the best part of my day. Sometimes I dip the donut. Sometimes I don’t. Every fall season, right before Thanksgiving, I get a pumpkin flavored donut. “A special treat for a special employee” is what they say. Pumpkin donuts are meant to make employees like me feel like they matter. It doesn’t work. I do not matter. In no way do I make a difference. But the donuts are good. And when they’re pumpkin donuts, they’re very good.
At home I have a computer. It’s very slow and sounds like a helicopter. It’s caked with dust and grime. If I move the mouse too fast, it freezes. If I type too fast, it freezes. If I look at it wrong, it freezes. It’s irritable. Perhaps it had too much coffee. Perhaps it should cut down to two cups a day. Perhaps it should be like me.
I met a friend and his name is Johnny. My friend just started at my job and he talks a lot. It’s nice to know a friend who talks a lot because I don’t talk a lot. I mostly sit and stare and push my buttons and think about coffee and pumpkin donuts. I wish I drank more coffee. But too much coffee makes me irritable.
Soon after Johnny started, he was pushing his buttons near my buttons and asked me a question, “What would you do if you had a ton of money?” he said.
I paused and turned to Johnny and responded, “I would leave this job.”
Johnny smiled and winked his eye and leaned in close and lowered his voice, “What if I told you I had a way for both of us to get a ton of money? What would you do?”
“I would ask you how,” I said.
“What if I told you that it involved doing things that are…not quite legal?”
“I would ask you, what kind of things?”
“What if I said that I had a friend who works at a bank and knew a way to get a fella into that bank and out of that bank without anybody knowing?”
“I would say, how”
“What if I said, I’d tell you if you promised me that you would help me do this thing and promised me that you wouldn’t screw it up and wouldn’t rat me out?”
“I’d say, I promise.”
Johnny’s friend’s name was also Johnny. I found this to be confusing because Johnny’s friend Johnny acted quite a bit like Johnny. He talked a lot and seemed relaxed and he wasn’t afraid of things and didn’t seem irritable. I wonder how much coffee Johnny drank.
Johnny’s friend Johnny had a machine. I asked where he got this machine, but he wouldn’t tell me. He just said, “science.” That was all he said. “Science.” Science was where he got the machine.
The machine was like the kind of machine that Jeff Goldblum uses in The Fly to turn into a gross creature. But this machine didn’t turn people into fly creatures. It did something different. It did something that I don’t entirely understand but I’ll do my best to explain by telling you what happened when I climbed inside the machine.
Johnny (Johnny’s friend Johnny, not my friend Johnny) handed me an earpiece and told me to put it in my ear so he and Johnny could speak with me. It’s the kind of earpiece that I imagine newsmen like Randolph Howard wear when they’re on location in dangerous areas during wartimes or whatever. Johnny (friend Johnny) opened the door and I climbed into the machine and he closed the door. I saw nothing. It was dark. It was black. Pitch black. I heard some noises from outside the machine. It sounded like a whirring and a bleep and a bloop and other sounds that I can’t fully describe. I then heard Johnny (though I couldn’t tell which Johnny it was) say, “When you get in, you’ll know what to do.”
And then I heard a THUNK and I saw a flash and that was it.
Glowing wires surrounded me and cables and numbers and letters and sounds were whooshing by me at incredible speeds. Time seemed to move both fast and slow simultaneously. I felt free from the pull of, well, anything, and it’s hard to explain, but I felt like I was free from any kind of gravitational influence, though I’m not sure if I was. It’s all very vague, and I’m sorry, but it’s the best I can do. Once I got in, I barely had time to look around before I heard Johnny (not sure which) say, “Do you see them?”
And I did. Straight ahead. On a console just like the kind I use at work. Three red buttons.
I smiled and replied, “I see them. “
“Then you know what to do,” he said.
I quickly/slowly approached the buttons and quickly/slowly pressed each one. I heard a sound like a giant engine shutting down and another, though slightly different, THUNK.
I then heard one of the Johnnys frantically exclaim, “GOT IT!” and heard the other one say, “Then let’s get out of here!”
Soon afterwards I heard one of them say to me, “Thanks, pal! I owe ya one!” Which was then was followed by the sound a microphone hitting the ground and feedback and then static.
I’m pretty sure I knew which Johnny said that last part.
It took me a few minutes to realize what had happened and what was going to happen. I was sad at first, but remembered why I was here and what my job was.
And so I turned my attention to the three buttons. Those three red buttons.
I sit in a room and I push buttons. I am no longer irritable. I am no longer unhappy. I am picture perfect and smiling. I am not a machine. I am not a robot. I matter. I make a difference. I am a good employee. I deserve donuts.