Daisy is no longer in the Lovesport. She didn’t seem into it before but is pissed she didn’t win. We've been vidchatting ever since. Daisy says she's billing the time as syncs.
“Who do you say you’re syncing with,” I ask, squinting to make her out on my teeny screen in my tekspecs. “I mean, since I’m not working and you’re not either looks like.”
I have been hanging around the cube all winter with Wolf and Hound, absorbing rumors of projects that never materialize. We keep busy anyway, walking the doge, pamphleteering, pretending we're not worried. Metropolis is fux -- storms all season, no transport, no gas, limited wifi and lights, and definitely no work.
Trudging through slush with the dogerman winter, past lines of cars at gas stations, cops with automatic weapons manning the pumps, the weak winter sun landing only on the industrialized glitter of the resource recycling plant that shadows the Point, I try to desire nothing. Not even relief. But still desire. Because it's all the same thing.
“FWIW,” Daisy replies, “I’m just out of the games, so I work but won’t get a job.”
“Oh, ok, weird. What’s that? FWWW?”
“I. not W. For what it’s worth. That is, nada, it ain’t worth shit.”
“How's that work? You work with no job?”
“Don’t you know this intimately, Ellipsis? It's all temping.” Daisy explains, “So I’m working until I term out while victors get on-boarded at MoreCorp.” Daisy disappears from the screen momentarily and reappears with a grin and a large lollipop, swirly primary colors, like the MoreCorp logo. “My consolation prize.”
“But it’s good, right?” I try to understand. “Because you’re still there?”
“Yeah, feeling very lucky bitch. Because lollipops.”
“No worries. I talked to PeopleOps and you’re on the roster for the next wave. You plus boo.”
“Holy awesome! Thank you! What do we do?”
“Sit tight. Be ready.”
“You heard me! You wanna be on the wave, you have to be hanging out waiting for it.”
“Is this, like, surfing?”
“No. It’s like life. You’re watching to catch the wave. If you do, you’ll ride it.” Daisy licks the lollipop and reconsiders. “I guess you’re right. That’s totally surfing. My bad.”
Months pass. Nothing happens until things happen really fast and MoreCorp demands we be available in Silicon mid-month…maybe. X-country on a dice roll. No promises. The company wants a commitment and will talk to us if we can move swiftly. In return it may offer twelve-week contracts (called K's) via a MidCorp to ensure that the MoreCorp brand maintains its exclusivity. And to limit liability.
But wait. Terms. Conditions. Tests. Tek. First, a vidchat predicated on N0.
The recruiter's avatar is a shark, which is weird because her name is Cake Big, lending itself to many more friendly visual representations than the one she chose. She speaks to me from what sounds like a crowded stadium but looks like a sauna. I can barely see her for what seems to be steam. Or hear her, as the call comes while I’m walking Hound through a construction zone, so it’s loud on both ends and difficult to watch her charmingly while wrangling doge. Anyhow, it sounds like the lady’s basically saying everything sux.
“MoreCorp totally doesn’t need you but we’ve got these waves and Daisy gave us your name and you played ok, so we’ll give you a try if you can tell us why.”
“I’m sorry. Was that a question? Like, why should you hire me?”
“Before we get to my q I'll tell you…” Big shouts, loud and clear now. “IT IS NOT HIRING! It’s an assignment. Not hiring!!! And it’s not definite. We might not assign you anything.”
“Yes. I know. Still, you should give me a try and I will do my utmost to be worthy of an, umm, assignment.” Attempting to sound confident but not arrogant, I tug on Hound’s leash to keep him out of the street, barking, “I can really read!”
“Well, sure, of course,” the recruiter snorts. She speaks slowly, spells it out. “It’s TLDR. Gotta be text ed, certified, registered, licensed. And we will be checking, extensively, to ensure you're really literate and branded.”
“Oh I am! Literate, registered, branded. And exceptionally able in that regard, reading, real good! You have my metrics, so you must know — productive, reductive, reliable.”
“You know it’s not a job though?”
“Yeah, totally, I get it. Still, a lucky break.”
“Well don’t count your chickens cuz it breaks the eggs,” my recruiter warns. “There are tests if you pass this vid screen, and I’ll let you know how you do and whether we’ll choose you.”
“Oh that’s great! Thank you!”
“No. Thank you,” Big concludes curtly, having made me feel very small indeed. She disappears self and shark avatar from my tekspec teensy-screen.
At this point it’s not clear to me where I stand. But Wolf reassures, as he too has spoken to a recruiter, one with an ice cream cone avatar who has made the selection process seem more delicious. “Everything will be alright, darling.”
“I know! Cosmically, I understand that life does not depend on this! But I’m a supposed smith of words. I knows prose. Yet I don’t get a word these guys say. It worries me.”
“Stay on your p’s and q’s,"Wolf translates. "While we dot i’s and cross t’s.”
“Seriously. That’s what they’re saying. Let’s just act like it’s happening so it will. Isn’t that a thing? We’ll do a nowpow number plus magic, chant, incant, ask the dogerman to paw the quantum.”
“What the hell does that mean? Like, practically speaking?”
“It means, El, pack up the circus. It’ll keep our minds off the fact that MoreCorp hates saying anything but we have to be ready to go when they say.”
He is right. There’s a ton to do and not much really because when it comes down to it, we’re just two kids-not-kids with choices-no-choices and a big doge, barely getting by on a concrete island in a pricey cube, poorly furnished. Escape is escape in whatever shape it takes.
No, we don’t know what we’re signing up for or where we’ll live or what we’ll do if they drop us, assuming we even get to go at all. But we are not supposed to know. That’s the point. “It’s a marathon, an endurance game,” Wolf says. “So, you know, for whatever that’s worth.”
His approach is very measured. At every juncture, Wolf claims some indifference. Through ten stages of testing on everything from tek platforms to animal sketching to sketching platforms for animal teks (shows creativity!), he’s neutral.
Meanwhile, I nervously relay Daisy’s messages, how to answer q’s, what to do. She explains, “For now just be you. They love creatives! Then when you’re in, forget all that.”
It’s disconcerting advice. And, also, MoreCorp doesn’t seem that nice with its alternating urgent requests and extended silences. For a transparent organization focused on efficiency, things sure go slow and mysteriously, and mostly via brusque agents at MidCorp, although it is with MoreCorp that we must pass muster in the final test.
That turns out to be an on-screen interview that starts in Cake Big's pod. She then walks me through a building, down colorful and kooky hallways to a conference room that looks like an old-timey hunting lodge. It is full of folks around an oak table who watch me draw an elephant on a piece of paper with a pencil and then hold it up to the screen in the corner of my tekspecs for review. They enthusiastically approve, although I’ll admit practicing based on Wolf’s experience the previous day.
He retains reserve, which is evidence he’s into it. More proof — Wolf has the happy gleam in his eyes of days gone by, when we met in the wilds of West Afrix, PaxCorp, as if everything is still possible. It’s titillating, exciting, not knowing where you stand so that you feel slighted and eager to woo simultaneously; I know because I feel it too. Wolf is just human, susceptible to finding abuse on the part of the powerful a little sexy, as long as it seems like he could be included someday.
The rigorous testing program concluded, we are now under final consideration for pre-game events, which are not pre-game events and promise nothing on paper, which is not used, so all the fine print’s on the onlines. Find it if it matters. Probably doesn’t.
Who can afford not to play? Not us. We are regi-profs who borrowed against a lifetime of projected future earnings modeled on a past that will not be repeated and are in deep. What else was there to do? Dreams are expensive. And certain dreams like specializing in signs and symbols, The Arts Old, are only for the very rich and very poor, those who can’t lose or have nothing to lose.
We in the mid-realm should not be deluded by tales of outliers into believing a special fate awaits. To the extent that we matter, we are notable for consumption patterns.
Still, it would not be technically correct to say that Wolf and I have no choices, are unfortunate, or even that we can’t afford to dream. Aren’t we dreaming right now? We had choices of lenders and institutions to choose us, chose to work with lowlifes when our plan for upward mobility turned into a downward spiral and we were penniless in Metropolis (what else is nows?).
PoorCorp offered me a gig in the low-country and Wolf worked for a wolf. Then we chose high-minded dreaming in Das Kapital, really a crash course in failure, turning tail for Metropolis. We dove for pearls, one day coming up with TLDR. Just in the knick of time.
Now MoreCorp, possibly the Lovesport. Everything is happening. We keep making something out of nothing, if you ignore the fact that text reduction is really making nothing out of something.
I do not push the truth too far. Not now. We’re poised to compete at least, if not to win. Maybe it’s true all you have to do is Lean In. The thing is just that it’s hard to know what to lean into when the seeming secret to your survival, forget suxess, is not always deciding but following flow. It seems to me that this fortunate turn, for example, can be attributed to having to do whatever. Builds character.
Whatever I think, we’re doing it. We got it. We’re in. Word comes and we get ready to go. This is what we know. We’re committed to X-country on a twelve-week K with details to follow shortly – details like pay.
MoreCorp is committed to having MidCorp send needed e-forms soon, to be completed seven days before starting or K is subject to revocation, which it is anyway, by the way. “We need the stuff now,” I whine to Wolf after my initial glee has passed. “Like since there won’t be wifi on the road.”
“We wait,” he says. “Like they want, and then jump when they say jump.”
“But we’re leaving our cube, our lives, and there may be no K!”
“It’s just part of it.” Wolf reasons.
“But why? I mean, it strains the system to scramble like a lizard with a lizard brain all day!”
“Then don’t," he says. "Evolve, Ellipsis. Be human. Relax into greatness.”