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I call Mr. Munchberger and I tell him I’m sick for the rest of the day and for tomorrow. Mr. Munchberger reminds me off the importance of the FMS review coming up for the video release. I tell him I’ll be there for it. He doesn’t understand that the program pretty much runs itself. I haven’t figured out what to do about Jasmin’s FMS and oddly enough, the closer the review gets, the less I care. Seeing her just now in person made me want to know everything about her: her favorite food, her last dream, the songs that make her cry, the people that make her laugh. She was cordial to me, a stranger, and a meddler of delicate information.
I know I startled her, I didn’t mean to. I just couldn’t help myself. It’s like what people describe happens when they see their favorite movie star in a random airport encounter and because they’ve watched everything that person has been featured in for the last 20 years, they think they know them. Unprepared for this once-in-a-lifetime meeting, they approach and totally freak the person out. It is not like a stalker freak out, because it is a chance meeting. Well mine wasn’t by chance, but that’s not the point. I think the term is star-wowed. No. Star-eyed. No. Star-struck. Star-struck! That’s it. Something like that happened. I’ll have to excuse myself for it by apologizing. I’ll have to work on a declarative face for that.
It is 5 p.m. the following day and I am waiting for Jasmin on the stairs that lead up to her apartment. I know what you are thinking, so let’s just skip over that. I wouldn’t say I’m dressed up right now, but I think I look professional and I did my hair. I may have a bouquet of flowers in my hands; I’m in uncharted waters here.
When I see her coming toward the apartment I stand up, straightening myself. She has her head down and doesn’t spot me until she is right in front of me. I lull her expression of fear with the flowers. “I’m sorry about yesterday,” I say, handing them to her. Insert my practiced apology face here.
“How did you find me?” She doesn’t take the flowers. I lay them down on the concrete between us, freeing up my hands for trained, sympathetic gestures.
“I can explain everything. Just give me a few minutes.”
“You have exactly one minute and I am calling the cops.”
I run through the entire story without pausing to take a breath and I don’t even try to measure her response. I kind of blacked out halfway through it anyway. She hasn’t reached to pick up the flowers, I know that at least. She asks me the name of my company and I watch her record it on her phone. I tell her my boss is Bill Munchberger, he can back me up on this. She jots that down too.
“So,” I ask.
I don’t know either. I totally forgot to think of what I wanted to accomplish. I am blanking here so bad. Was it just answers? I almost start all over again with the story. Then I come to it, what I really want to know.
“So what about me?”
“What about you?” She is definitely smiling now, that’s a good thing. I smile back nodding my head. “I think you are a sad little person who has a lot of problems most notably with boundaries. I think you work for a company that is evil, which also has the same problems as you, and is trying to reduce everything private and sacred about humanness to a few upticks on a sales chart. I hope I never see you again, and if I do, I’m going to call the cops. Are you hearing me? Stop making that face?”
“Yes, of course. What face?”
“Like you don’t understand me.”
“Oh, I understand. I can tell you’re upset and very depressed and that’s a big move in the right direction for me. I’m sorry the Alaska cruise reminded you of them.”
“Stop saying that. I’m not depressed and…” lacrimation is starting in sectors…sorry reader, she is starting to cry. “I’m going to report your company. I don’t know to who yet. But I imagine a lot of people will want to know about the OBAs of the world and how you are spying on us and sending their employees out to stalk us.”
“I think you’re the most wonderful person I’ve ever met.”
“You don’t even know me.” She is either overheating or blushing. “And you and your company will never write a program that allows you to see me. I think people like you sit on the lowest rung of civilization and should die.”
A woman a few windows up starts clapping. “Tell him, Jazz,” she calls down to her. “Let me know if you want me to beat that stalker’s ass.” Now two people have used the word stalker so it is definitely permanent; I was hoping to avoid the term. I feel like something has just wrapped its hand around my spine and is about to shake.
“Can I just–”
“You can fuck off now.” Jasmin steps over the flowers and walks by me. She climbs the steps without looking back and enters her apartment. I call after her, “Happy belated Birthday, Jasmin.” The door closes and a pain that had started in my chest explodes through my limbs, like a fire spreading through a high-rise building. If this is what heartbreak feels like then I don’t ever want to feel this again. Humphrey Bogart was right, my guts really do feel like they are hanging out and there is now way to push them back in. I pick up the flowers as the woman from the window above me still claps. “Get the fuck on,” she says.
The conference room is full when I walk in. I should have been here earlier getting all of this set up, but I couldn’t do it. I can’t eat, I can’t shower, and I could barely get out of bed this morning. I don’t want to see Jasmin’s face again. I can’t watch the video; I can’t watch as my program simplifies the meaning of her experience, the entirety of her story, by how likely she is to buy something. She was right. What a jerk I am. I hate myself. No one acknowledges my brooding this morning and Mr. Munchberger is too busy pulling up profiles with pinned FMS scores to care, not that he would anyway.
Jasmin, Miserable Pete, and a few others come up, along with a new GUID that has 18 pinned for review FMS scores. I notice the new profile’s correlation report (CR) has a 99% match to Jasmin’s profile. I haven’t discussed correlation reports yet because they haven’t entered the story until now. CRs are used to compile similar accounts into list for targeted marketing initiatives; it’s a premium feature that our data sales team options up to our highest paying clients. I already know the match between Jasmin and I is only 99% because of the sandwich I ate. I will say I wish it was 100%.
Mr. Munchberger slowly scrolls over to the new profile and I watch as my image comes up on the screen. At first no one is sure what to make of it. For more than half of them, it takes a few moments to register that it is me they are looking at. Mr. Munchberger is one of these people. I wait as he figures it out. He turns around to find me at the table.
“What is this?”
“Yeah. I totally overlooked this happening in all the emotion. I mean commotion. I mean, it’s me,” I say brazenly.
“I know it is you. Why are you pinned for review eighteen times?” He clicks on one of the scores: 11/100. “Are you trying to ruin our data? What are you doing at superstore12?”
“I was there making sure everything was working right.”
“You’ve never gone to the store before, have you?”
Maybe he doesn’t notice the CR. Never mind, he’s clicking on it. “Why do you have 99% match with profile—”
“That’s Jasmin,” I say. It is a bit high for a random occurrence I have to admit.
“The profile ID belongs to Jasmin.”
“How do you know her name?”
“She asked that too.”
Mr. Munchberger scoffs extra loud. “What do you mean she asked that too?”
I imagine if the FMSs were being measured in the conference room at this moment, they would graph somewhere around Mr. Munchberger’s bovines discovering they could fly. “Well. I talked to her. I waited for her at the store. And once at her apartment, but the apartment was a terrible mistake. I know that now.”
“How did you find her apartment?”
“The same way I found her name.”
“What did you say to her?”
“I just told her about us. What we do and how I came upon her. There was so much more I wanted to say, but the moment was bigger than expected if that makes sense.”
“Did you say you worked here?”
“Not the first time at the store, but I did when I was at her apartment. She wrote it down. She said we are on the lowest rung of civilization. After careful consideration, I’m going to have to agree with her.” Mr. Munchberger is shaking his head violently. I can’t tell what his face is doing.
“She wrote it down? Have you lost your mind? What were you thinking?”
“I think I love her.”
“I don’t know. It’s a first for me as well, but I ruined it. I’m sure of that.”
“This guy has to be kidding with me?” Mr. Munchberger begins walking around the table toward me. John, a senior-level exec, stops him a few feet from my chair.
“Someone call legal and get security up here,” says John.
“You’ve really done yourself in,” Mr. Munchberger says. “You’re so fucked.”
“I know it,” I say. “That’s twice this week with security.”
It’s been two days since I was let go from OBA and the rest of that scene went cautiously and judicially just the way it was supposed to. That doesn’t matter. Right now, I’m standing in front of VDSS1224, watching the video for those first ten seconds designed to elicit wonder and awe. A child has just run to the stern of the ship and points at a flock of seagulls that are weaving back and forth in the ship’s airstream. The child is never joined by anyone, and just stands there unsupervised by the railing, mocking the seagulls with his own interpretation of bird calls. As the video cuts to another shot of a whale surfacing, I swipe my phone, purchasing two tickets. I know I’m being pinned for review so I wave.